Officer helps build drinking water infrastructure for Iraqis

  • Published
  • By Maria Cecile Callier
  • Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs
The challenge for those assigned water system reconstruction work in Iraq's desert environment is not lack of water with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers running through the heart of Iraq. Rather, the challenge is water treatment.

For the Air Force Office of Scientific Research's senior reservist, a civil engineer background helped him focus on water treatment during his latest deployment to the desert.

Lt. Col. Joseph Fraundorfer served as deputy chief of Water Sector for the Gulf Region Division in Iraq. He worked alongside Air Force, civilian and Iraqi civil engineers in a construction crew whose efforts led to positive changes in the lives of the Iraqis.

"Most of our work in reconstruction took us into Baghdad to work with the various Iraqi government ministries and to job sites throughout the city," he said.

In addition to potable water projects, Colonel Fraundorfer and his team worked on improving dams and irrigation capabilities to boost the country's agricultural output.

The State Department identified and prioritized projects, which involved managing a budget of around $2 billion to construct 400 water projects. Colonel Fraundorfer's group worked with Joint Contracting Command to get the jobs under contract and manage them programmatically to completion.

His civilian job as program manager (with a large defense and aerospace systems supplier) and his experience with the Air Force doing civil engineering in foreign countries was helpful in balancing cost, schedule and technical issues. However, doing construction in an active combat environment is more challenging, Colonel Fraundorfer said.  

The colonel said they didn't have any real close calls. Mortars, rockets and bullets fell around him and some came close to his compound, but none caused any injuries.

"In spite of the dangers, it was inspiring to see over 3,000 reconstruction projects completed and more still ongoing," he said.

By the end of his deployment, Colonel Fraundorfer and his team had helped bring clean running water to more than 5 million Iraqis who previously drank untreated or boiled water.

"Groups such as the World Health Organization, which track infant mortality and diseases should see a dramatic improvement in Iraq as more of the population has access to clean water," he said. 

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