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HEADLINE NEWS

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Building Strong ®


579th Engineer Detachment (FEST-M) Global Support

USACE chief says farewell to engineers in Afghanistan


by Mark Abueg
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Feb. 11, 2011) – “Is
there anyone that’s older than 61,” asked the gentlemen dressed
in an Army Camouflage Uniform.

“Oh, there. Hey, I’m in good company here,” he said looking at


hands raised throughout the audience as he reflected on the fact
that he had just turned 61 years of age.

The Army officer proceeded to tell about how Arthur Fonzarelli,


from the TV show, Happy Days, used to look in the mirror and
take a comb from his pocket and square himself away.

He too looked in the mirror and fixed himself up in the same


manner as “The Fonz” as he was getting ready for a military ball. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr., right, the chief of
engineers and commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps
After checking himself over, he turned to his wife for an intimate of Engineers, speaks with the 579th Engineer Detachment
quip between the two. (FEST-M) during his recent visit to Afghanistan. This was Van
Antwerp’s final visit as the chief as he will be retiring after 39
years of service in the U.S. Army. (Photo by Mark Abueg)
“Well, I just turned 61, babe,” he said. “Do I look it?”

With a grin, the salt and pepper haired officer let the audience know how she affectionately replied.

“You used to,” she said.

And with that tale told, the crowd of over 200 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers roared with a gentle laughter to the
approval of the 52nd Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of USACE.

Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, or “General Van,” as he is affectionately known throughout the Corps, visited
Afghanistan for the last time yesterday as the Army’s top engineer after 39 years of service.

Members of the 579th Engineer Detachment (Forward Engineer Support Team - Main) and Afghanistan Engineer
District – South hung on Van Antwerp’s words as he discussed the state of the Corps of Engineers, and the strides it
has made, especially in Afghanistan.

Van Antwerp serves as the senior military officer overseeing most of the America’s civil works infrastructure and
military construction.

But it wasn’t about the work in the United States that Van Antwerp wanted to talk about. It was about the mission
being accomplished overseas in Afghanistan.

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U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS – 579TH ENGINEER DETACHMENT (FEST-M)


Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
E-mail: 579festmpao@usace.army.mil
www.mvd.usace.army.mil/579festm
Page 2

“We’re an economic engine for this country,” he said.


“And the truth is that a lot of the jobs created in this
country are created by the contractors that the Corps of
Engineers hires … and we’ve created a lot of jobs.”

Van Antwerp reminded the FEST-M that the Corps has


three big functional areas.

“We have the Military Programs, Civil Works, and then


we have the Research and Development,” he said. “This
year it’ll be about $41 billion in those three programs.”

Overseeing activities and providing direction to the Corps


is the U.S. assistant secretary of the Army for Civil
Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, who accompanied Van Antwerp
on the trip. She was impressed not only with the Corps
work, but with the individuals, who have deployed in
support of overseas contingency operations.
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr., left, receives a unit shirt from Col.
“I think the fact that you are all here because you
Richard W. Dean, and becomes an honorary member of the 579th
Engineer Detachment (FEST-M). (Photo by Mark Abueg) volunteered to come just shows me something that I think
is irreplaceable any place else,” Darcy said.

But the day belonged to Van Antwerp as he praised the Corps’ accomplishments.

“One other milestone we passed in 2010 was the 10,000th deployment by a civilian in the Corps of Engineers to the
theater of operations,” he said. “10,000 – that is a big number.”

An even bigger number was the one involving the amount of work completed by the Corps. USACE had 39,500
people working on $12 billion worth of projects in 1992. Compare that to 2010 year end’s number that saw 37,000
Corps employees completing $41 billion of development, which includes the work in Afghanistan.

“That is amazing and that’s what this country needs,” he said. “So you’re supporting that, and you’re supporting it
through your local nationals that you’re building a bench for the future, and I think it’s going to have an impact you
don’t even know about.

“Generating jobs and doing great things for the infrastructure of this country. Pretty amazing.”

For all of Van Antwerp’s own accomplishments, he is proud of the success of the Corps of Engineers.

“I’ll tell you today that when I walk into the Pentagon, there is no question where the U.S. Army is in the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers,” he said. “Cause they see you over here. They see you deliver.”

U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS – 579TH ENGINEER DETACHMENT (FEST-M)


Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
E-mail: 579festmpao@usace.army.mil
www.mvd.usace.army.mil/579festm