WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- When President Clinton approved the use of U.S. troops for peacekeeping missions in Bosnia Herzegovina shortly before Christmas, there were no base camps they could call home.
In one short month -- through fog, sleet, snow, ice and mud -- Corps of Engineers soldiers and civilians have helped create an Intermediate Staging Base for more than 7,000 troops in Kaposvar, Hungary. Efforts are now underway to support 26 base camps being set up in Bosnia Herzegovina using the Logistics Augmentation Program contract. Most camps will support 600 to 900 soldiers. Some will hold as few as 100 troops.
"The magnitude of the combined effort, including real estate actions, LOGCAP, host nation agreements and facilities set-up, is staggering and the amount of progress is impressive," said Contracting Construction Agency commander Lt. Col. Christopher Turletes from Pacific Ocean Division.
At the ISB in Kaposvar, the initial set-up is finished, but Corps employees are working late nights and weekends providing facility engineering management and area office-style support to U.S. Army Europe-Forward.
As of mid-January, more than 30 Corps employees had deployed to Hungary and Bosnia Herzegovina and more were enroute. Six were Corps Real Estate Support Team members, who were helping USAREUR negotiate lease agreements for property and facilities used by U.S. forces. Seven were managing LOGCAP efforts.
Others were hard at work in the CCA, which is part of the USAREUR-F deputy chief of staff, engineer. They comprise the new Balkan Area Office and Hungary Resident offices of the Transatlantic Engineer Center, Europe. They are helping the CCA work facilities, real estate and logistical requirements in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. A second resident office in Tuzla and a project office on the Sava River are also opening.
The CCA focuses on theater support while the Hungary Project Office is involved in ISB facility operations.
"We've temporarily become the facility engineers for ISB. It's not a traditional Corps role, but it puts us right at the heart of the community," said Steve Rose, Chief of the Hungary Resident Office. "We're working hard to improve facilities to the customers' standards by using troop labor, LOGCAP, Hungarian Ministry of Defense contractors and local contractors.
The Corps team is currently managing more than 150 work orders for facility requirements at the ISB in Kaposvar and Taszar. "They run the gamut from 'I need two pieces of mapboard for my boss,' to 'Manage the bed down of the 4th Aviation Brigade,' which has 1,200 people and 90 helicopters," Rose said.
He said the Corps started handling these issues as a logical outgrowth of LOGCAP contract administration -- checking facility and logistical requirements reported by the units against the scope of work in the LOGCAP contract.
"Soldiers were arriving ready to go to work. We didn't have time to wonder who should take care of things not covered by LOGCAP," Rose said. "The LOGCAP scope of work called for Brown and Root to set up and operate basic life support facilities. But as soon as troops arrived, reality set in and everyone started asking for special things that are unique to their mission. USAREUR needed someone to play the facility engineer's role, someone who could identify requirements, develop and manage priorities and make procurement arrangements."
USAREUR doesn't have a forward-based DEH here and it seemed natural for Corps folks to answer. Discussion continues on how the ISB will manage the facilities for the long haul. One solution may be to set up a DEH.
"In the meantime, we collect requests and work with a joint acquisition board, which includes the DCSENGR, the DCSLOG and the regional contracting office to authorize work, set priorities, and determine the acquisition strategy," Rose said.
"In the case of the 4th Aviation Brigade, they were originally going to operate out of Tuzla, but they ran into site problems," Rose said. "They decided they could fly all of northern Bosnia from a better location in Kaposvar. Services at the site will be partially provided by LOGCAP."
TAE project engineer Peter Russin and structural engineer Paul Wiersma designed and organized the project. They worked with the client to layout the site and determine the requirements for billets, sanitary facilities, dining hall, lighting, fencing and security, Rose said.
The base is being built by an Air Force Prime BEEF team, which has military specialists in 51 trades. The Corps supports them with project management assistance and by making sure they have the materials they need.
Wiersma says there was as much diplomacy as engineering in assessing the main transportation route through Hungary. One critical mission for Wiersma was to help military logisticians determine whether several local bridges would handle the weight of military vehicles moving equipment into Bosnia.
"When you work with another sovereign nation you can never forget you are a guest," said Wiersma. "Local transportation officials have full authority for the local road network. We had to satisfy them that our heaviest military loads wouldn't exceed their capacity."
To move troops and equipment quickly, Army logisticians wanted a blanket approval for military vehicles based on the heaviest load carried by the largest heavy equipment transports. The Hungarians wanted to approve and permit every vehicle.
Wiersma worked with the U.S. embassy's military liaison, the Directorate of Logistics for the Hungarian Military of Defense, and local transportation officials to assess the capabilities of the transportation network, particularly the bridges on the Sava River road.
"The engineering wasn't as complicated as the diplomacy," Wiersma said. "We had to look at a fairly simple engineering problem from everyone's perspective. Once that was done and we got everybody around a common table, everyone was very cooperative," Wiesrma said. "And that's what keeps life interesting for the Corps."
Construction and engineering efforts will continue at a feverish pace through early spring. Then sustaining existing facilities will kick in for a few months. When the troops return home, the Corps will remain to help with redeployment of assets and remediation issues related to the U.S. presence.
(From a Corps of Engineers release.)