HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Dec. 5, 2017) – A member of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center received the Bronze de Fleury Medal during his visit to Savannah, Georgia, Oct. 26.
Derek Pommerenck, who manages projects within the Environmental Program for Huntsville Center’s Ordnance and Explosives Design Center, received the award while attending training at the Savannah District Headquarters.
The de Fleury Medal is named after François-Louis Teissèdre de Fleury, a French engineer who volunteered with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The Army Engineer Association awards four orders of the award: steel, bronze, silver and gold.
According to the Army Engineer Association, the de Fleury Medal is the “main Engineer Regimental professional excellence award,” and the Bronze Order is presented to those who render “significant service or support to an element of the Engineer Regiment.”
Thomas Woodie, Pommerenck’s former supervisor and the chief of Savannah District’s Reimbursable Programs and Project Management, presented the award to Pommerenck without notice. Pommerenck had served with the Savannah District in various positions from 2009 to 2016, which included a deployment to Afghanistan.
Pommerenck said receiving the award has prompted him to reflect on his diverse career as an Army engineer, both in uniform and as a civilian.
Pommerenck received his commission in 1997 after earning his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Vanderbilt University. Upon his first assignment in Germany with the 535th Engineer Company, he deployed to Albania during NATO’s conflict with Serbia in 1999. Pommerenck was part of the sole engineer component leading the construction effort there.
“I had about 32 guys and there were about 6,000 people there to include two attack helicopter regiments, which, if you’ve never seen 96 helicopters all parked, it’s a sight,” he said. “I built every helipad for it and I built every maintenance stand – everything they needed.”
When Slobodan Milošević signed the Dayton Peace Accord that June, Pommerenck said the mission turned from combat-ready to peacekeeping.
“I was one of the first groups into Kosovo that, when the Serbs changed their border and allowed us to enter as peacekeepers, then that’s where we built Camp Bondsteel,” he said.
Pommerenck’s next assignment was Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he served as the logistics officer with the 3rd Infantry Division’s Engineer Brigade. He deployed with the division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during the Army’s initial invasion into Iraq in March 2003. While deployed, he served as the senior engineer adviser to the assistant division commander.
“The invasion of Iraq was a big engineer mission for us,” said Pommerenck. “I got to see it from the planning stage to the execution, and that’s very rare. It doesn’t happen that often that, for one, the U.S. invades another country and, two, that there’s a huge engineering situation there where we had to breach the border obstacles.”
A remnant of the Gulf War, this 15-kilometer-wide array of border obstacles included minefields, anti-tank ditches and electrified wire along the Kuwait border. Pommerenck’s unit successfully engineered the plan to make way for the passage of two divisions.
“And once we got to Baghdad, the power was off,” he added. “We had to figure out all the Soviet-designed power plants and get them running. And they hadn’t been maintained for about 40 or 50 years.”
In May 2004, Pommerenck made the transition to civilian life. He moved to Savannah where he spent several years in the private construction industry. After several years as a business owner, he accepted a position with the Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District with Military Programs, Project Management Directorate.
In 2010, he deployed for a third time – this time to Afghanistan – to manage the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Military Construction Program. His 15-month tour included overseeing a $5 billion construction effort.
When Pommerenck redeployed, he stayed with the Savannah District but physically moved to Redstone Arsenal where he took on the role of senior project manager. There, he managed the largest environmental restoration contract in the Army until 2016, when he accepted a position with Huntsville Center’s Ordnance and Explosives Directorate to manage environmental remediation programs.
It was during environmental training at the Savannah District Headquarters when Pommerenck received the surprise from Woodie and members of the chain of command.
“They just walked in the room and gave me the award – I had no idea,” he said.
“It’s an honor for sure,” he added. “A lot of people don’t take time to look back and reflect on what they’ve done. You get so used to your day-to-day activities, and it’s given me a chance to kind of look back and reflect on some of the great things I’ve done and the great people I’ve worked with.”