By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Division-Center Public Affairs Office
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Historically known as the Steel City, Pittsburgh can now boast its supporting role in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, thanks to an Air Force captain deployed to the Middle East.
"What's happening now in Iraq is obviously there's a reconstruction need. In the reconstruction need, there's been a high demand from steel products," said Capt. Dave Toocheck, a steel industry expert for the Iraqi Strategic Support Cell, Multi-National Force – Iraq.
Toocheck, who lives in Medina, Ohio, is a member of the Air Force Reserve who works for Bloom Engineering out of Pittsburgh. He has 15 years of civilian experience in engineering and steel.
Bloom Engineering is an environmental and energy-consulting company for steel and aluminum industries throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Now, the Pittsburgh company is impacting Iraq through Toocheck.
"The Iraqi government is projecting they're going to build 3 million houses. They're also projecting the lowest demand will be 3 million tons [of steel] per year," said Toocheck, whose home station is the 911th Civil Engineers Squadron under the 911th Airlift Wing in Coraopolis, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh.
Toocheck is working in partnership with the ministry of industrialization and minerals to match the country's steel quota.
Currently, there is enough scrap metal collected in Iraq to satisfy 10 years worth of production. However, a lot of work must be done before scrap can transform into the homes millions of Iraqi families across 256 cities need.
The first obstacle is Iraq's steel-making capacity. They have none; this is where Toocheck comes in.
"Right now, my focus and my mission ... [is] to engage the Iraqis at an engineering and technical level so that the knowledge I have from working in this industry is conveyed to them because they've been essentially isolated from the rest of the world for the past 30 years. And by doing that, now all of a sudden, we're paving the process for reconstruction," said Toocheck, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993 with a mechanical engineering degree.
The plan is to develop scrap metal sites to accumulate material and build steel-making plants to produce rebar and light-structure members. The four plants in the current plan would provide work for 30,000 Iraqis and be located in different areas of Iraq to proportionally spread employment.
Another step in this process is establishing responsible contracts with equipment manufacturers to provide furnaces and other technological needs.
"What I've done thus far is I've contacted a bunch of vendors in putting together possible quotes or equipment needs for the scrap site, to go in and take cars and tanks and trucks and planes and trains and automobiles and shred them up into things we can put into the steel mill furnace and make steel," Toocheck said.
In the future, Toocheck also sees the steel industry providing more than just houses, but bridges, roads and airports as well. Eventually, the aluminum capacity can be added and support the reconstruction efforts even further.
"We need to engage the [Iraqi] people on a daily basis," Toocheck said. "It's their money. It's their country. [They decide] whatever they want to do."
This work, Iraq's steel industry gets help from Pittsburgh expertise, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.