Kentucky Engineers add their mark to Romanian flight hub

Story by Capt. Jayson McDonald, 613th Engineer Facilities Detachment

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Spc. Matthew Debord with the 613th Engineer Facilities Detachment sets up for a survey of a railroad station near Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, February, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jayson McDonald)

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania — Soldiers with the Kentucky National Guard’s 613th Engineer Facilities Detachment arrived at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, referred to as MK Transient Passenger Center, with less than one month until the transient mission was to be fully operational. With the closing of the transient center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, the U.S shifted its focus to MK Air Base, situated approximately 25 miles from Romania’s Black Sea port town of Constanta, to serve has the major transient hub for troops moving to and from Afghanistan.

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The 613th immediately begun coordinating with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), charged with the transient operation, to prioritize efforts on ground to meet the fully operational date at the end of February. The 21st identified not only several minor construction projects expanding the transient center’s infrastructure to support the influx of troops but also other service requirements critical to the transient mission success.

“This was a strategic level mission where time was essential to its success and any delay would mean failure,” said Lt. Col. Dean Gosney, commander of the 613th. “We had to coordinate with multiple organizations to meet their requirements and focus on the sole priority of providing critical life support to American Forces while making sure they were as comfortable as possible during their transition.”

As an engineer facilities detachment, the 613th provides real property management, repair and maintenance operations, facility design capabilities, and construction management responsibilities to the engineer mission. With such a massive effort to ready MK for the transient mission, the 613th applied their diverse engineer expertise to support the Department of Public Works and Contract Officer representatives, responsible for the sustainability and maintenance of MK, prepare for the increased workload of moving troops through.

With the transient mission receiving high visibility, the 613th managed and monitored the completion of several projects occurring simultaneously during the month of February. They provided quality assurance for projects such as constructing additional billeting tents, briefing tents, additional bathroom units, expanding the Morale,Welfare and Recreation facilities, installation of emergency generators providing critical backup power to the base, increasing force protection measures, and even installing security fencing for the Customs area.

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Lt. Col. Dean Gosney And Sgt. 1st Class Jerrod Franklin with the 613th Engineer Facilities Detachment accompany Col. Michael Snyder, Commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Brigade on a walk-through of transient barracks at Transit Center Mihail Kogalniceanu in Romania, February, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jayson mcDonald)

While in the midst of managing construction projects, the 613th provided contract support, working closely with representatives from Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) and contract officer representatives from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Engineer, United States Europe to ensure project deadlines were met. MK Transient Center operates under a fixed price service contract, currently managed by KBR, providing scheduled services such as janitorial, laundry operations, trash pickup and even cooks. The 613th drafted necessary contract documents and legal documents needed to make essential changes to ongoing projects, considered unscheduled services by KBR. They even identified and prepared design documents for future projects necessary for the continued success of the transient mission at MK.

The 613th also coordinated with the 16th Theater Sustainment Command to organize billeting efforts ensuring that the maximum amount of bunks were available to the 2,000 transient troops as well as the 350 assigned as permanent party. They worked with U.S. Forces Customs to meet certain sanitation and security requirements before the customs operations could even begin shipping equipment as well as troops to the United States. The 613th even supported joint operations between the U.S. and Romanian Forces by providing surveying and design expertise to complete documents for a future railhead expansion critical to future operations by Romanian Forces at MK. They submitted all the necessary project documents to the local Romanian municipalities and Mihail Kogalniceanu city council for approval on behalf of the U.S. and Romanian Forces.

Shortly after the 613th returned to Kentucky, a ribbon cutting ceremony occurred in the customs processing tent marking that MK Transient Center stood ready to receive the full flow of troops in and out of Afghanistan. Eventually, the MK Transient Center will accommodate more than 1,800 troops in the newly completed transient tents and facilities. The 613th laid the cornerstone for an operation that will ultimately serve as the primary gateway for Soldiers deploying and redeploying in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“The DoD asked Kentucky to step up to the plate for a strategic level operation that was critical to U.S. interests, and as always, we did our job and we did it well,” said Gosney.

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