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Posted 4/12/2016

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By Jennifer Aldridge


WIESBADEN, Germany — The shared calendar for the Special Projects Section under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District’s Construction Branch could be mistaken for a child’s art project.

The colored blocks of scheduled travel overlap and intersect in the outlined weeks and months ahead. Traveling an average of 100 workdays per year, section staff are frequently out of the office visiting far-off project locations from the Baltic coast to the Sahara Desert.  

The Special Projects Section — manned with six project engineers, a construction representative and a supervisory engineer — manages 94 active projects throughout the district’s 104-country area of responsibility serving two combatant commands — European Command and Africa Command.

Engineering in Europe spoke with Special Projects Section members to discuss their career backgrounds and the highlights and challenges of managing work in Europe and Africa.

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JACK GALLOWAY

Jack Galloway joined Europe District in 2013 as the Special Projects Section chief. He’s a civil engineer with 21 years of USACE experience in four districts.

As section chief, Galloway’s priority is the well-being of his staff as they travel to remote project locations. This includes personal security measures and ensuring his employees have a work-life balance. There are some temporary discomforts involved in the section’s travel requirements such as: taking multiple overnight flights; extreme heat of more than 115 degrees or cold below minus 10; and physical side effects related to taking malaria medicine.

But for Galloway and his team, working with genuinely excited partners, contractors and end users in Africa and Eastern Europe is a great reward.

As construction contract managers, Galloway and his staff understand that they provide a service — USACE exists solely to execute programs and projects on behalf of partners. He coaches section employees to treat every interaction, external and internal, with the highest level of care. Galloway’s focus on relationships pays dividends — all of his personnel have successfully met with and briefed their projects to U.S. ambassadors and top host-nation representatives. 

To succeed in the Special Projects Section, employees must be mature, dynamic and effective communicators, Galloway said.

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ADEWALE ADELAKUN

Adewale Adelakun joined Europe District in 2010 as an Army intern. After rotating through various branches and positions, he completed the intern program and joined the Special Projects Section in 2014. He has been on the move ever since. 

Adelakun, a mechanical engineer, focuses on projects in West Africa and Eastern Europe. He supervises construction of AFRICOM and EUCOM humanitarian-assistance projects in Benin, Ghana, Togo, Tunisia and Serbia. He also manages work in Uganda and Morocco.

Recently, he provided planning and preconstruction contract management for European Reassurance Initiative projects in Estonia supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. effort to assure partners and allies and deter Russian aggression in the region.

Colleagues say Adelakun’s success in managing construction in various countries demonstrates his ability to adapt to the environment around him. He studies the culture of each country he visits and adjusts his communication style as necessary.

Administering U.S. contracts in West Africa, for instance, can prove difficult as agreements in the region tend to be based on relationships rather than a signed piece of paper, he said. Local business is traditionally conducted in person, and Adelakun must delicately manage end-user expectations through a project’s design and construction phases.

Europe District is building a maternity ward in Lome, Togo. When the contract got awarded, the facility was designed to be a single-story structure with a sloped roof. After award, the village chief spoke to Adelakun about adjusting the design; he requested a flat roof to allow for future vertical construction.

The requested change was over budget and out of the scope of work. When Adelakun explained this, the chief would not allow construction to proceed until the U.S. government was able to secure additional funding to change the facility design and meet his community’s needs.

Adelakun handled this situation with great care to help maintain the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Togo, Galloway said.

Solid judgment, Adelakun said, is required to resolve discrepancies between U.S. government contract requirements and resources available to execute projects in Africa. USACE contracts stipulate Western building standards, quality products and skilled labor must be used to build U.S.-funded facilities. In administering the contracts, Adelakun makes judgment calls to allow for alternatives to U.S specifications based on the resources and skills available in the country or region where work is being performed.

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BENJAMIN SCHREIBER

Benjamin Schreiber joined Europe District’s Special Projects Section in 2014, bringing extensive knowledge of construction to projects in Lithuania, Mauritania and Niger. His positive attitude and focus on partner satisfaction has led to the successful completion of numerous projects in some of the most remote, yet critical, places in the district’s area of responsibility.

Managing projects in Africa, Schreiber has found it’s best to sit down with local officials and end users, drink tea, ask for their input and build relationships prior to starting construction. 

In addition, Schreiber has experienced many air-travel mishaps that make his job a bit more difficult to perform. While traveling to a remote location in the Sahara, the pilot had to turn the aircraft around so the plane would not run out of fuel. This required Schreiber to remain extremely patient and flexible.

Another time, he landed in a very remote African location, only to lift off immediately without getting out to check on his project because of an approaching sandstorm. Schreiber was able to adapt and visit the project several months later without incident.

He has become a subject matter expert on construction in remote locations, where sometimes even the most basic building materials are not readily available, Galloway said.  

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DOUG WESEMANN

Doug Wesemann, a professional engineer with a structural and civil background, has been with USACE for more than 11 years and joined Europe District’s Special Projects Section in 2014. He manages work throughout the Balkans and East Africa.

While overseeing projects in multiple countries and continents can be stressful and rife with challenges, it’s not without benefits. Wesemann once conducted a quality-assurance visit to a project in Kenya by morning and by afternoon was on a safari in search of the big five game animals.

Cultural immersion and understanding is critical in each of the countries Wesemann supports. Geographic, cultural, economic and political challenges influence project execution, and successfully navigating each challenge requires a blend of engineer skills and diplomatic expertise, he said.

Wesemann has delivered humanitarian-assistance projects such as renovated schools and medical clinics in Albania, Croatia and Kosovo, and overseen other projects in Djibouti and Kenya.

For the last eight years, Wesemann has served as a structures specialist on the highly specialized and all-volunteer USACE Search and Rescue Team. In this capacity, he supported EUCOM and U.S. Army Europe in a disaster-response effort following the 2015 floods in the Republic of Georgia.

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MAJ. RUSSELL DESTREMPS

Maj. Russell Destremps, an active-duty mechanical engineer, joined the district’s Special Projects Section in 2015. He manages difficult-to-reach projects in Burkina Faso and Chad. He also supports work in Albania, Latvia and Poland.

One of his most memorable trips was to Burkina Faso in September. While Destremps was in country discussing final layout and site details of a maintenance facility with partners from U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou, the Burkinabe military and USACE contractors, there was a military coup attempt within a mile of his location.

The subsequent 72 hours were filled with a great deal of uncertainty as the situation developed. Eventually, Destremps was able to safely depart the capital while the country was in the midst of a short-lived takeover.

Destremps is passionate about his role in delivering projects across a diverse program set — from humanitarian assistance to counterterrorism — in an even more diverse geopolitical and cultural landscape. He recognizes how his projects support the country and theater-campaign goals of USACE partners, and he works with internal and external stakeholders to successfully understand the operating environment and project-specific complexities. 

According to Col. Matthew Tyler, the district commander, Europe District is an enabler of U.S. foreign policy in Africa and Europe. That is a heavy charge and one that cannot be taken lightly, Destremps said.

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The Special Projects Section continues to grow as the district’s ERI workload increases in 2016 and beyond —about $210 million in military construction and FSRM [facilities, sustainment, restoration and modernization] projects for the Army and Air Force are currently under construction or design in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria. The section manages work in Poland and the Baltics, accounting for approximately $90 million. 

The section added three new employees to manage ERI projects on the ground in Poland and Estonia. Kyle Cassidy, a project engineer, will serve in Poland. He’s joined by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jastrzebski, a construction representative who also works closely with Polish military counterparts.

Christopher Bailey, a project engineer with experience working on the district’s $170 million missile defense complex in Romania, now manages projects in Estonia.

In addition, two positions to manage work in Latvia will be announced via www.usajobs.gov in the months ahead. The section is looking for qualified candidates with cultural awareness, endurance for multiple long-haul overnight flights and those seeking a healthy work-life balance to join the team.

AFRICOM Burkina Faso Chad construction counterterrorism ERI Estonia EUCOM European Reassurance Initiative humanitarian assistance kenya Latvia Lithuania Poland Romania and Bulgaria Togo U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District U.S. embassy US Department of State USAREUR