Three RIT grads are helping Army engineers rebuild Iraq
For more than five years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division has been helping to rebuild Iraq.
Since January 2004, the Gulf Region Division has overseen the construction of nearly $7 billion in projects in 11 different programs. Among the more than 4,500 projects completed are electricity projects, water projects, healthcare facilities, schools, railroad renovations, oil-related projects and airport and seaport projects.
Three RIT grads have been part of that effort. Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre ’91 (M.S. packaging science) has been serving as Gulf Region Division commanding general since Oct. 9, 2008. U.S. Air Force Maj. Dan Guinan ’94 (civil engineering technology) served with the division from July 2008 to January 2009. Peter Mistretta ’94 (criminal justice), an attorney, was assistant division counsel with the Gulf Region Division Office of Counsel from August 2008 to February 2009.
Big accomplishments, more to do
Eyre began his military career in 1977, commissioned as a second lieutenant from the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Vermont.
He also had an aptitude for engineering and received a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing and management engineering. After four years of active duty in the Army, Eyre went to work for Mobil Chemical Co.’s consumer products division (now Pactiv), maker of Hefty products. He worked in the company’s facilities in the Rochester area, and also joined the Army Reserve 98th Division (Training).
“Our responsibility was in training new soldiers,” he says.
He came to RIT to get a master’s degree in packaging science as a direct result of his work at Mobil. “There were many ties between the company and RIT,” he says. “There were great folks in the department who helped us many times, and Mobil donated funds toward the packaging lab at RIT.”
He also continued his military education. Eyre is a graduate of the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. Eyre served as the Deputy Commander of the 99th Regional Readiness Command in Coraopolis, Pa., from 2001 to 2005. Immediately before his current assignment in Iraq, he was commander of the 416th Theater Engineer Command, headquartered in Darien, Ill., with the rank of major general.
Eyre left Pactiv in 2005 and went to work for Trex in Winchester, Va. The company, a manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, railing and fencing products, was once a division of Mobil Chemical. Eyre expects to return to his job after completing his tour of duty in Iraq, which will run through October.
He also anticipates continuing his life as a soldier, with a new assignment as deputy commanding general for Reserve Affairs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington, D.C.
It goes without saying that he’ll be glad to be home with his wife, Sue. They have three children, sons ages 26 and 22 and a daughter, 20.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to do. Several hundred more projects are in various stages of planning, construction and completion. A big part of the work is preparing the Iraqi counterparts to assume more responsibility for the nation’s continued rebuilding.
It’s demanding to say the least. “We work every day, seven days a week,” Eyre says. But it’s rewarding as well.
“Something I observed when I first got here is the positive attitude and energy level,” he says. “The focus is on doing something good for the people of Iraq. There’s a real sense of accomplishment.’
U.S. Air Force Maj. Dan Guinan’s most recent deployment to Iraq was a terrifically positive experience.
Guinan ’94 (civil engineering technology), an East Rochester, N.Y., native, served with the Army Corps of Engineers in support of reconstruction efforts.
“In the media, there’s a lot of focus on the negative,” says Guinan. “But seeing something built instead of destroyed, and working alongside people who are rebuilding their country – that is absolutely rewarding.”
Guinan served as sector lead for transportation and communication projects, as well as assisting with the provincial reconstruction development council. The work included water and sewer projects, roads and bridges and schools and hospitals in cooperation with Iraqi officials and citizens. Not all of the rebuilding is necessitated by the war; in many cases, Iraqi infrastructure suffered from decades of neglect.
One high point for Guinan was participation in a press conference announcing the completion of 133 health clinics, which were turned over to the Iraqi government.
“The national pride is amazing to see,” says Guinan.
Guinan participated in ROTC at RIT and received his commission at graduation. His duties as an Air Force civil engineer typically involve maintaining air bases and other facilities “to keep the Air Force able to move anywhere in the world at any time.” He has been stationed in Nebraska and Illinois as well as England and Guam, and was deployed in Germany during the Kosovo crisis.
Upon his return in January from six months in Iraq – his fourth deployment to Southwest Asia since 1995 – Guinan went back to the Pentagon, where he has served for three years in the Air Force Military Construction Program. He also learned that he will be promoted to lieutenant colonel later this year.
Better than that recognition, of course, is being home with his wife, Karen Zugner Guinan ’94 (hotel and resort management), and their two daughters, ages 7 and 4, and 5-year-old son.
“Spouses don’t get the credit they deserve,” he says. “They hold the families together.”
Glad to be of service
When Peter Mistretta was an RIT student, he knew he wanted to become an attorney.
He did not know he would go to work for the Army. But he’s pleased with the way his career path turned out.
“I enjoy the ability of being able to serve my country,” he says.
After RIT, Mistretta went to University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, graduating in 1998. He worked in a small firm in Buffalo, his hometown, for about a year and then worked in the legal department for Beretta U.S.A. Corp. in the Washington, D.C., area for six and a half years.
His wife’s job with the State Department piqued his interest in working for the government, and in 2006 he joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has worked in the Far East District in Seoul, Korea, and at the Transatlantic Center in Winchester, Va., his current duty station.
During his six months in Iraq (August 2008 to February 2009), Mistretta served as assistant division counsel, providing legal advice and support to the various departments within Gulf Region Division on a wide range of subject areas including contract law, fiscal law, ethics, and labor law.
“I was there at the time when Iraq became a sovereign nation,” says Mistretta, who volunteered for the Iraq assignment. “It was very challenging. The tempo was high-paced, and we worked seven days a week, with five hours off on Fridays.”
Although Mistretta focused on the same general area of law in his time as a corporate attorney, he says working within the military is more interesting. “Day to day, there’s a lot of variety,” he says.
“It’s very rewarding. I would definitely encourage others to consider this line of work.”