By Master Sgt. Bryan Ripple, 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 12, 2006
YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, OHIO -- Lt. Col. Ralph J. Romine, deputy commander of the 910th Mission Support Group, has spent a lot of time overseas during the past year. He returned home in July 2005 after a 129-day deployment while assigned as the deputy Air Reserve component advisor to the deputy combined force air component commander for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Qatar.
While serving at the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar, he ran into an active duty friend of his from Air Mobility Command headquarters who told him they just received a new tasking for an experienced Logistics officer for an important assignment in Baghdad, Iraq.
Colonel Romine applied for the opportunity, was accepted, and arrived at the International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) in Baghdad Oct. 29. The area used to serve as a Presidential Palace Complex for Saddam Hussein.
The colonel is supporting the rebuilding effort and trying to help the people of Iraq. He is serving with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is the Government Lead for the Project Construction Office, Facilities and Transportation Non-Construction Sector. His current tour of duty in the struggling country is scheduled to end Feb. 28.
“What my job means is that as facilities are being built as part of the reconstruction effort, it is my sector’s responsibility to provide the tools and equipment necessary for that facility to operate,” he said.
According to Colonel Romine, his experience in commercial ground, air, and oceanic shipping as well as his civilian logistics background has come in handy. At one time he worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a contractor for one of the largest retail stores in the United States doing international logistics and creating a distribution process for their goods.
“The work here in Baghdad is very similar, but just more dangerous,” he said.
Romine said his organization has purchased enough supplies and equipment to supply 118 public health centers (PHC) across Iraq and 18 refurbished hospitals with the latest technology in medical and dental equipment, medical supplies, beds, incubators, and lab equipment. He and his staff are currently in the process of buying for 24 more PHCs.
They have also recently purchased fire trucks, prisoner transfer vehicles, communications tracking equipment, vests, weapons, ammunition, hand cuffs, armored vehicles, computers and laboratory equipment for schools, microscopes, rail road equipment, port cranes, fire boats, highway signs, and navigational aids for three main airports.
“Our team is formed of U.S. contractors and Iraqi nationals, including a doctor and military personnel,” he said. “We are in the process of training our Iraqi members to assume the project management responsibility so they can manage the remaining projects as we draw down.”
“Several of our programs are directly tied to construction schedules so synchronization is a challenge in the best of conditions, and a mammoth challenge in this environment. But so far, we have not missed a single deadline,” he said.
The project’s budget of about $743 million is managed by 8 people including Colonel Romine, and is wrapped up in 887 contracts he explained. The mission was recently moved under the umbrella of the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Previously, he said, they had reported to the State Department.
One of the greatest challenges facing the rebuilding and training efforts are the Anti-Iraqi Forces, or insurgents, who conduct their activity in and around the areas Colonel Romine’s staff must conduct their work.
“For example, we had 700 hospital beds stuck on Iraqi railroad tracks for three weeks because the repaired tracks had been blown up by insurgents,” said Colonel Romine.
Although Colonel Romine has seen the suffering of the Iraqi people due to years of tyranny and now the insurgent activity, he knows he has a wonderful family to return home to when his duty is done in Iraq.
“I have a very supportive family who has been behind me the whole way,” he said. “We stay in touch via e-mail, and because our phone numbers are U.S. commercial numbers, they can call me whenever they want.”
In his civilian employment, Romine is manager of the Office of Security and Hazardous Materials Investigation for the Federal Aviation Administration for Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.
“My civilian employer is extremely supportive of my deployments and I have an awesome team that backfills while I’m gone,” he said.