The Multi-National Security Transition Command â€“ Iraq J7 (Engineer) not only has engineers from three branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, it also boasts support from our Coalition partners. Lt. Col. Samuel Ruiz from El Salvador has devoted six months of his hard work and engineering expertise to MNSTC-I to deliver facilities for the Iraqi Security Forces.
Since he arrived in Baghdad in August 2008, Ruiz has been directly involved in program management of infrastructure projects at Iraqâ€™s largest military supply depot in Taji and at the Iraqi Army Service Support Institute, as well as Iraqi Air Force facilities at Rustamiyah.
U.S. Army Maj. Tom Heinold was assigned to sponsor Ruiz when he first arrived. â€œSince I knew the most Spanish in J7, I went to pick up Lt. Col. Ruiz and get him in-processed. I could tell right away that he had a good head on his shoulders and that heâ€™d be a great asset to the team. Just one short week later, he took on my entire program while I was on my mid-tour leave. When I returned in late September he had things running smoothly.â€
This tour wasnâ€™t the first time Ruiz had seen Iraq. In 2003, he arrived with some of the first Coalition troops as a part of El Salvadorâ€™s Cuzcatlan Battalion in Al Kut. During this tour, he kept in touch with his old battalion and was able to visit them occasionally to share critical mission information and participate in official ceremonies.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Matt Olijnek appreciates Ruizâ€™s help in and out of the office. â€œLt. Col. Ruiz instigated a weekly tour of Dining Facilities for the J7 shop. He led the charge to break the mundane norm of always eating at the same DFAC and provided his colleagues with a social/mentoring opportunity for the J7 Ministry of Defense Branch to get together as a team.â€
â€œSam has become an integral part of J7 during his deployment,â€ commented U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Scot Allen, chief of the J7 Ministry of Defense Branch. â€œWe appreciate the perspective he brings to construction program management, and MNSTC-I has greatly benefitted from the diversity of having a Salvadoran officer on the team. He took responsibility for logistics and Iraqi Air Force projects at Taji and Rustamiyah, and represented El Salvador extremely well. He also has a great sense of humor.â€
As LTC Ruiz plans to depart from MNSTC-I in late January, along with the remainder of the El Salvadoran military forces, his colleagues plan to hold an awards ceremony in Baghdad to thank him for his contributions in constructing the infrastructure necessary for the Iraqi Security Forces to properly train and maintain their equipment so they can take on the security mission in Iraq.