By Hank Heusinkveld
The nature of warfare continues to change, and Special Operations Forces are becoming more relied upon for complex battlefield engagements. They are valued for their out-of-the-box thinking, imagination, and initiative, and are able to operate within a small footprint with light support.
At Fort Bragg, construction managers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District’s Special Operations Command Area Office manage the construction of state-of-the-art facilities that are being built to accommodate the specific needs of the special operations community. Construction teams have an intense schedule, and combined with the Fort Bragg’s well-known operations tempo spearheaded by the 82nd Airborne Division, they say the numerous construction projects are challenging, yet rewarding through support to the Green Berets. That means keeping projects on time and on budget.
“Our stakeholders know what their facilities require to meet their mission and they work hand in hand with us through the life of the projects,” said Ron Cannady, Area Engineer at the Wilmington District SOCOM Area Office. “And at the Corps we take pride in our projects, by partnering with our stakeholders and contractors to make every project successful.”
What has worked well in keeping construction projects on time and on budget is constant communication between USACE and USASOC officials. The Wilmington District team has a broad understanding of the specialized activities of the Special Operations community, so they know what their customers need when they plan strategic missions.
“These buildings are specifically designed and constructed for these soldiers to meet their requirements and their needs with the correct square footage, both operationally and administratively,” said USASOC Headquarters Command Engineer Col. Lee Hicks. “The older buildings have never been the right size. So, they’ve had to modify those buildings to meet the space requirements to store all of their equipment to include personal gear and professional gear.”
The areas where the buildings are located were strategically designed, Hicks said. Battalions, brigade group-sized headquarters, battalion headquarters, company headquarters as well as the motor pools are consolidated into one area.
“With these facilities it takes the soldiers all the way through the planning phase from receiving the mission to planning the mission to preparing for the mission to actually moving out to go execute the mission,” Hicks said. So all of that is done in one house instead of several houses that they were in before.”
Hicks said that in the older facilities the team room was overcrowded and they couldn’t do their planning properly so they had to go to another facility. They would then have to go to another facility that could prepare all of their equipment to put in their vehicles before moving out for the actual mission.
“So you had very different stages of preparedness. Now with the new facilities everything is under one roof. They’ve got all of the specialized gear standing by that’s in their ready room. When they finish their planning, which is right next to their team room, they go downstairs, grab their equipment and move on out. So it’s very efficient and it cuts down on a lot of wasted time going back and forth between different facilities.”
The facilities themselves are not only designed and built to meet specific training and mission needs, they’re also designed and built for energy efficiency. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers incorporates LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design into the USASOC projects. Cannady said that this saves the Army money on utility expenses.
“The cost savings come in the lifecycle of the buildings,” he said. “A lot of time the upfront costs you put into a project may be the same or a little bit more for normal construction. However, when you look at the lower long term costs to operate and maintain these facilities that’s where you realize the savings.”
Cannady said there are a number of features that USACE incorporates into its projects. Building lighting control and HVAC management, allows for energy usage to be monitored and optimized. Solar power water heaters and geothermal units provide cost effective and efficient operational facility. In addition, Cannady said that the facilities are built with a very robust security and communications infrastructure. In order to achieve success, the project delivery team must work closely with the stakeholder throughout the life of the project.
“Technology is always evolving. And that is where we usually run into the timeline disconnect between project planning and design versus construction,” Cannady said. “When this happens we partner with our stakeholders to determine the best path forward to ensure the facilities have the required capabilities to meet their mission.”
The face of Fort Bragg continues to change. Remnants of World War Two-era buildings still exist and stand as reminders of the Army of the past, but they’re slowly being demolished to make room for new construction. A few Special Operations units still occupy those buildings, but they’ll soon move in to modern, state-of-the-art buildings that will help make their mission planning more efficient to effectively deal with daily global threats.