Deployed employees welcomed home
LOS ANGELES - Since 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District has deployed more than 100 employees to Afghanistan and Iraq and 20 employees are currently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In a ceremony Oct. 5, the District welcomed home four employees returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Two honorees were from the 59th Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team-Advance, one from the Space and Missile Command at Los Angeles Air Force Base and one District employee.
"While only one of the honorees is a District employee, we support volunteers who deploy from our region,” said Deputy District Commander Lt. Col. Steve Sigloch. "Thank you for volunteering."
Sonya Olbrantz, an Environmental Engineer Program Manager with the 59th FEST-A, deployed to Al Ramadi, Iraq with a mix of military and civilian staff that advised local commanders on engineering matters.
"There is a lot of work there for us to do," said Olbrantz. "I spoke with students who greatly appreciated us rebuilding their schools; we were able to provide updated materials and equipment. Restoring their water systems had a huge impact on their lives; 2-to-5-year-olds are much healthier now."
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Werme, the FEST non-commissioned officer in charge, arranged security escorts and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles used by the team when they visited project sites.
"It was tough, it was hot, it was an adventure," said Werme. "We learned how a relatively small group of people can make a positive impact and help a large number of people."
Kim Calvert-Johnson is a contract specialist for the Space and Missile Command at LAFB and was hired as a contract specialist for the deployment.
"I've been a contract specialist for 26 years, but had never worked a construction contract and deploying was on my bucket list," said Calvert-Johnson. "I was able to work side by side with the great men and women who help protect our country."
Don Nguyen is a cost engineer in the District Design Branch and deployed as a cost engineer to Kabul, Afghanistan. This was his second deployment downrange for a total of three years since 2007.
"I like challenges and a fast paced environment," said Nguyen. "We had 10- to- 12 hour workdays, but being able to go to a gym and all the care packages and support from the District is how I made it.
Nguyen's 7- year- old daughter joined him at the ceremony and Sigloch presented her with a gift saying, "I know how tough it was on you, my kids were seven and four when I deployed. Thanks for supporting your Dad."
Sigloch presented each employee the "Commanders Coin" from District Commander Col. Mark Toy.
"The District carries the load in South Pacific Division deployments and on behalf of District Commander Col. Toy, thank you for your service and thank you to everyone who stepped it up back here by taking on the extra workload while they deployed in support of our Nation," Sigloch added.