By K. Houston Waters, USAG Natick Public AffairsNovember 1, 2018
Natick, Mass. -- The United States government employs more than two million people in support of dozens of federal agencies. These civilian employees serve many vital functions, both at home and abroad. Federal civilian employees work in offices and command centers on military installations around the world, and like their uniformed counterparts, undertake dangerous missions placing them in hostile enemy territory. Currently, more than 330,000 civilian employees work for the Department of the Army, many in countries like Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
One such employee is Jadwiga Figiel, known to her friends and co-workers as Vee. Vee is a civil engineer with the Department of Public Works (DPW), U.S. Army Garrison Natick. Vee recently returned home after serving as an office engineer on the Mosul Dam Task Force (MTDF) with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Mosul, Iraq.
During her nine months in Iraq, Vee and her team worked to reinforce Mosul Dam, a more than thirty year-old structure on the Tigris River in northern Iraq. Constructed by a Swedish team of engineers during the reign of Saddam Hussein, the dam supplies water to an arid nation of nearly 37 million.
"Mosul Dam is practically the only source of water for all of Iraq, including Baghdad. All life surrounds this river. It's very important," said Vee.
Due to faulty initial construction, instability in the region, and frequent attacks from insurgent groups, including ISIS, the integrity of the dam's foundation is compromised, making the entire region vulnerable to threats of potentially catastrophic flash flooding.
"Since the dam was built, the Ministry of Water Resources has been drilling and trying to save the dam. After a while they decided they needed help," said Vee.
United States and its allies have assisted in efforts to secure and stabilize the dam since 2016. USACE, along with a team of Italian engineers, are currently working hand-in-hand with Iraqi Minister of Water Resources on a number of construction and infrastructure projects in Mosul.
"The main goal of this project was to secure the dam. What they are doing is drilling, like 160 meters below, through the foundation of the dam, and grouting -- pouring a special mix of concrete down. Because the foundation of the dam was sitting on deteriorating material, the water was penetrating and filtering out components of the rock. They are afraid of collapse."
Vee and her team acted as a liaison between the general contractors and the Ministry, preparing contracts for work done on and around Mosul Dam. This required tremendous teamwork and communication. "I'm a people person. So talking to Iraqis, from a totally different culture, while working with the Italians and trying to explain, to people who speak a different language, and make sure they understand what needs to be done, was challenging."
Despite an incredibly busy schedule -- working seven days a week, 12 hour days -- Vee and her team still found time to enjoy getting to know get to know her foreign colleagues. "We had fun. We visited the Ministry of Water Resources like two or three times a week. We had tea. Very delicious tea. And lots of parties. We wanted to show them we are trying to help protect the Iraqi people. They were very friendly and hardworking. They feel like this dam is life."
During her time in Iraq, Vee served as Contracting Officer's Representative (CRO) for transportation and personnel service contracts for the MTDF.
The Iraqi government has secured funding to finish the second phase of dam reconstruction projects. Completion is expected in the summer of 2019.