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Posted 5/25/2009

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By John Neville


By John Neville, Public affairs specialist

Who builds the best training facilities, unit structures and barracks for the Army’s legendary 101st Airborne Division?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sixty-one construction management personnel from the Corps’ Louisville District are overseeing nearly $200 million this year in the construction and renovation of new facilities at Fort Campbell, Ky.

<font color=#5856A9>A place worthy of their sacrifice</font>

One of the Army’s top priorities since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism has been to improve Warrior Transition Battalions--the facilities where Soldiers recover from their injuries.

By 2010, one of the finest WTB recovery facilities will be sitting on Fort Campbell, and the Corps is making sure that projection becomes a reality. The 15,000-square foot Soldier and Family Assistance Center will provide support and services to Soldiers and their families while Soldiers undergo medical treatment in the Fort Campbell area. The center will serve as the hub for the entire WTB complex—to include the hospital-- on post. The facility will also serve as a gathering place for activities and events.

The center’s features will also include a suite of offices, a reception area, a large multipurpose room, and a child activity center. The property, which will sit on 2.7 acres, will also include a playground, courtyard and pavilion.

Soldiers will immediately notice a difference between the SFAC and the facilities that it’s replacing, according to SFAC Resident Engineer Maj. Carl Wohlfeil.

“The facility is supposed to be a little higher level of quality than the normal Army facility,” he said. “The purpose is to give the user—the Soldier—a feeling that the Army does really care about them. It’s going to be a nice, quiet, relaxing and decorative place. It will also include a stone fireplace.”

<font color=#5856A9>Build it and they will come</font>

The biggest ongoing project is the nearly completed Phase 1 and 2 of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team complex, located on what’s commonly referred to around Campbell as the Old Clarksville Base. Clarksville and about half of Campbell is located in Tennessee. Final build out of the $400 million complex is scheduled for 2014.

In 2006, the site was mostly woods and wildlife, save an old road and the cement bunkers that stored ammunition. Once the bunkers were demolished, the Corps dug in.

Four barracks facilities—almost complete—will house 656 soldiers who will begin arriving this summer.

And these aren’t your dad’s (or mom’s) barracks, or even your older brother’s (or sister’s) barracks either. Each suite houses two Soldiers, and each Soldier has his or her own room. The two share a kitchen that is complete with a large refrigerator, oven range, and kitchen table. The two also share a bathroom.

The complex will also contain unit operations facilities, a dining facility, and a tactical equipment maintenance facility. But the area isn’t all tactical. Construction of a child development center and schools are in the works, as is a convenience store-- commonly referred to in the Army as a shoppette-- and a housing area.

“It’s basically a mini-installation, or a standalone area,” said Wohlfeil. “It has all the services it needs. It’s all co-located with a master plan strategy.”

<font color=#5856A9>High-speed war gaming</font>

The majority of major Army installations have a battle command training center—a high-tech warfighting tool that simulates a wide range of scenarios that unit command staffs face in theatre. The entire simulation is run on computers.

The Corps is building a new BCTC at Campbell that will be the first of its kind in the Army. The facility will allow units to dock their vehicles and other equipment at the back of the building, “wire up,” and conduct training from inside their humvees or tents.

“This is for training battalion and brigade-level staffs in going through the motions of planning exercises and operations,” said Wohlfeil. “It’s all simulated in a computer model. They’re playing against a computer enemy, and as things play out there will be different things that require decision making by the staff and the commander, and they’ll work through those processes.”

<font color=#5856A9>Building strong and building smart</font>

It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do.

Army motor pools—like the typical commercial car service garage—aren’t typically very well-lit places. Dropped nuts, bolts and other small parts are often lost on the grey, oil-stained concrete. One of the Corps’ newest facilities on post is the tactical equipment maintenance facility for the division’s Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion. The floor—as well as the walls and ceiling—is painted white. Not only does the color reflect the lighting, it also cuts down on the electricity costs. And, the small parts are much easier to find.

“When you drop those nuts and bolts, you can actually find them,” said Master Sgt. Denise Rayl, the unit’s motor pool chief.

And, the white floor does more than make it easier to spot spills.

“We have more pride in the building,” Rayl said. “I see these guys mop their areas several times a day.”

<font color=#5856A9>Earth stewards</font>

The 2nd BCT complex was a big project, so big that the Corps was required to request a special environmental permit. Federal and state laws strictly regulate the conversion of undisturbed forest if the conversion involves more than 50 acres. Under the permit, the Corps was required to comply with guidelines regulating the flow of water. These guidelines guard against erosion.

“There were really strict limits on the amount (of brown water),” said Fort Campbell Senior Resident Engineer Bryan Moser. “We had to do some engineering techniques-- that are a little extreme-- to comply with them.”

The Corps mitigated the erosion threat by building a retention basin—a large area used to manage storm water runoff to prevent flooding and downstream erosion, and improve water quality in an adjacent river, stream, lake or bay. A large field that would’ve been susceptible to flooding now drains underneath a road and into the basin. The collected water is slowly released into a nearby body of water.

But before the water reaches the basin, it passes over a rock dike that filters out the solids in the water.  

“We’re responding the way we need to,” said Moser. “Silt in the streams can affect the public’s water supply.”

The Corps also took erosion mitigation measures on the other side of post, at another construction site. The 5th Special Forces Group area is undergoing an eight-year, $250 million upgrade. Underneath the complex’s parking lot, the Corps is placing large yellow plastic structures that will—like the retention basin—manage the flow of storm water in the storm sewer. If the storm sewer fills too fast and gets backed up, “everything floods,” Moser said.

<font color=#5856A9>Storied tradition lives on</font>

Whether it’s building tomorrow’s training facilities for the 101st Division’s elite Soldiers, looking after the wounded, or improving the quality of life for Soldiers and their families, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contracting partners are getting the job done.