Pioneering Partnership Strives to Save Lives Through Innovation

By Catherine CarrollAugust 19, 2022

ERDC, Transatlantic Division team recognized with USACE innovation award
A team from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Transatlantic Division and the USACE Protective Design Center was recently recognized with the 2022 USACE Innovation of the Year Award. The team developed simple and effective bunker enclosure door designs for the U.S. Central Command to help reduce risk for traumatic brain injury to bunker occupants. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo) (Photo Credit: Jason Scott) VIEW ORIGINAL

WINCHESTER, Va. – Winning an award is not the goal of innovation but they often go hand-in-hand. The goal of innovation, according to, is to improve life for the end-user. A pioneering partnership between three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organizations recently received a USACE Innovation of the Year Award for doing just that – and then some! This team’s innovative approach to solving an engineering challenge doesn’t simply improve the life of the end-user, it strives to save their life.

A team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, and the USACE Protective Design Center established a new interagency partnership to develop simple and effective bunker enclosure door for the U.S. Central Command to help reduce risk of a traumatic brain injury to our troops.

U.S. Central Command comprises more than 44,000 service and family members overseas. U.S. Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla recently assumed command and oversees all U.S. military missions throughout the 21-country area of responsibility in the Middle East, Levant, and Central Asia.

Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers and the commanding general of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, announced the winning teams – five in total – and thanked them all for their tremendous contributions.

“Congratulations to all our award winners. I look forward to seeing more innovation like this, across the USACE Enterprise, in the coming years,” Spellmon said. “A great engineering force requires a commitment to innovation, creativity, and forward thinking. The USACE Innovation Awards allow us to recognize the leaders within the Corps of Engineers for doing something different and for making an impact.”

Joey Behr, Transatlantic Division’s Programs Deputy Chief for U.S. Military Construction, and lead for enabling the transition of the bunker project from concept to execution, shared the importance of the team’s overall goal.

“This partnership was a new approach to rapidly come up with a solution to reduce traumatic brain injury, Behr said. “Bunkers are vital to protecting our military and civilian personnel serving in and around combat operations. Ensuring bunkers are as safe as they can possibly be is crucial. And every second counts when the safety of our servicemembers and civilians downrange are concerned.”

The innovative solution was developed within a very short timeline using the survivability knowledge maintained through ERDC’s Expedient Passive Protection program and their computational capabilities. The team was able to deliver the project in six months.

Bart Durst, ERDC-GSL director, discussed his organization’s role in the project in a recent article released by ERDC.

“The ERDC team, in coordination with the Transatlantic Division, developed modifications to existing bunker designs to reduce TBI vulnerability and provide design recommendations to the Army to address force protection challenges concerning current personnel bunkers,” Durst was quoted as saying.

“I am extremely proud of ERDC-GSL’s contribution to this team and this project,” Durst continued. “These innovations will tremendously benefit warfighters across the globe in the execution of their mission. These retrofits provided rapid solutions to address an urgent need for expeditionary force protection to reduce TBI vulnerabilities.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has paved the way in complex construction environments for almost a century and the Transatlantic Division has a long legacy of successfully combining partnership and innovation when it comes to supporting the warfighter and promoting safety and stability throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.

“We must assist our mission partners by advancing our approaches and tools in order to stay ahead of competition,” Behr said. “We leverage our expertise from all across the USACE enterprise to provide the latest and greatest advances in technology and approach, so our mission partners have what they need before they need it.”

We are honored to receive with this award alongside our interagency partners,” Behr said. “It feels good to be recognized for something that will have such a crucial impact on people’s lives and to accomplish it in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

Ted Upson, Transatlantic Division Engineering and Construction chief, was excited when he learned that the team had won the award.

“We execute our mission in a very challenging environment,” Upson explained. “Innovation enables us to remain relevant and maintain our position as the global leader, not only in engineering and construction, but as the problem-solver of choice.”

Our mission partners look to USACE to develop the most effective solutions to their challenges. They expect USACE to be on the cutting edge of engineering and construction technology. Solving today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions simply isn’t good enough,” Upson continued.

“Every success is the result of the collective efforts of countless dedicated people challenging conventional thinking and finding ways to do what others said can’t be done,’ Upson emphasized. “It is important to celebrate these successes and recognize our outstanding personnel who work tirelessly to develop new technologies and push the limits of what we know and what we can do.

“Within USACE we have a huge diversity of experts. When you get the right people together, they can’t help but inspire each other.”

(The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division is BUILDING STRONG in one of the most complex construction environments on earth, partnering to strengthen the foundations of security and stability throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Division and its Districts, Centers and Specialized Teams provide engineering support and services throughout the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility and dedicated support to the U.S. Special Operations Command globally.)