Faces From the Front for April 27, 2009 - Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Sangren
Current Unit: 416th Theater Engineer Command, Darien, Ill.
Current Position: Command Sgt. Maj.
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Tallil, Iraq
Hometown: Bellevue, Wash.
Years of Service: 37
Now in his 37th year of service, Command Sgt. Major Michael Sangren has undertaken what he believes is the most exciting and important job of his career. As an Army Reservist, Sangren volunteered to be mobilized to Iraq with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). While he knew his responsibilities would call upon his years of military experience, he admits that he didn't fully know what lay ahead.
Traditionally, as the senior enlisted person of a unit, his role would be to oversee the assignments and care of his Soldiers. But in the Gulf Region Division South District (GRS) where he is currently deployed, only 25 percent of the personnel are military. The civilians he works with are volunteers, and so collaboration and coordination are key elements to successfully completing the reconstruction projects they've been tasked with.
"Everyone in GRS from the administrative assistants to the commander wants to be here. The spirit of cooperation is so thick I feel I could cut it, box it, and sell it on eBay," said Sangren. "However, there are reminders that this is a combat zone, and a dangerous place. We work long hours and living quarters are tight, so I have made everyone in GRS my Soldier."
Sangren and his colleagues in GRS are focused on creating and restoring infrastructure in parts of Iraq that have never had the standards most Americans take for granted such as running water. The water purification facilities, health clinics, roads and schools they are building, establish not only a new standard of living in the region, but also reinforce to the local population that the government they have elected is working to directly improve their lives.
"We're literally rebuilding Iraq," said Sangren. "You can see the impact that everything we're doing is going to have on women, children, fathers, everyone in Iraq. These facilities will still have impact 5, 10, 15 years from now."
When Sangren returns to Bellevue, Wash. at the end of the year, he will rejoin his wife of 33 years, Claire, and return to his civilian post with the Seattle District, US Army Corps of Engineers.