JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - After years of effort, a Department of the Army civilian serving with the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, saw his hard work come to fruition at a historic document signing in Baghdad Nov.3

Josh Mater, plans officer for the 402nd AFSB and founder/CEO of the Michael Scott Mater Foundation, was one of the signatories of a memorandum of understanding between the Iraq Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the State of Oregon, Oregon State University (OSU), and the foundation.

The event marked the first time an agreement of this type has been signed between a U.S. state, a United States university, the government of Iraq, and a non-profit organization.

The MOU lays the foundation for how the entities will work together to implement the Iraqi National Education Program of Sustainable Engineering in conjunction with the Coalition on Sustainable Engineering Educators over the next five years.

"The National Education Program of Sustainable Engineering endeavors through this agreement to spread the concepts of sustainable engineering at the higher and technical educational levels," said His Excellency Dr. Abud Alajeeli, Iraq minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, at the ceremony. "By implementing these initiatives, we will aid reconstructing the infrastructures of Iraq. In doing so, we will be able to achieve the ultimate goal - the realization of sustainable development in Iraq."

With inside help from his mother Catherine, an engineer and director of sustainability for the OSU's College of Engineering, Josh says what started as a simple textbook exchange from OSU with one Iraqi university has now blossomed into a national sustainable engineering education strategy.

"The strategy highlights the monumental dedication and leadership of the minister of higher education and scientific research and the Iraqi engineering faculty base in bringing about positive and substantive change to the country and ensuring a continued partnership between our two countries that transcends our economic, religious and social differences."

The effort will establish a national sustainable engineering strategy in Iraqi higher education, expanding the base of coordination between Iraqi universities, specialized governmental sectors, and the private sector to implement sustainable engineering education, research, and outreach in all aspects of the nation's rebuilding efforts. Initiatives include building and infrastructure design, construction and reconstruction, agricultural development, natural resource use, and renewable energy.

Focus areas include sustainable engineering curriculum development and testing laboratory expansion at the nation's 21 engineering universities, collaborative research between Iraq and Oregon institutions of higher education, student, scholar and faculty training exchanges at OSU, and applications of Oregon's innovative sustainable engineering technologies in Iraq.

"OSU is very serious about being a key on-the-ground partner with the MSMF in advising, assisting, training and equipping His Excellency to implement Iraq's first National Education Program in Sustainable Engineering," Catherine Mater said. "While a few other U.S. universities have MOU's with a single Iraqi university, we believe working a national strategy with His Excellency that embraces over 20 Iraqi engineering universities throughout the entire Iraqi nation will produce the best results for rebuilding Iraq and instill lessons learned that can span engineering generations in the country."

In addition to Alajeeli and the mother and son Mater team, other signatories to the 5-year MOU included; MoHESR Director of Reconstruction and Projects and Scientific Research, Dr. Abdulsalam Aljmmas; Oregon Gov. Theodore Kulongoski; OSU President Dr. Ed Ray, and OSU College of Engineering Dean Dr. Ron Adams.

"We are trying to help the Iraqi people in this transition period to not only provide sustainable infrastructure, but to provide an opportunity for the people of Iraq to see the future and have better lives," said Kulongoski during an interview with American Forces Network. "Education is the bedrock of a strong civil society. It is what gives people the opportunity to have a vibrant business community, to provide jobs. What we bring is an opportunity to partner with the people of Iraq in building a sustainable infrastructure that will provide jobs for the people of this country."
According to Josh Mater, the governor's interest and support bolstered the initiative.

"The support Governor Kulongoski and the State of Oregon have shown to this initiative must not be overlooked," Mater said. "By signing this memorandum, the governor has helped create a foundation for national unification under the umbrella of sustainability through a trilateral relationship between the Republic of Iraq, the foundation, and the State of Oregon. This will lead to a closer link between the higher education systems of Iraq and Oregon, create jobs through on-the-ground project implementation at the community level, and help new generations of Iraqi's and Americans begin to view each other in a more positive and progressive light."

An Iraqi delegation is slated to visit Oregon State University in January to finalize an implementation plan. Topics they plan to tackle include identifying funding sources and work plans; determining lead Iraqi universities for year-by-year phase-in; prioritizing Iraq university testing lab equipment needs; determining Iraqi faculty training and scholar exchange rotations at OSU; identifying information technology and communications needs; and developing public-private university demonstration projects in Iraq based on sustainable engineering discipline/curriculum areas and collaborative research targets.

"Initiatives like NEPSE play an important role in demonstrating the emerging Government of Iraq's capabilities regarding national-level program development, implementation and sustainment," Josh Mater said. "As Operation New Dawn wraps-up in December 2011, success for the United States will not only be measured in the number of direct relationships and actions with the Government of Iraq, but in those relationships and actions they foster between the GoI and the American industrial, academic and private sectors."

The MSMF was founded to create opportunities for individuals and communities by providing financial resources, workforce training, cross-cultural exchanges and sustainable solutions to real world challenges. The MSMF currently operates programs in Iraq, Peru and Charlotte, N.C., where it is headquartered.

The MSMF is named in honor of Michael Scott Mater, Josh's father, an OSU-educated mechanical engineer who died of cancer in 2002.
The 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, headquartered at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, is the Army's largest brigade with more than 20,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Department of Defense civilians and contractors assigned.

The 402nd AFSB provides the single face to the field for Army Materiel Command sustainment logistics forming a Materiel Enterprise in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar that integrates acquisition, logistics, and technology to protect, equip, and sustain the Warfighter.

Related links:

Michael Scott Mater Foundation:

Article on Josh Mater and his efforts on behalf of the MSMF (Aug. 2010):

Article on 402nd AFSB/MSMF book donation to Thi Qar University School of Engineering (Nov. 2008):