MOSUL, Iraq -- Col. Philip Secrist III now commands the Mosul Dam Task Force, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unit providing the Government of Iraq with engineering expertise for its grouting contract to stabilize Mosul Dam.

In early June, command passed to Secrist from outgoing Commander Col. Michael Farrell. Hosted by Col. Mark Quander, Transatlantic Division Commander, the ceremony was attended by Iraqi government officials, Italian army personnel, U.S. government employees, and contractor representatives.

Multiple agencies from three governments have combined their efforts to stabilize Mosul Dam, the largest earthen dam in Iraq and the fourth largest in the Middle East. Constructed in the mid-1980s, the dam provides water supply, irrigation, flood control, and hydropower for the people of Iraq along the Tigris River Valley. Because of the soluble geologic foundation the dam sits on, the Government of Iraq has conducted continuous grouting as part of the dam's regular maintenance operations. Regional conflict interrupted grouting operations, leading to further distress in the dam's foundation and the need for an intense grouting contract.

After Iraqi and Kurdish forces reestablished control of the dam, the Government of Iraq entered into a contract, in early 2016, with the Italian firm Trevi S.p.A. to conduct grouting operations and rehabilitate the water regulating outlet system. The Government of Iraq and the U.S. State Department then entered into an agreement for USACE to serve as the Engineer and Technical Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources for its contract with Trevi.

USACE mobilized the Mosul Dam Task Force in September 2016, with Farrell as the commander.

Throughout the stabilization efforts and working with the Ministry of Water Resources' staff whose members have years of experience on the project, Farrell leveraged Trevi's expertise in foundation stabilization to accomplish grouting at significantly higher production rates than scheduled. In addition to grouting and the outlet rehabilitation, the work also included the provision of new drilling, grouting and grout mixing equipment; installation of dam safety and grout monitoring instrumentation; and training of Ministry of Water resources staff in the use of newly installed systems.

"As the Engineer, the USACE enterprise has deployed nearly 60 dam safety experts, engineers, geologists, and other technical experts, along with approximately 30 military members," Quander said. The firm "AECOM, part of our project delivery team, has also deployed more than 60 experts to provide geotechnical and dam safety support services."

In addition to the on-site team, reach-back services from more than 150 USACE employees, representing 24 USACE organizations, have supported Mosul Dam Task Force.

Quander expressed appreciation to Farrell for his leadership of the Task Force and particularly for his ability to build relationships between the Iraqi, Italian, and U.S. participants to mold them into a cohesive team. "We are grateful for your leadership, your vision, and your devotion to the people of Iraq and the people on this team."

In Farrell's remarks, he expressed his gratitude to the many project partners for remaining committed to working together despite the technical, contractual, and political challenges that they faced. "I leave today absolutely certain this has been the most challenging and rewarding assignment I have been entrusted with throughout my entire career," he said.

In assuming command, Secrist expressed his appreciation for the privilege to lead the Mosul Dam Task Force and to work with the international team.

"For the Ministry of Water Resources, Trevi, Task Force Presidium, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Mosul Dam Task Force: you have overcome many challenges during the past two years," Secrist said. "There will be additional challenges over the course of the next year, and I am confident that as we work together there is no challenge that we cannot overcome."

Before his assignment at Mosul Dam, Secrist commanded the USACE Huntington District for three years. He previously served with several military units in a wide range of command and staff positions, including service in Iraq.

The Mosul Dam Task Force Project Delivery Team will receive the USACE 2018 PDT of the Year for Excellence Award in ceremonies in early August. The award recognizes task force team members for delivering their strategic objectives and for their focus on delivering "engineering solutions for the nation's toughest challenges."