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Posted 3/15/2012

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By Ronnie Schelby
Albuquerque District Public Affairs

In a second trip to Albuquerque, the South Pacific Division’s 59th Forward Engineering Support Team - Advanced (SPD FEST-A) visited the District in the beginning of March to continue lending engineering support to two New Mexico Pueblos.

While the team’s leadership visited in December to explain FEST’s purpose and to do some fact gathering with the Santa Clara and Cochiti Pueblos, this visit involved the entire team, encompassing people who have worked across the world, from Egypt to Guam.

During time spent at the Pueblo of Santa Clara, tribal members Adrian Garcia, Dino Chavarria, Ernestine Naranjo and Ben Chavarria showed the team a water tank that used to deliver fresh, potable water to the south parcel of the Pueblo’s housing but failed and was taken offline eight years ago. A tour and inspection of the entire water system ensued, and each FEST member brought individualized expertise to the system’s examination, yet they all collaborated to arrive at workable solutions.

“The team of specialists will provide expert opinions and possible resolutions to your problems,” said Officer in Charge Maj. Seth Wacker. “There may be a variety of cost-effective solutions, but the team doesn’t endorse specific contractors to do the work.”

Next, a day was spent at Pueblo de Cochiti with tribal member Pete Trujillo. The team was asked to look at the drainage and sanitation of the Pueblo’s sewage lagoon system. During brainstorming sessions after the site visits, FEST members bounced ideas and solutions off each other.

“It’s very important that the team keeps an open mind and has dialogue, because there are always various alternatives to every problem and some can be overlooked if the final outcome is already pigeonholed,” Maj. Wacker said. “Also, cooperation between the Pueblos and the FEST team is key, as well as openness to discuss the issues that are important to the Pueblos.”

The entire 59th FEST deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, and, after the team’s return in August 2011, the members were told how the Corps’ senior leadership supported and appreciated their work. Each member was given an award and a division coin from SPD Commander Brig. Gen. Michael Wehr.

As Officer in Charge, Maj. Wacker is responsible for ensuring the team keeps their skills sharp in between missions to foreign countries and places in crisis. The trips to the Albuquerque District to work with Native American communities, a first for the Corps of Engineers, are helping to keep team members engaged, while providing valuable information and assistance to the Pueblos. The FEST consultation and recommendations are free of charge.

The team plans to return to Albuquerque in mid-April to present their recommendations and findings to the Pueblos.

Meet the Members of the 59th Forward Engineering Support Team:

Officer in Charge Major Seth Wacker - Maj. Wacker has served in the Army since 2001 and was assigned as Officer in Charge of the FEST in August 2011.

NCOIC & Const. Supervisor Sgt. 1st Class Steven Martin - Sgt. 1st Class Martin provides for all logistical needs. He has 14-plus years in the Army and joined FEST in November 2011.

Civil Engineer Essam Mostafa - Mr. Mostafa, a native Arabic speaker from Egypt, is the team’s Civil Engineer and helps find solutions with what’s available at a site.

Electrical Engineer Bill Yang - Mr. Yang joined FEST in February 2011. As the team’s electrical engineer, he sees electricity as the highest priority and conducts physical inspections of project sites.

Mechanical Engineer Tin Kyaw - Originally from Burma, Mr. Kyaw joined FEST in November 2009. He specializes in the mechanical aspects of a project, including ventilation systems, plumbing and fire protection.

Environmental Engineer Dr. Dr. Sonya Olbrantz - Dr. Olbrantz joined FEST in June 2010. As the team’s environmental engineer and program manager, she focuses on health hazards, leaks, water quality and contamination.


59th Forward Engineering Support Team - Advanced albuquerque district Brig. Gen. Michael Wehr Cochiti Corps of Engineers culture engineering FEST team Maj. Seth Wacker new mexico Pueblos Santa Clara USACE water resources