War on Terrorism

Monday, January 12, 2009

Face of Defense: U.S. Engineer in Iraq Earns Top Honors

By Mike Scheck
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 12, 2009 - A project engineer from the Balad Resident Office in Iraq was selected as one of the 2009 "Top Five New Faces in Engineering" for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Elizabeth Burg, an Army civilian who volunteered to deploy to Iraq, was selected for the award from among 22 engineer nominees by the panel at Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington, D.C. The panel's selection criteria included reviewing nominees' pursuit of professional registration, engineering achievements, professional and technical society activities and support of community and humanitarian activities outside of the workplace.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, Corps of Engineers commander, stressed the accomplishments that led to Burg's selection, referencing her work on coastal hydraulic models and physical structures and how they are "helping to ensure the safety and welfare of the nation's people, commerce, and natural resources."

Van Antwerp commended Burg's design of water systems for a women's ministry complex in Uganda and volunteer work supporting engineering, math, and science education, which he said are helping to build communities and the engineering profession.

The "New Faces" program provides a national forum to single out the contributions of new civilian and military engineers and to promote the opportunities for prospective engineers considering a career with the Corps of Engineers.

Burg said the award validates her work. "I feel very honored to have been recognized for this award," she said. "It's nice to know that my peers and superiors think I'm doing a good job."

Being part of something that's positively influencing the future of a nation is "pretty incredible," she said.

"Back home I do research, so hands-on construction is something totally different than what I normally do, but I love it," she said. "All fields of engineering offer the opportunity to help people and create great change in a very tangible way. It's a very hands-on way to leave your mark and create something to be proud of."

Burg's current projects in Iraq include a number of military construction projects, construction of two Iraqi police stations and the Pipeline Exclusion Zone project.

Co-workers and her immediate supervisors in Balad have no doubt the panel made the right decision on selecting Burg for the award.

"Liz is not afraid to bring up tough questions with the contractors and put herself on the spot when she feels it's the right thing to do," construction representative Susan Fox said. Air Force Maj. Brad Bugg, the Balad construction management officer in charge, also offered praise.

"Elizabeth Burg has excelled as a project engineer on time-sensitive construction projects, having a direct impact on the Air Force's ability to launch and recover aircraft on the Defense Department's busiest airfield," he said. "Her leadership has been critical in exceeding contract completion milestones."

Peter Gauer, resident engineer in Balad, said Burg possesses a "meticulous attention to detail, an eagerness to learn and willingness to ask questions when she is not sure how to proceed."

"Once she is shown how to do something or corrected on how to do it properly, no further assistance is required," he said, calling Burg as a "self starter in the highest sense."

Frank Scopa, area engineer for the Balad office, said it's difficult to believe that Burg has been out of college for only three years.

"Her poise, demeanor and abilities far exceed what her apparent experience level ought to be," he said. "Her contribution as a full member of the project delivery team belies her relatively short period of time in the construction field. We have come to expect excellent performance from Elizabeth, and she is delivering."

A self–described "Air Force brat," Burg graduated from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. She now attends Mississippi State University, working toward her master's degree in civil engineering.

Burg started her career with the Army Corps of Engineers as a co-op student in the Omaha district. After graduation, she joined the Engineering Research and Development Center, Coastal and Hydraulics Lab, in Vicksburg, Miss., where she does physical modeling. She volunteered to deploy, and has been working in the Balad office as a project engineer since November.

The Army Corps of Engineers competition coincides with the annual "New Faces in Engineering" program by the Engineers Week Foundation, a professional engineering society.

(Mike Scheck works in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region North district.)

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