The 130th Eng. Bde. Creating Steady Reconstruction Progress in Iraq
Assuming responsibility for engineering operations in United States Division-North in July, the brigade is making steady progress in reconstruction efforts in northern Iraq. The brigade has completed numerous reconstruction projects, conducted key leader engagements with the Government of Iraq, partnered with Iraqi army engineers and traveled thousands of miles of roads to perform critical route-clearance operations and battlefield circulations.
According to the 130th Eng. Bde.'s Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Capt. Joshua Sturgill, their Soldiers have supported multiple operations and planning efforts across the brigade in the past six months.
"Working across the spectrum of engineer efforts, the brigade resourced personnel to ensure each effort was headed by the proper individual with the correct experience," Sturgill said. "Our Soldiers and leaders from all backgrounds of the military have worked together these past six months to conduct successful reconstruction efforts and will continue to do so for the next six months."
The Mosul Reconstruction Cell, an integral component of the brigade whose mission is to assist in the building capacity within Mosul and Ninewa province in reconstruction and sustainment, has worked closely with Iraqi government officials to restore essential services to Iraq's citizens. Focused on the infrastructure of Mosul, the MRC has completed more than 40 projects to ensure residents have adequate water, electricity, sewage and sanitation. With an additional 120 projects working or planned, the MRC will continue to aid the GOI to improve its citizen's quality of life.
According to Capt. Matthew Chase, MRC operations officer-in-charge, the MRC also advises and engages various Iraqi government officials and agencies to develop inter-agency cooperation for project development and oversight. Although communication challenges with Iraqi government offices sometimes impacted progress, the MRC conducted numerous key leader engagements and has helped the GOI improve its ability to work together to help its citizens.
"We've set the standard here, and in Ninewa province everyone is working together as a cohesive team," Chase said. "The Government of Iraq recognizes the importance of cooperation and wants to maintain relations between the various District Ministries."
While the MRC focuses on Iraq's reconstruction through essential services, the brigade's technical headquarters section is primarily responsible for troop construction for USD-N. Concentrating on survey and design, as well as material estimations and testing, the technical headquarters develops plans for construction of barracks, dining facilities, classrooms and training areas for U.S. Forces. In order to assist with the eventual drawdown of forces, the technical headquarters section has helped plan moves for U.S. Forces to other bases as more areas are turned over to Iraqi security forces, ensuring the troops are properly housed.
Maj. Jakob Bruhl, 130th Eng. Bde., technical headquarters officer-in-charge, said his section has drawn up plans for 54 projects to date. They have completed 20 different projects so far.
"When we first started, we would design a new building every time. Now we have a standard design and pencil in a floor plan with walls and doors based on the needs."
The technical headquarters has also designed bridges made out of box culverts, which Army engineers have placed in various locations in Iraq. One of their biggest projects to date is a large-scale site survey. The technical headquarters section conducted a topographical survey of the 400,000 square foot area, which the GOI is considering as a possible location for an Iraqi security forces base.
Developing a strong ISF and U.S. Army engineer partnership, the brigade has trained and partnered with four separate Iraqi army field engineer regiments in Ninewa, Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk provinces, as well as the 3rd Federal Police Division in Mosul.
"We want to ensure we create a self-reliant, independent, professional Iraqi engineer corps that can assume full spectrum operations. Engineers build all the bases here. Before we can bring contractors in, the engineers have to establish the support structures and build the bases we operate out of," said Capt. Keith Muehling, the 130th Eng. Bde.'s Iraqi security force partnership OIC. "Army engineers are not only responsible for erecting the buildings we're sitting in, they're also responsible for emplacing force protection, maintaining the main and alternate supply routes that facilitate combat logistics patrols, horizontal and vertical construction projects, and other maneuverability and survivability tasks that enable the maneuver commanders to operate in their battle space."
Muehling said in the last six months, the brigade has advised and assisted the FERs in full spectrum engineering operations and developed their assured mobility. Working together with the FERs building two combined tactical operations centers, the Iraqi and U.S. engineers are operating together 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Salah ad Din and Kirkuk provinces. Brigade engineers have been able to slowly step back and take on advisory roles as the IA's become more confident in their abilities to conduct route clearance operations and dispose of any improvised explosive devises found.
While the FERs are increasingly capable in route clearance, Cpt. Muehling said the goal for the next six months is to get them to the point where they can not only conduct independent route clearance operations, but also neutralize the IEDs with their Bomb Disposal Companies. The brigade would like to train them to target the IED networks at all levels, from financiers to bomb-makers. Disrupting these networks enables the FERs to conduct more proactive operations and focus on prevention. The overall goal is to prevent IED emplacement on the roads.
As the brigade conducts engineer operations throughout USD-N, brigade commander, Col. Fabian E. Mendoza, Jr., and brigade command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Dale A. Moran, have conducted over 50 project site visits, battlefield circulation missions to meet with Soldiers, and key leader engagements with the ISF since their arrival in country.
Critical to the brigade command's successful battlefield circulations and KLEs, the Combat Security Team provides security for Mendoza and Moran while they travel throughout Iraq.
"The platoon has exceeded over 14,000 miles and continues missions all across northern Iraq," said 1st Lt. Michael VanCleve, CST platoon leader.
Conducting battle drills, vehicle maintenance, weapons testing, drivers training and first aid training, over the past six months the CST has continually trained for mission execution.
"Everyone must know [each other's] job. Whether it is driving, gunning or being a truck commander, they must know it and be proficient at it", said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Vessichelli, CST platoon sergeant.
As the brigade transitions to an advisory and assistance role, more responsibility will be turned over to the GOI and ISF. With another six months before it redeploys to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, the 130th Eng. Bde. will continue its hard work to lend a hand as the GOI rebuilds and stabilizes Iraq.