NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria - More than 75 buildings, roads and maintenance areas are under construction at a military training site in eastern Bulgaria that, when complete in 2012, will host up to 2,500 U.S. and international soldiers during military training activities that are expected to build better long-term relations with our international allies.
The $50 million design-build project, overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will include 23 barracks buildings, a chapel, post office, fitness center, several administrative, operational, maintenance, storage, dining and medical facilities, and basic infrastructure such as utilities, roads, walkways and parking areas, all of which are expected to have a lifespan of at least 20 years.
"[The contractor] is going to be building shells, so hopefully in the fall he can start working on the interiors," said Pat Klever, district resident engineer on the site whose team is overseeing the work. "They're continuing to do grading, putting in roads and associated infrastructure that will service the base, but it's all happening at a very rapid pace."
The scale of the undertaking is massive, said Brig. Gen. Peter "Duke" DeLuca, commander of the USACE North Atlantic Division, during his visit to the site in May.
"This training base is phenomenal. There are barracks, there are battalion and company operations facilities, aid stations, vehicle maintenance facilities that are fixed and that will be very modern. So it's not like you'll be maintaining something in the mud without any support," he said. "It's a great project and it's very rewarding to be a part of it."
The project is part of U.S. Army Europe's Task Force-East initiative, which supports the U.S. European Command's Theater Security Cooperation Program that offers participating headquarters staff and units significant training opportunities for possible future operations between U.S. forces and partner nations.
Construction in support of Task Force-East is also occurring in southeastern Romania, where similar operational and support facilities designed and built through oversight from USACE are expected to be complete late this summer.
Although the facilities at both sites will be simple, expeditionary structures, they will be functional and modern enough so units will not have to expend as much effort sustaining themselves as they would at more remote training sites, DeLuca said.
"The focus will be to maximize training time once you're here," said DeLuca. "Units can come here, maximize their training, [and] they don't have to worry about absorbing a huge amount of their personnel or their time on life support activities, which can happen if you're go to really austere training sites. ... Here they're going to be able to ... focus on the maneuver and fire training that's done here."
Already, both sites have hosted units that have resided and trained in temporary life support areas consisting of facility tents for dining and recreation, sleep tents, and containerized headquarters buildings. Currently, about 100 U.S. Marines are deployed to Romania for Black Sea Rotational Force, a Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force with the mission to promote regional stability, build partner-nations' military capacity and build enduring partnerships with nations in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions.
"Not everybody thinks exactly the way we do. So being able to bridge those communications gaps, those doctrinal gaps and learn how to operate together very easily is extremely important to us," said DeLuca. "It's important for our mission in Afghanistan today. It's important for the training mission that we will remain in Iraq to do after September 2010, and I think it remains important for other training missions that are likely to be adopted by us to help stabilize regions of Eurasia that are not inherently stable. And since none of us really wants to run another set of wars anywhere, the more we can help those other militaries ... at training sites like this, close to a region where it's not too expensive for them to move to, where we're able to do a lot of interoperable training, I think that is going to be hugely beneficial to American interests, military and political, throughout the world."
Bridging communication gaps is also something the district is working on in Eastern Europe, DeLuca said, where it is learning valuable lessons about interacting with foreign governments and contractors. In early 2010, internal contractor disputes caused construction delays at both sites.
"The more experience we have in navigating the abstract terrain - the legal, political and economic terrain of foreign countries - the better the Army Corps of Engineers, which is a global organization, will be able to execute projects like this around the world," he said.