By Joseph Bonfiglio, Honolulu District Public Affairs
The Honolulu District welcomed home the District-based 565th Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team-Advance (FEST-A) with a Redeployment Ceremony Jan. 24 at District Headquarters to mark the official end of their successful deployment to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Pacific Ocean Division Commander, Col. Gregory J. Gunter presided over the ceremony and commended the spirit of volunteerism that the team members exemplify.
"In the nine months deployed in support of Overseas Contingency Operations, the 565th FEST-A provided essential engineering support to the Combatant Commander," Gunter said. "This unit's unique skills and capabilities have made a significant engineering impact here at home in the Pacific as well as downrange."
Family members and District co-workers of the FEST-A welcomed them home with leis and plenty of hugs.
The eight-man detachment deployed in March 2012 to Kandahar Air Base Afghanistan and provided technical engineering support to Regional Command-South.
While in Afghanistan, they provided vital support to Coalition Forces, were instrumental in improving electricity distribution in key areas of Kandahar and worked on Afghan capital improvement projects.
“These capital improvement projects will be the enduring legacy of coalition and U.S. efforts from the last decade. The Afghan government will be the recipient of a great opportunity to provide multiple levels of services to its citizens that would most probably not have been available for another 30 years,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bensburg, officer in charge of infrastructure in Regional Command-South’s Stability Division.
According to 565th Commander, Maj. William C. Hannan Jr., “The detachment worked extremely hard during the deployment and made an outstanding contribution to the Afghanistan mission. They provided excellent technical engineer support during our nine month rotation. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
The FEST-A consists of a Detachment Commander, a non-commissioned officer-in-charge and six Department of Defense civilians who serve in the jobs of a geographic information system specialist, and civil, structural, environmental, mechanical and electrical engineers with other engineering disciplines available for augmentation depending on the mission.
The original 565th was constituted on Sept. 9, 1944 in the Army of the United States as the 3090th Engineer Service Detachment. On March 20, 1951 it was designated as the 565th Engineer Welding Detachment and allotted to the Regular Army and eventually, as the 565th Engineer Detachment on April 22, 1965.
Since that date the unit has been activated and deactivated three times with the recent activation date of Oct. 16, 2007. The unit saw extensive action during World War II in Normandy and Germany and during the Vietnam War.
The current unit, which has been active since Oct. 2007, has the mission of providing responsive technical engineer planning and limited design capabilities in support of combatant commands and civil agencies for the Full Spectrum of Operations. The unit has also traveled to the Philippines, the Republic of Palau, the Marshall Islands, Germany, Korea and to Thailand in support of the Corps.
The evolution of an on-call, all-volunteer FEST-A to an established military unit was motivated by the Corps’ No. 1 goal in its Campaign Plan, which is delivering Corps support to combat, stability and disaster operations through forward deployed and reach-back capabilities.
As the Army’s needs have changed since the Cold War, the FEST-A has become a vital asset. With military deployments to nations such as Somalia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Army and the Corps discovered gaps in their ability to rapidly provide technical engineering expertise in these austere environments. FEST-As provide engineering skills which traditional troop units do not possess.
The Corps responded by ensuring the top priority was executing the concept of field force engineering. It started in 1999 with the establishment of “Legacy FEST-As”, and teams for logistics, environmental support, contingency real estate and infrastructure assessment. The Alaska District was the first FEST-A to go into Iraq in 2003. By 2009, field force engineering became a formal part of the Army.