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Corps of Engineers helps rebuild Basra

By Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Sheely , 215th MPAD

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BASRA, Iraq (May 12, 2008) – From founding and operating the United States Military Academy at West Point to flood control projects across America, the Army Corps of Engineers has also played a major role in shaping the world.

From the beginning, the Corps has worked on major military construction projects and civilian sites throughout the world.

The Gulf Region South District, Basra Area Office, is currently working more than 40 projects helping to rebuild the future of Iraq. Such projects include a water treatment plant, a courthouse in Tannumah, Sadr teaching hospital, Abo Al Khaseeb Votech Center and a new children’s hospital, which will operate primarily as a cancer treatment facility.

“It helps the economy and it gives the Iraqis a nice product that puts money in the private sector so they can recover from the damages of war,” said Randall Lewis, a project architect with the GRS. “The sites are built with almost 100 percent Iraqi workers.”

One of the largest projects, and the first hospital of this level of care since the 1970s, the Basra children’s hospital has nine Iraqi engineers and four Army Corps of Engineer civilian employees working as a team. Recent military operations in the region have cut into the workforce according to Lt. Cdr Neil Underwood, resident engineer on the project.

“We went from 1,000 workers prior to military operations to approximately 200 now,” Underwood said. “A month after the operation started and we have a fifth of the workforce on site.” Underwood does not expect major delays on finishing the project however; he does say the drop in workers affects scheduling for some of the work being done.

While some workers have returned to their homes in other cities during military operations, those who stayed are provided safety on the site. The Iraqi construction firms have hired an Iraqi security company to keep criminal elements out of the site. In addition to the security group, the Iraqi army and Iraqi police are clearly visible on the streets around the hospital.

When completed, the hospital will have 94 beds and state-of-the-art cancer treatment equipment. An additional 32-room resident building for doctors and nurses with several support buildings on the site are planned for construction. Staffing of doctors, nurses and administrators is scheduled to begin in January 2009 and projected to be ready for patients in February 2009.

The Gulf Region South District is pulling from over 200 years of experience in military and civil construction projects to help Iraq build for the future. From rebuilding water treatment facilities to the total construction of a Children’s Hospital, the Corps of Engineers is continuing a long tradition in shaping the future by building the present.