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A Report on What One Engineer Unit Accomplished in Iraq

The Corps of Engineers military arm is continuing its mission to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq, and supporting operations in Afghanistan. I’m tuned in to this partly because much of my reporting is about the Corps of Engineers, and also because my nephew, Maj. Phil Dacunto, is in the Engineers, and did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. I published a picture of him and his commanding officer in the January/February issue, and this is the conclusion of that story – for him and his unit, who arrived home in July. The story continues for the soldiers that are still over there creating the safe roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure that will allow a peaceful existence for the Iraqi people.

Many members of the unit arrived home with awards for their achievements during their tour. Phil received the Bronze Star Medal, and his citation stated that he “magnificently planned and controlled operations for 735 soldiers and airmen in six subordinate engineer companies and one Air Force utilities detachment operating on eight forward operating bases in support of four multi-national divisions.”

When I talked to him about telling his story, he said “don’t make it just about me”. His story is also the story of the 735 soldiers and airmen, and their Iraqi counterparts.

The citation goes on to describe the “training, targeting and execution of hundreds of route clearance patrols”, the efforts of seven U.S. and Iraqi route clearance platoons, that significantly reduced the Explosively Formed Projectile threat in the area. They constructed projects worth tens of millions of dollars, established electrical and construction training academies and emergency relief projects.

The 14th Engineer Battalion adopted the Al-Sanoober School in Dhi Qar Province, and built a new six-room school building to replace a mud hut. This project was dear to the hearts of the soldiers’ families because it allowed them to help – hundreds of boxes of school supplies were sent by the families to equip the school, and the pictures show kids wearing soldiers’ helmets and posing with them, big smiles on their faces.

When Phil got home to his wife, toddler son and baby daughter in July, pictures flew around our extended family, and the juxtaposition of two of them struck me to the heart – one of Phil with some of the Iraqi children at the school opening ceremony, and one of him at home with his little son Peter. The soldiers, marines and airmen who are making the sacrifice to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan are risking their future family happiness to ensure that the people in those countries can have a chance at it.

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John Dobson is working with the China Dredging Association on the next World Dredging Conference. He sent notice that the China Dredging Association has moved the conference location to the Beijing International Convention Centre.

This new venue is in an area of Beijing City that includes a range of good hotels and some of the Olympic venues, including the “Water Cube” (Aquatic Centre) and the “Bird’s Nest” (National Stadium). The Convention Centre is 20 km from the Beijing International Airport and a short ride from Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other tourist attractions. Further information and registration details will be available in a second announce­ment/registration brochure to be published later this year. Check the CHIDA website www. chida.org

Judith Powers
Editor

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