News: Engineers build on TIF, force protection
Spc. Robert Adams
CAMP BUCCA, Iraq - "No matter where we go, there is something that exists after we leave," said Col. Donato Dinello, 844th Engineer Battalion commander.
This time, the combat-heavy battalion, headquartered out of Knoxville, Tenn., left its mark at Bucca by completing a housing construction and renovation project at the Theater Internment Facility Saturday.
Due to the fact there would have been an overflow of detainees, the military determined at the beginning of the year it needed to increase normal capacity at TIFs.
To do this, construction and renovation projects were put in place at four camps in Iraq.
The 844th Eng. Bn. was called upon to work with contractors to complete the project at Bucca.
This was a big task considering Bucca houses the largest internment facility built since the Vietnam Era, said Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, Task Force 134 (Detainee Operations).
The engineers" mission included building 59 buildings in six of the TIF's compounds.
This consisted of pouring concrete foundations, raising walls and building the trusses, roofs, interior walls, ceilings as well as some electrical work.
Detainees were previously living in tents, causing problems and security issues for the TIF.
"Building permanent fixtures lowers the security risk for the guards," said Sgt. Chris Hudson, Company C, 844th Eng. Bn. "We are making sure the detainees can't tear these apart."
The added space has been crucial to an increasing population that has continually grown over the past year, said Capt. Peter Florentino, Bucca garrison executive officer.
In November 2004 there were 3,900 detainees, now there are more than 7,000.
"By having the engineers work on the project, the camp was able to save the U.S. Army more than $4 million," Florentino added.
The engineers, who have been working on the construction project since July, also got the chance to familiarize themselves with every aspect of the building process.
"Seeing a project through every phase is a real learning experience for everybody," Hudson said. "All of my guys got to learn every aspect of building, and by the end everybody knew what to do next."
"At first it was the senior noncommissioned officers making it happen," said Capt. Lou DeCicco, 844th Eng. Bn. Task Force commander. "Then we gave sergeants, lower-enlisted and team leaders the chance to take charge."
Sgt. Damion Graham, Co. C, 844th Eng. Bn. team leader, said his team of 10 Soldiers put a lot of effort into their work.
"I feel proud that I can teach others to do this jobâ?¦ We have learned a lot from each other," he said.
Soldiers also commented on how they learned skills that will help them in the civilian world and that they got to use their specialty skills during the project.
"It feels good to do a big project like this and it will feel good to look back and say, "I accomplished that,"" said Spc. Brandon Kidwell, Co. C, 844th Eng. Bn. carpenter.
The battalion first arrived at Bucca in March for 60 days for force protection, mobility and survivability work. Their mission was to secure the post inside and out to protect the camp that contains the largest TIF in the theater of operations.
"We showed them how to make this happen â?¦ now it is a secure camp," DeCicco said.
They first built and pushed the berms out around the camp and cleared the guard tower's field of fire. Then they built a road inside the perimeter, and did the berm work for their new entry control point.
"They greatly improved the camp's force protection," Florentino said. "They worked night and day and it was done quickly."
"We were also asked to help out in other areas of camp," DeCicco said.
"We also did the prep work for the camp's helipad and built three office and supply buildings in their motor pool."
"When you have a motor pool with more than 450 vehicles, this gave them the room to organize their work better," DeCicco added.
Now that the unit has finished the TIF project they returned to Kuwait to finish up the rest of their missions before heading home.
As of Thursday, the battalion has completed 442 missions in Kuwait and has 55 in progress.
"I'm pleased that we have done everything that a combat-heavy battalion can do in a theater of operations," Dinello said.
He added, "I can't wait to see our families and tell them how good of a job and difference we made here."