Engineers on Track as Iraq Deadline Nears

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 — The U.S. mil­i­tary is on track to with­draw its forces from Iraq by the end of the year, the U.S. military’s most senior engi­neer­ing offi­cer post­ed there said yes­ter­day.

The most impor­tant aspect of clear­ing the bases as the Unit­ed States tran­si­tions out is the secu­ri­ty of the force, said Army Brig. Gen. Scott F. “Rock” Don­ahue, direc­tor of U.S. Forces Iraq’s J-7 staff sec­tion for oper­a­tional plans and joint force devel­op­ment.

“That’s where we’re at right now as far as our full spec­trum engi­neer­ing mis­sion here,” Don­ahue said dur­ing a “DoDLive” blog­gers round­table.

“So as we depart here at the end of the cal­en­dar year on the 31st of Decem­ber and Oper­a­tion New Dawn con­cludes and U.S. Forces-Iraq inac­ti­vates,” he con­tin­ued, “this is real­ly going to be a tran­si­tion to the State Depart­ment, and they’re going to con­tin­ue the mis­sion here in coop­er­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment of Iraq.”

The Unit­ed States signed a secu­ri­ty agree­ment with the Repub­lic of Iraq in 2008 that stip­u­lat­ed all U.S. forces would depart that coun­try by Dec. 31, 2011. As direc­tor of J-7, Don­ahue is the senior U.S. mil­i­tary engi­neer in Iraq. He is respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing full spec­trum joint engi­neer­ing sup­port to U.S Forces-Iraq sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions and assist­ing both the State Depart­ment and the Office of Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion-Iraq.

Don­ahue explained that full spec­trum engi­neer­ing gen­er­al­ly com­pris­es six tasks: pro­tect­ing the force and pro­vid­ing ensured mobil­i­ty, devel­op­ing Iraqi secu­ri­ty force engi­neer capa­bil­i­ty, pro­vid­ing base envi­ron­men­tal and facil­i­ty sup­port, pro­vid­ing gen­er­al and geospa­tial engi­neer­ing sup­port, enabling base tran­si­tions and pos­tur­ing engi­neer forces.

“Cur­rent­ly our pri­or­i­ty engi­neer effort here in Iraq is enabling base tran­si­tions, which remain on track and in accor­dance with the secu­ri­ty agree­ment of 2008,” Don­ahue said. “U.S. forces in Iraq now reside on 41 bases. Twen­ty-eight of those are U.S. and 13 are part­nered.”

In Jan­u­ary 2008, U.S. forces resided on more than 500 bases through­out Iraq, Don­ahue said, not­ing the remain­ing U.S. troops in Iraq, about 50,000, today work and are bil­let­ed on just 82 bases.

The process is dif­fer­ent for tran­si­tion­ing each base to the Iraqis, but for each base, the engi­neers per­form site-clo­sure sur­veys, and imple­ment a cor­rec­tive action plan there­after.

Because the secu­ri­ty agree­ment of 2008 requires the Unit­ed States to pro­tect the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment, Don­ahue said there is an empha­sis on mak­ing sure the bases are clean­er now than before U.S. forces arrived.

“We main­tain six envi­ron­men­tal response and cleanup teams,” Don­ahue added. “We’ve got 11 envi­ron­men­tal man­agers here in Iraq. Those are dis­trib­uted through­out the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment.

“At this junc­ture with a lit­tle over three months to go until the end of the cal­en­dar year, we assess the 41 remain­ing bases require about 500 envi­ron­men­tal sites that need some sort of clo­sure or cleanup or trans­fer,” he con­tin­ued. “Forty�nine of these 500 sites will be trans­ferred to the gov­ern­ment of Iraq as is for what we call ‘con­tin­ued like use.’ ”

The remain­ing sites, he said, will be cleared and cleaned or mit­i­gat­ed by the respon­si­ble unit, by con­trac­tors or by envi­ron­men­tal response and cleanup teams.

In addi­tion to the tran­si­tion and clean­ing of bases, U.S. engi­neers are con­tin­u­ing to train Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.

“We con­tin­ue to strength­en the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces … through mul­ti­ple part­nered train­ing events and engi­neer equip­ment field­ing ini­tia­tives, to include the estab­lish­ment of 14 field engi­neer reg­i­ments and a strate­gic bridge reg­i­ment with­in the Iraqi army,” Don­ahue said.

Train­ing the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces is para­mount to the suc­cess of the mis­sion, he said.

“Obvi­ous­ly ensured mobil­i­ty is a big part of our mis­sion here in Iraq from an engi­neer­ing per­spec­tive, keep­ing the routes open, pro­tect­ing the force,” Don­ahue said. “Just to give you some per­spec­tive, since about 2005, engi­neers have real­ly con­duct­ed more than about 55,000 of these route-clear­ance patrols, more than six-and-a-half mil­lion kilo­me­ters of roads cleared. Then of course, we’ve also removed over 4,300 [impro­vised explo­sive devices].”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)