1. What is FEST?
FEST stands for Forward Engineer Support Team. It is an eight-person team made up of two military personnel and six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) civilians. The FEST provides responsive technical engineer planning and design to military forces in contingency operations.
2. Who can participate and who is eligible?
USACE civilians in the following disciplines are needed on the team: civil engineering, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineering/technician, environmental engineering/scientist, and GIS/topographer. Volunteers must have the support of their supervisors, be medically qualified to deploy to austere environments, and be able to obtain a security clearance.
3. How long are the deployments?
Deployments are six to nine months in duration depending on the location. However, FESTs can go places for shorter durations based on the mission requirements.
4. Where would I deploy (and is it safe?)
The mission location depends on when and where a FEST is told to go based on the needs of the Army. Safety is always a consideration and we take every precaution and mitigation to not put anybody in harm’s way unnecessarily. Historically, FESTs have provided support in Afghanistan and Iraq. More recently, teams have provided support in Kuwait and across the CENTCOM AOR (including Jordan, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia), Africa to respond to the Ebola breakout, Haiti to respond to the earthquake, and to Europe as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve.
5. How does it compare to a regular Army deployment?
A FEST deployment is very similar to Army deployment since you’re likely living with/near other military forces on bases. The FEST is a great way to get a taste of being in the military without joining the Army. Members will eat and interact with military members, and may even get to wear a military uniform depending on the theater.
6. What's involved, and will I be trained?
Volunteers are sent to a two-week FEST training course in Mobile, Alabama, to learn basic FEST knowledge, like how to use unique FEST equipment or how to design a base camp. Then, a team may conduct home station training, combining their individual skills, the knowledge learned from their daily USACE job or degree with their FEST knowledge, to complete collective tasks that require teamwork. Tasks include designing base camps, route and bridge recons, and designing infrastructure and developing time and cost estimates.
7. I'm a ___ (job title), can the Army really use my expertise overseas?
The U.S. Army lacks technical engineers in its personnel system. While officers may have an engineer degree, they don’t use this knowledge on a daily basis like USACE employees do. Thus, the Army relies on USACE to fill this technical engineer gap with FESTs.
8. Who should I contact for more information?
There are eight USACE FESTs across five divisions. Contact the military planner at the following division level headquarters for more info:
SAD (542nd & 565th FEST-As)
POD (62nd FEST-A)
NWD (34th FEST-A)
SWD (59th & 273rd FEST-As)
NAD (71st and 553rd FEST-As)
9. Are there incentives for deploying?
There are typically financial incentives when team members deploy. The amount of pay is based on the country that the work is performed in. This amount is determined by the Department of State.