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Posted 11/6/2013

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By Patricia Graesser
Seattle District Public Affairs

On Sept. 28 the 34th Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team (Advance), cased its colors as the last step of their preparation for deployment to Afghanistan.

The mission of a FEST-A is to provide engineer planning and limited execution capability to a combatant command, Army Service Component Command engineer staff, or a joint task force. The expeditionary unit routinely participates in training exercises at the National Training Center and can deploy overseas to support reconstruction efforts and nationwide for disaster response and recovery efforts.

District Commander Col. Bruce Estok, opened the ceremony by introducing the team. "Before you is the 34th Engineer Detachment: Rick Petersen, Michael Suh, Allison Bruner, David Nishimura, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Bamba, and Maj. Toby Flinn. Newly joined members, Christopher Jarvis and Nick Myron are currently at FEST-A training in Mobile, Alabama, and will join the team in Afghanistan."

The 34th Engineering Detachment was activated in 2009 in response to the nation’s need for an engineer team that was light, rapidly deployable and rugged enough to work in hostile environments. In 2011, the team deployed to Iraq for 10 months. While there, the detachment operated and later closed the northern reconstruction office in Mosul, Iraq. Additionally, they successfully completed construction projects throughout Ninewa province while also providing technical inspection and project management support to the State Department and the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry. The team returned from Iraq in December 2011 and began preparing for their next mission.

"We work together well as a team, and they are tough," said Maj. Flinn. "You have to be tough and a little crazy to be on this team. It’s kind a split personality: half military, half civilian. We get our orders directly from the warfighters. We aren’t under a USACE district when we deploy."

In August 2012, the team’s training cycle began by deploying to the Republic of Korea to support the exercise "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" where they conducted engineer reconnaissance and analysis missions supporting the U.S. Forces Korea. From September 2012 to June 2013, the team provided engineer assistance to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Quinault Indian Nation, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and the Washington Army National Guard. The team also completed more than 32 weeks of intensive Afghan language and cultural training.

In June of 2013, the team deployed to Fort Irwin, Calif., to support the 2nd Infantry Division 4th Brigade Combat Team during the National Training Center rotation. This event was the team’s capstone training event where they were tested and observed in both engineering and tactical skill proficiencies. The 34th Engineer Detachment performed exceptionally well and was certified for their deployment. The team deploys to Afghanistan for nine months to support Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Our FEST-A is a diverse group of highly technically skilled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Department of the Army civilian employees who volunteered to serve in an organization that largely performs its mission in a hostile environment and "outside the wire," said Col. Estok.

At the end of the ceremony, the colors were cased, signifying the successful completion of their training and preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan and to assume their mission supporting OEF.