The 111th Theater Engineer Brigade (TEB) consists of many extremely talented Soldiers, but one Soldier in particular may just be the jack-of-all-trades that every unit desires.
The 111th TEB has Soldiers serving in seven countries across the Central Command (CENTCOM) Area of Operations (AO). But for one TEB Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Casey Phalen, a survey and design Noncommissioned Officer, his time has been split between three countries so far while facing a different assignment at each location.
And movement to a fourth location is coming soon: Iraq.
This deployment marks the third time in his career that Phalen has deployed with the 111th, with time being spent in Iraq during the previous two. Even though deployments are no secret to Phalen, each deployment has had its own sets of challenges and missions.
“I thought I knew what to expect this go around, but each deployment has been very different in every aspect,” said Phalen. “As we are always taught, be flexible and just do what needs to be done to get the mission accomplished.”
After Phalen attended the Senior Leaders Course causing him to arrive late in theater, he didn’t even have time to unpack his bags with the rest of his unit in Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
Phalen was almost immediately tasked out to be a Liaison Officer (LNO) in Jordan.
As the LNO in Jordan, Phalen coordinated activities and facilitated communication between other units and operations in the country, along with the projects the 111th TEB was working on.
Similar to Phalen’s job duties as an LNO in Jordan, his next assignment took him to Qatar where he thought he would be tasked with the same duties, but he quickly found out the Qatar assignment came along with many additional requirements.
“My job in Qatar was much of the same as it was in Jordan, plus closing down three bases,” said Phalen. “After the last base closure was around 90% complete, that is when the mission changed overnight – from closing down the base to opening it back up in preparation to house 10,000 Afghan evacuees.”
Going from closing down three bases in Qatar to quickly reassembling multiple complexes to house over 10,000 evacuees, Phalen’s mission changed very quickly. Phalen then started working with multiple branches of the military, federal organizations, and many other components to plan and execute the basics of this project.
Not only did Phalen work extremely long hours, ensure the building had the proper utilities, and perform LNO duties, he had to witness many situations that had to be managed at his level.
In addition to his job duties, he had to work with thousands of evacuees, including many unattended and frightened children, as well as elderly, pregnant, and sick Afghans.
“For the first two months of Operation Allies Refuge, it was chaos,” said Phalen. “It was very hectic but well worth the experience.”
The whole process of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Operations was a very unique and unexpected mission that the 111th TEB had never thought about being a part of, let alone running parts of the operations in different countries.
Despite the difficulties and hardship of the mission, Phalen executed the mission in Qatar with support from multiple branches and agencies all over theater and was able to play a large role in the team around the CENTCOM AO, which eventually helped thousands of formerly at-risk Afghans.
“It was a great mission,” said Phalen. “It allowed the TEB to be put on the national stage for the work we did Every Soldier of the TEB was extremely proud and grateful of the work they were able to do.”
Throughout this whole deployment, Phalen has been tasked out for mission purposes, even if that didn’t always mean doing his primary Military Occupation Specialty (MOS). From being an LNO in Jordan to being on the frontline of the SIV Operations in Qatar, these assignments were far from what he was trained to do during his military training. But now, him moving on to his mission in Iraq, Phalen believes he is going to be able to put his MOS skills to work.
Though missions are always changing, Phalen expects to be conducting engineer operations in Iraq. Phalen is anticipating to work as a Technical Engineer Supervisor (12T), which is his MOS.
“I will actually get to do my MOS in Iraq,” said Phalen. “I’m looking forward to it, our section spent months training up before the deployment on new survey equipment that I haven’t gotten to use in theater yet.”
Even though Phalen was not able to operate the missions with his MOS prior to his new mission to Iraq, he has gained once in the life experiences.
Moving forward, Phalen is more than ready and eagerly waiting to go to Iraq to complete the next mission that he is faced with.