A team of deployment coordinators visited the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, July 18 to give employees information on how they can support the Corps’ overseas missions.
In a message last year to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers workforce, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the USACE commander, stressed the importance of giving every USACE employee the opportunity to deploy.
“We need civilian leaders of superior integrity and technical competence to step up and answer the call to serve within Overseas Contingency Operations missions – a top priority for USACE,” Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite wrote in his “SemoNOTE” dated Sept. 11, 2017.
The Corps’ overseas deployment mission remains a top priority, and the visiting team provided information on three ways for civilians to do their part: Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO missions; Forward Engineer Support Teams, or FESTs; and the Expeditionary Civilian Workforce, or ECW.
OCO deployments, which are managed by the USACE Transatlantic Division, funnel personnel to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. The duration depends on the mission, but rotations can last as long as a year.
FEST deployments, also a USACE mission, mobilize teams that work together for six to nine months in locations such as Germany, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine.
The Expeditionary Civilian Workforce, on the other hand, is a Department of Defense program. Those who sign up for ECW deployments typically perform missions outside USACE’s purview and work with other agencies in locations including the CENTCOM area of operations.
Albert “Chip” Marin III, Huntsville Center’s programs director, encourages Center personnel willing to deploy to do so because, firstly, helping people who may be displaced or who are in harm’s way can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a person’s career.
“If you haven’t deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, the people are just like the people here: All they want is to take care of their families, they want to have jobs, they want to have incomes, they want to have a roof over their head, and they want some semblance of security,” said Marin. “That’s what you can do as part of these deployments.”
Professional development is another advantage of deploying, Marin said, adding that it’s possible to learn in three or four months what one might otherwise learn in a year or two due to the high operations tempo.
“You’re going to learn a lot and you’re going to be really, really busy,” Marin said. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job. There’s a lot of overtime involved and a lot of travel involved. Sometimes you’re in harm’s way, and sometimes you’re not. Even when you are in harm’s way, there’s security that’s provided for you. And it’s really good work.”
Although the visiting team did not address civil deployments – such as those to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria – Marin highlighted that option as well.
“You get to see people who now have access to their homes, you get to see roads open and you get to see hospitals open,” Marin said. “It’s really about helping people who are in dire need, and there’s no organization other than the Corps of Engineers who do the things that we do.”
Those who missed the briefing have plenty of resources, said Carlton Phelps, lead deployment coordination administrator with the Expeditionary Civilian Workforce and member of the Deployment Roadshow team.
Phelps said the primary point of contact for those interested in deploying is the organization’s deployment coordinator. Additionally, USACE issues a monthly deployment bulletin via email that showcases OCO, FEST and ECW opportunities. This bulletin goes to all active Corps of Engineers email accounts.
Those interested in deploying can learn more about deployment opportunities within USACE by visiting www.tad.usace.army.mil/careers/deployments.aspx, and about ECW opportunities by visiting www.cpms.osd.mil/expeditionary/.