District employee praised for role in Mosul Dam Task Force

Published April 20, 2017
Steve Zalis, Louisville District supervisor engineer, served overseas and played a critical role serving with the Mosul Dam Task Force.

Steve Zalis, Louisville District supervisor engineer, served overseas and played a critical role serving with the Mosul Dam Task Force. Steve assisted in overseeing and providing quality assurance for the construction of the base camp.

A Louisville District supervisor engineer has received accolades for his service on the Mosul Dam Task Force where he served from September 19, 2016, to March 4, 2017. 

Steve Zalis played a critical role serving with the Mosul Dam Task Force, referred to as MDTF, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. He assisted in overseeing and providing quality assurance for the construction of the base camp and worked as the contracting officer representative on several additional contracts that gave the MDTF essential logistics and engineering expertise support.

“I was part of the initial team that went in,” Zalis said. “There was five of us. We were the first wave of Corps folks to show up. I worked on the contract administration side of the house and performed various engineering duties to support the Mosul Dam mission.”

Zalis, a mechanical engineer at the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, served several roles in his work for the task force including lead office engineer conducting housing complex quality assurance inspections, warehouse inventory control, point of contact for all maintenance issues for the MDTF office buildings and living quarters, and serving as the contracting officer’s representative for Versar Contracts that included the Local National Services and Vehicle. 

In an email, Mosul Dam Task Force Commander Michael J. Farrell wrote to Louisville District Commander Col. Christopher Beck to thank him for the outstanding support and service Zalis provided while on tour for the MDTF. 

“He was instrumental in helping us stand up the task force, determine our mission, and reach full operational capability during some tumultuous and somewhat dangerous times,” Farrell stated referring to Zalis.  “Rest assured that he made significant contributions here, and represented the Louisville District with pride!”

“It was my fourth deployment and I knew what I was getting into,” Zalis said. “We lived on a construction site. I know on the news, my wife would say they reported we were in danger. I never felt in danger. We had incoming one time when we first got there.”

He added, a majority of the fighting was in Mosul – approximately 25 miles away.

Mosul Dam became a focal point of international news when a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 2006 called it “the most dangerous dam in the world” because of its propensity to erode. 

The U.S. Embassy reported “Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning…A catastrophic breach of Iraq’s Mosul Dam would result in several loss of life, mass population displacement, and destruction of the majority of the infrastructure within the path of the projected floodwave.”

A United States-led coalition is determining the likelihood the hydroelectric dam could collapse and has developed a contingency plan alongside the Iraqi government. The dam was built in the early 1980s and is made largely of earth and situated on soft mineral foundations. If it fails, it could send a 65-foot tidal wave through the region with waters reaching Baghdad approximately 222 miles from the dam. 

“Like all deployments, it was a great experience,” Zalis said. “Working with the Corps of Engineers you get opportunities you don’t get at other places.”