BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN – A West city resident currently deployed to Afghanistan received one of the highest honors bestowed within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at a ceremony on Bagram Airfield Apr. 7.
Arnold “Rob” Newman, who serves as the deputy chief for the Programs and Project Management Division (PPMD), and program manager for the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund (AIF) for the USACE Transatlantic Afghanistan District (TAA), was presented with the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal by Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, USACE commander and the Chief of Engineers.
“It’s a very humbling experience. I feel extremely grateful to work with a great group of people who make my job easier,” Newman said. “Everything we accomplish is a team effort, especially in a contingent environment like Afghanistan. To be nominated from your peers and receive an award like this makes you feel proud to work for USACE.”
This is Newman’s first deployment to a combat zone. He came to USACE-TAA in April 2016 from USACE’s Fort Worth District where he serves as the deputy director for the Regional Planning and Environmental Center.
“Rob has been an outstanding Corps employee for 23 years, working at all levels of USACE,” said Col. Jon Chytka, USACE-TAA commander. “He embodies what the de Fleury symbolizes; a lifetime of service and significant contributions to USACE. Rob started his career as a park ranger and has grown into one of the top leaders throughout the entire Corps.”
The de Fleury medal is named for a French engineer Francois Louis Tesseidre de Fleury; who volunteered to serve with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
At the Battle of Stony Point, New York, in 1779, De Fleury was in command of a battalion of the 1st Regiment of the Corps of Light Infantry. He led an American charge up a rocky slope to retake the outpost on the point. The first over the wall, de Fleury rushed to flag pole, cutting the British colors from their staff, turning the tide of the battle.
For his actions, the Continental Congress awarded a medal struck in de Fleury’s honor. It is believed that the de Fleury Medal was the first Congressional Medal produced.
Semonite said that Newman’s work in Afghanistan displays the same attitude that de Fleury showed at Stony Point, the ability to
“Sometimes in Afghanistan nothing is easy, nothing gets done on time and nothing happens the way you think it is going to happen. You can’t find a harder place to make things happen. Someone has to step up and slash through the BS and be able to accomplish the mission. Rob has been one of the great leaders to help cut through the BS to make TAA what it is today, one of our best engineer districts and an outstanding organization,” Semonite said. “I thank Rob for his aggressive leadership of continuing to take care of our people, while at the same time accomplishing the mission.”
As the AIF program manager, Newman oversees the planning, design, and construction of the $400 million AIF Program which includes electrical transmission, irrigation, and road infrastructure projects throughout Afghanistan. As the deputy chief of PPMD, he helps plan and execute a $1.2 billion construction program to support U.S. and coalition troops, the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, and the Afghanistan people.
As he prepares to redeploy back to Texas, it is his work on the AIF program that Newman is most proud of.
“The work we are doing on the Northeast and Southeast Power Projects will reestablish the national power grid in Afghanistan. Getting those systems up and running will be an integral piece in the stability and long-term security of Afghanistan,” he said. “Likewise, with agriculture representing 90 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of Helmand Province, overseeing the construction of the Kajaki Irrigation Project which will ultimately provide reliable irrigation water to farmers in the southern part of the country is a great accomplishment.
“What TAA has accomplished over the past year, and will continue to accomplish, is truly a team effort,” Newman added. “I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of something that will benefit a large number of Afghan people now and for generations to come. It could have never happened without the hundreds of USACE employees that volunteer to come over here to complete projects like these.”
There are four levels of the de Fleury Medal: steel, bronze, silver and gold. Only one gold medal is awarded each year by the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers.