The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ response to Sept. 11, 2001, began on Day One. Only a few hours after the terrorists struck, engineers from Headquarters went to the Pentagon to assess the damage, and personnel from North Atlantic Division and New York District made their way to the World Trade Center to assist rescue efforts and begin planning the ensuing support operations.
Since 9/11, USACE personnel have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in every capacity short of combat. The USACE Deployment Center (UDC) in Middle East District was a vital piece of that response.
The UDC was formally established in Winchester, Va., in May 2005 to process USACE civilians who deployed for civil and military construction missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of Sept. 1, 2013, there had been more than 12,000 deployments through the UDC. Of those, more than 7,000 were USACE deployments.
Middle East District closed the UDC in a ceremony on Sept. 12, 2013, ending an important chapter in the USACE 9/11 response.
Originally, the UDC operation was limited, with a staff of eight including a part-time doctor and part-time nurse. It accommodated only USACE civilians assigned to Afghanistan and individuals on special assignment to Iraq.
But the UDC operations quickly expanded to support other federal agencies, some military and even some contractor personnel deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the UDC staff eventually grew to 20.
The largest contingent after USACE was the Army Material Command with about 5,000 deployees. Other agencies that the UDC supported included U.S. Army Intelligence, Defense Distribution Command, Defense Information Systems Agency, Department of Defense Inspector General, Defense Security Cooperation Agency and Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, among many others.
The UDC also supported USACE teams deploying for the Haiti recovery operations, Pakistan flood relief, National Training Center exercises, the annual Ulchi Focus Guardian exercise in the Republic of Korea, and deployments of the USACE Field Force Engineering Support Team.
The deployment support mission included a full program of instruction and theater-specific briefings, equipment issue and training, medical screening and specialized USACE training to meet engineering requirements in theater. While the deployment schedule was geared to the specific in-theater needs of USACE, it was based on and strictly followed the standards for personnel processing set by the Army Personnel Policy Guidance and Central Command. The UDC also fully incorporated all USACE deployment policies.
Although the UDC has been deactivated, its legacy will live on. The UDC staff continually improved their operations based on feedback received from each week’s group of deployees. USACE deployment processes have been dramatically altered as a result of the UDC’s experiences, and its procedures and lessons learned will be incorporated into future deployment operations.
“The UDC, dedicated to taking care of our people while preparing them for their critical work to meet U.S. national interests abroad, superbly prepared people for deployment,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre, commander of Transatlantic Division. “The Middle East District team with its dedicated Deployment Center staff exemplified the USACE motto of ‘Building Strong,’ meeting the needs of all civilians who volunteered to deploy. The staff and others who have been part of UDC operations have taken the Army values to heart, embodying loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.”
(This article is based on historical information provided by Julie Shoemaker of the Middle East District.)