By Army Spc. Brian Johnson
Jan. 8, 2010 - Because their work contributes to reconstruction efforts, generates business and promotes growth, local contractors are a key component of the rebuilding process in Iraq. And, U.S. soldiers assigned to the 16th Engineer Brigade's survey and design team offer Iraqi contractors quality-control and assurance measures that ensure construction projects are completed to a high standard of safety within a reasonable timeframe and with quality materials.
"Quality assurance and quality control of construction projects is one of our most important missions," said Army Capt. Dolph Watts of Marion, Ohio, a civil engineer with the team. Watts said he and the rest of the team visit construction sites to make sure no problems arise during construction.
"Our team tries to ensure that a contractor is not cutting corners or delivering an inferior product that could cost someone's life," he said.
The survey and design team currently is working on a quality assurance and control mission at a school just west of Baghdad where an Iraqi contractor is renovating classrooms and building six new rooms. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Markel, a senior technical engineer for the team and Chillicothe, Ohio, native, said he works in partnership with a 1472nd Civil Affairs Company civil affairs team to ensure projects are done to standard and equitably.
"The civil affairs teams set up many reconstruction projects," he said. "They establish rapport ... keep the project moving, and make sure everyone is happy with the end result."
Markel said he looks for specific benchmarks and whether the contractors adhere to the construction timeline.
"There is an agreed-upon timeline by all parties involved," he explained. "I help the civil affairs teams to accurately assess if a construction mission will be done by a certain time. If we were told that the walls would be up by a certain day, or the roof would be installed on a building by a certain day, those are some of the things that I look for."
During a visit with one contractor, the soldiers listened as he explained that while he had made great progress, he would need a few additional days to finish the project to standard.
As he returned to Camp Liberty, Markel discussed the day's events with the civil affairs team, who said they were pleased and reassured by the progress.
Markel said he's keenly aware that his window of opportunity is short to instill standards that will endure beyond the time when U.S. forces leave Iraq.
"What is being constructed has to be a lasting structure," he said. "The building cannot fall apart months after we leave."
(Army Spc. Brian Johnson serves in U.S. Division Center with the 16th Engineer Brigade public affairs office.)