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Metal and the Military



   Author: MetalMag



HOLLYWOOD'S REPUTATION may be tarnished because of materialism, egotism and greed, but it is good for something--depicting history. Through the work of set directors, costume designers, directors, producers and actors who accurately tell a story, movies help teach us about historical and life-changing events.

War is one of the most lucrative plots for movie studios. World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War have been portrayed in countless movies. Granted, love, drama and comedy seep their way into storylines so everything cannot be taken at face value. But because of Hollywood, we learn about soldiers' physical struggles and mental anguish caused by confining gear and equipment, harsh environmental conditions, and the separation from family and friends.

It seems time has to pass before Hollywood tells a war story. Not yet brought to the big screen is Operation Enduring Freedom, the invasion of Afghanistan after 9-11; Operation Iraqi Freedom, the March 2003 invasion of Iraq; and Renew Iraq, the current operations in Iraq. Until these tales are told in movies, Americans have to rely on news stories and first-hand accounts of soldiers, diplomats and others who have been to the area.

One account can be told by Col. Donato Dinello and his unit assigned during 2004-05 in Kuwait, as well as in Iraq as part of Operational Control (OPCON) to Multi-National Corps-Iraq. While in Southwest Asia, Dinello was the theater engineer battalion for the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC). His primary role was to provide engineer support to CFLCC Commander Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb. The battalion provided infrastructure and camp construction throughout Kuwait. In Iraq, the battalion supported 20th Engineer Brigade Combat Airborne in its brigade mission to "provide proactive, timely and essential expeditionary engineer support to the XVIII Airborne Corps, the Army, and, when directed, joint and special operations forces." In addition to Southwest Asia, Dinello's career has taken him to Europe; Central America; the Caribbean; Grenada; Africa; and Korea, where he currently is stationed.

Why is Dinello's story important to the metal construction industry? Dinello and the troops he oversees have built thousands of metal buildings, including mess halls, latrines, sun shades, maintenance facilities, warehouses and housing for troops, as well as jails and other facilities for residents, in Kuwait, Iraq and other parts of the world.


SPECIFICATION CHANGE
Because of its characteristics, metal has been used in military facilities for some time. But the construction of metal buildings used for military purposes has evolved. Dinello explains: "Previously we constructed concrete masonry structures and what was called a K span, a metal arc building. We had machines that bent the sheet steel and a 3-foot [0.9-m] concrete footer-type anchor."

Although these buildings served their purposes (and some still are constructed), host nation governments began to specify metal buildings without concrete because, Dinello says, structures with concrete, mortar or brick create a predisposition toward establishing permanence in an area.

"The host nation will not allow us to build permanent structures in many cases, so the metal building, in those instances, is ideally suited for that type of construction," Dinello adds.

In addition, a 1-story dome structure was not an efficient use of space. So specifications were changed and buildings were restructured so multiple stories were fully utilized.


ENDURING BASES
Although host nations' specifications ensure structures are not permanent, U.S. operations need enduring bases that will support their needs-for however long that may be. Camps in Kuwait, for example, recently were restructured because it is the main logistic support area for Iraq. Those camps, therefore, have more of a semipermanent life than those in Iraq and other locations. In Kuwait, buildings are needed at enduring bases for maintenance and supplies in case neighboring areas are destabilized. Troops pulled out of Iraq also are stationed in many border camps in Iraq, creating the need for housing and other facilities.

Camp Arifjan, the largest base, was restructured by Col. Brick Miller, the Area Support Group (ASG) Kuwait commander. "He wanted to reorganize the face of the logistics tail of the force in order to provide efficient basing and the logistics functions that are necessary to continue to prosecute the war," Dinello says. "That had to do with large warehousing, large container yards and theater distribution areas, large troop billet areas and large maintenance shops."

The restructuring was done with steel buildings, which replaced stressed membrane structures, tents and open areas in the desert. "The ASG through the G7, which is the engineer staff of CFLCC, decided to build steel buildings," Dinello says. Kirby Building Systems, Kuwait, got the contract for the enduring bases.

Structures with concrete, mortar or brick create a predisposition toward establishing permanence in an area.

Kirby Building Systems met a housing requirement at a Kuwaiti Naval base. Tempered, or environmentally controlled, tents were not a good option for longer-term housing for the number of Americans living there.

Construction of Kirby Building Systems structures also occurred at Camp Buehring, which sits 15 miles (24 km) from the Iraq border and serves as a training and staging area. Dinello and his units built several steel buildings at the camp to support the thousands of troops stationed there. "If you remember, they said they were going to cut troops at the beginning of the year. And they did," Dinello explains. "They cut one brigade out of Iraq, and they set them down on the border in Kuwait. This brigade will only be used if something happens. So you have steel buildings that they are housed in and mess halls that are steel buildings. All the buildings are built with structural steel."

Some of the structures at Camp Buehring and similar camps are used to mitigate heat effects. For instance, water is stored in steel sunshades to protect it from boiling in the direct sunlight. Similarly, sunshades are used to shelter vehicles. Without sunshades-as well as protective equipment soldiers wear-soldiers will be burned when climbing into vehicles sitting in the sun. The camp also has many new metal maintenance and support facilities.


REUSE AND RECYCLE
As camps no longer are used and military needs change, steel structures are disassembled, moved to other sites and reassembled to meettern Asia, is how this region is current needs. "Basically, when we leave, it's sand again," Dinello says, pointing out the versatility of the metal structures.

The restructuring was done with steel buildings, which replaced stressed membrane structures, tents and open areas in the desert.

Reusing metal buildings isn't new. Buildings used 15 year ago at Camp Doha in Kuwait were reutilized. "Under the restructuring of the American footprint, I was asked to go in and disassemble those buildings, repackage them, put them on-site and reassemble them at enduring camps," Dinello explains. "Not only did these buildings meet their need for 10 to 15 years, but we were able to reassemble them to meet another need." Dinello notes another benefit to metal buildings is the interior space can be reconfigured to meet current requirements.

Similarly, Dinello says items used in the first part of the war-metal shower buildings and latrine facilities-had to be reconditioned after two or three years of use. Dinello says: "We would haul the whole building down; stage them in a big yard; gut them; and refurbish the plumbing, electrical, cosmetic walls, floors, etc.; and ship them back to be used again."

Because metal building manufacturers follow direct specifications, building a steel structure has not been a challenge for Dinello. But reusing a structure is another story. "The challenge is having the ingenuity to restructure a building that you're moving or going to recycle. The actual spec building is engineered to meet a specific requirement. When it comes, you just assemble the building," Dinello notes.

MAKING HISTORY
Dinello believes his job is hard to explain because of his varied responsibilities and affiliations. Being the "support battalion for any engineer support needed" is not something typically found on a business card. But Dinello's role is part of a larger story, and his actions will take their place in history someday.

When will Tom Hanks be found "playing war" in a movie about the war in Iraq? Who knows. But any movie studio, director and set designer who is true to the story will be sure to include metal buildings, sunshades and other structures in the desert scenes.


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