By Nicole Dalrymple
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 26, 2009 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division marked five years of reconstruction progress in Iraq yesterday with more than 4,400 projects completed and turned over to the Iraqi government. "As we mark five years of building strong foundations together with the people of Iraq, I am humbled to be part of this historic effort," Army Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre, commanding general of the division, said at an afternoon ceremony at division headquarters to mark the anniversary. "With more than 4,400 projects completed and turned over to the government of Iraq, and several hundred more ongoing, GRD is seeing concrete evidence of the committed efforts of the entire team."
Eyre commended the multiservice, multinational team that has invested five years into the mission to help rebuild Iraq. To date, the division has overseen the construction of nearly $7 billion in projects in 11 programs, the largest being the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.
In a letter written to the men and women of the Gulf Region Division, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commanding general of Multinational Force Iraq, thanked the team for their "outstanding hard work and tireless dedication to this mission and the people of Iraq."
"Through hundreds of reconstruction projects, you have made dramatic improvements to Iraq's physical infrastructure," Odierno wrote. "And through your diligent efforts to share your knowledge and expertise, you have helped Iraq make great progress in developing the human capital and technical skills necessary to build a vibrant and modern state.
"You have significantly enhanced the ability of the government of Iraq to serve the needs of its people," the general continued, "and I cannot overstate the importance of your role in building a secure, stable, and prosperous future for the Iraqi people."
Activated Jan. 25, 2004, the division and its three subordinate districts -- Gulf Region South, Central and North -- are providing engineering, program and project management in support of civil and military construction throughout Iraq.
With many of the division's major reconstruction programs concluding, increased focus is being placed on its Operations, Maintenance and Sustainment program, aimed at supporting the U.S. Embassy's goals to ensure the Iraqis are properly prepared to operate and maintain the new infrastructure.
"From our perspective, the project is not complete just because it has been accepted by the government of Iraq, at the local or national level," said Richard Hancock, the division's director of programs. "Many of the new plants involve modern, more efficient processes that the local operators may not be familiar with. We have a robust program dedicated to instilling training and knowledge to the work force at all levels, from mid-level managers to technicians."
As many as 30,000 Iraqis are employed daily at the division's construction project sites. In fact, 74 percent of the division's current contracts, valued at $1.12 billion, are awarded to Iraqi companies.
"GRD is committed to helping meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people with essential services like electricity generation, clean water, sewage treatment, schools and medical facilities," Eyre said.
GRD's completed projects include:
-- 583 electricity projects;
-- 120 oil-related projects;
-- 849 water project;
-- 132 primary health care centers;
-- 41 hospital renovations;
-- 1,102 schools;
-- 112 railroad renovation projects;
-- Eight port projects and improvements to as many airports;
-- 155 border posts;
-- 14 entry points along Iraq's Syrian, Turkish and Iranian borders;
-- 97 fire station projects; and
-- 55 courthouse projects.
Several hundred more projects are in various stages of planning, construction and completion. Looking ahead, the division is preparing its Iraqi counterparts to assume more responsibility for the nation's continued rebuilding.
This year "is going to be a year of great transition for GRD," Eyre said. "We are planning our headquarters' relocation from the International Zone to a new location at Victory Base Complex, and we are seeing projects turned over to the government of Iraq on a weekly basis.
"We have seen much progress but there is still work to do," he continued. "Our mission remains the same - only the operating environment is changing. GRD will continue to stand side by side with the Iraqi people to continue building strong foundations for essential services that should not be just for the select few but for all of Iraq's citizens."
(Nicole Dalrymple works in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division.)