Steve Russell, assistant chief, Operations Division
"My job in Iraq is Chief of Party for the United States Agency for International Development, Project Office. I lead a group of 32 American and 12 Iraqi employees doing construction management for USAID for their two cost-plus fixed-fee contracts with Bechtel, worth $2.8 billion dollars."
A native of Hillsboro, Ill., Russell joined the District in 1980. Steve's hobby is golf, and he also builds his own clubs.
Russell said he likes the variety of assignments he has, and chose the Corps for his career because of their good reputation as a public engineering entity and the fact he has a chance to impact the region with the work that he does for the Corps. Now, he is working in Baghdad at the convention center, in the "Green Zone."
"Living conditions here aren't so bad," said Russell. "We live in trailers in tight little trailer park areas. I share a trailer with one of my quality assurance people and Col. Williams, the district engineer from St. Louis District. Col. Williams is also my boss."
"I make site visits to our projects a couple times a month. Traffic is very heavy when you drive to a site, and there seems to be no "rules of the road" here at the moment. I have also made three helicopter trips to farther away field sites including Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, and one C-130 trip to Basrah. They take a lot of security precautions when we travel, and I have felt safe," said Russell.
"Our office employs 10 Iraqis who are very happy that we are here. When I go to work sites, the workers there want to shake your hand and show you what is being done. The people will appreciate our work more after it is completed and they get more electricity for a longer time each day, and their water systems are functioning better," said Russell.
The Corps supports work in Iraq including rebuilding schools, clinics, and fire stations; repairing airports in Baghdad and Basrah; restoring telecommunications to 250,000 people in the Baghdad area; and restoring operations to the port of Umm Qasr.
"Repairing numerous key bridges, repairing and building new power generation systems; repairing wastewater treatment plants; and repairing and building new potable water systems are also projects we manage. When our construction work is finished, we will truly have benefited the Iraqi people," said Russell.
USAID is a part of the State Department. Russell said they are good to work for as a partner.
"Because we work for a State Department office, we wear civilian clothes here, while most Corps employees deployed here wear uniforms, states Russell.
"One of my biggest accomplishments is the establishment and implementation of Hawaiian shirt Fridays in our office. I'm even getting some of the USAID people involved," said Russell. I work hard, and use a warped sense of humor to try to keep everyone's spirits up. When you work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, you can get tired out and need a boost. My solution is to work one 8 to 10 hour "short" day on Fridays, which is the Iraqi version of our Sundays."
Russell said he would tell anyone considering deployment, but who can't decide, that you only get opportunities like this a few times in your career.
"Come on over this summer. If you get here in time, I'll meet you by the one of the two pools."
Russell is a member of the Corps cadre who volunteered to travel to Iraq, taking on jobs in support of rebuilding a war-ravaged country, providing improved health services, schools and living conditions. He joins District employees who have returned from overseas assignments and says it is the opportunity of a lifetime to work on an assignment that ultimately makes the world a better place.