The nature of warfare is continually changing. The U.S. Army is adapting to the changes, especially in the high-speed world of the special operations communities and the covert missions they perform.
At Fort Bragg, civil engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District’s U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Resident Engineer Office continue to manage the construction of state-of-the-art facilities that are being built to accommodate the specific needs of the special operations community.
Resident Engineer Joe Holm manages projects of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. The operations tempo at Fort Bragg is set not only by the special operations communities, but also by the 82nd Airborne. This whirlwind tempo trickles down to the way he and other Wilmington District project managers keep their numerous projects on schedule and on budget.
“We’re using technology to the fullest extent to manage the construction of the buildings,” he said. “Everything is geotagged, photographs are connected to the drawings, they’re all on tablets, and all of our inspections go out in real time to the subcontractors. It’s amazing.”
Holm said that the facilities are so high tech that the designers have to sometimes modify their plans into the future. Technology continually changes and USASOC leaders must occasionally reevaluate their specific needs. It’s up to the project managers to ensure that those needs are met.
“Technology changes rapidly, but we’ve worked hard with them to review all of the changes and update the design to today’s standards so that we’re not building something that’s already obsolete. Video teleconferencing equipment, for example, can be outdated within a year or two. It’s a race to keep up with technology that meets all of their needs and keep the project on schedule at the same time.”
Wilmington District USASOC Project Manager Jay Hershey echoes Holm’s challenges of keeping up with technological advancements.
“The most difficult part of managing the projects is staying ahead of curve on the communications equipment,” Hershey said. “These groups are communications heavy. If we have to make changes to the communications design or if the customer asks for a design change, it trickles down to power in the building such as HVAC. It changes all of that.”
The facilities themselves are not only designed and built to meet specific training needs, but they’re also designed and built for energy efficiency. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Army incorporates LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design into the USASOC projects. Hershey said that this saves the Army money on fuel and water expenses, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
“These buildings are energy efficient year-round. In the summer, the windows are designed to keep the heat out, and in winter they help capture addition heat from the sun. We also use solar panels for heating water and for keeping the buildings at a constant, comfortable temperature.”
As a project manager for USASOC for the past 10 years Hershey has established good relationships with USASOC leadership. He feels it’s an honor to work for and with the “Green Berets” and this motivates him to keep in constant contact with USASOC leaders to address their concerns or to meet their demanding needs.
“They can do their jobs in a hut,” he said. “But because of the nature of their missions and adapting their training for real world scenarios they’re getting state of the art facilities that will keep them ahead of the game in the coming decades.”