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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, stands up and deploys first Engineering Field Force unit in the Army

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska District is the first in the worldwide organization of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stand up and deploy an engineering field force unit to support military operations at war or disaster relief missions. The unit will be staffed by mostly civilian engineers.

For its first assignment, Alaska's 62nd Engineer Detachment, a Forward Engineer Support Team-Advance (FEST-A), has been tasked to support the 3rd Infantry Division's Overseas Contingency Operation rebuilding efforts in Iraq. The Alaska District will send off the team with a deployment ceremony March 8 at the Alaska District's headquarters building on Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The FEST-A team consists of an Army officer who serves as the team leader and a senior noncommissioned officer, along with civilians with expertise in civil, environmental, mechanical and electrical engineering, geographic information systems and contracting.

As an example, the team can provide engineering planning and design for base camp development, infrastructure assessments, technical engineering and some contracting services. Whenever a problem in the field needs quick resolution, team members will be able to talk directly with designated Corps experts in the United States via a "reach back" tele-engineering capability.

The Corps was motivated to establish on-call volunteer FEST-A teams to support established military units because military needs have changed since the Cold War, according to Col. Reinhard Koenig, Alaska District commander. He noted that the Army is now an expeditionary force that needs base camps in far flung places where there is no established infrastructure. Basic needs such as housing and utilities must be constructed quickly from the ground up to support rapidly evolving military and relief missions.

The Army and the Corps discovered a gap in their ability to rapidly provide facilities that U.S. service members needed to conduct operations in austere environments such as Somalia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Koenig said during a ceremony to activate the Corps' first permanent FEST-A team Feb. 22 at the Alaska District.

To fill this gap in recent years, the Corps formed several temporary volunteer FEST-A teams for short-term deployments to support war efforts and tsunami and hurricane disaster relief missions. After these temporary teams proved the need for this type of support, the Army took the unprecedented step of making civilian teams a permanent official part of Army units.

For more information about the Corps of Engineers' Alaska District, visit our web site at: http://www.poa.usace.army.mil.

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