Mitchell has served as the officer in charge since July 2011 and will soon depart Iraq has seen dramatic changes in the country throughout his tour.
"When I took this job, I understood the intent was to complete the last remaining projects from the major reconstruction program and to get them done before December 2011," Mitchell said. "In addition, when I arrived, there were a few foreign military sales projects that had gotten started. I expected that my team, the newly formed Iraq Area Office, would finish the work within a year and that I'd be the last entity representing USACE in Iraq."
But that didn't turn out to be the case.
While Mitchell started with an area office of 45 military and civilians managing a $700 million program which included projects in the warranty phase. He will finish his tour with less than one-third that number of people managing a $350 million program, excluding any potential work. Similarly, the area office had nearly 120 Iraqi citizens assisting with carrying out the construction program, today, there are only 40.
A year ago, about one-third of the USACE program was Future Military Sales, or FMS. Today, it's nearly half. FMS is a component of the Defense Department's security assistance program, which supports regional stability and mutual goals between the U.S. and its allies.
Mitchell predicts USACE will continue to support operations in Iraq for another two to three years, and most of that support will be for FMS projects aimed at strengthening Iraq air defense, ground and maritime capabilities.