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Archive for July, 2009

A Diamond in the Rough; Celebrating 75 Years

July 28th, 2009

This week, I’m in Nebraska, honoring the 75th anniversary of our district office in Omaha. That’s pretty remarkable – 75 years. That’s the traditional “diamond” anniversary.

Next week, I’ll mark 36 years with my bride, and I sure hope we make it to 75! I remember my 50th birthday, we were getting ready to go out.  I looked in the mirror and  pulled a “Fonzi” (from the Happy Days TV show) – took out my comb and put it away without using it- like my hair looked perfect already.  I turned to her and said, “I just turned 50, do I look it?”

She said, “You used to.” That still cracks me up.

So this anniversary has me thinking about how much things change through the years. The Omaha District was originally established in 1934 as part of what was then known as “Missouri River Division” with a straightforward mission of navigation on the main stem of the Missouri, and nothing else. 

My, have times changed!  Now they do a little bit of everything… dams, levees, flood-fighting, military construction, environmental clean-up… and the list goes on.

Here’s a link to a story about some of the really neat things the Omaha District has done through the years – check it out.

It all boils down to people, though – and Omaha has some GREAT people. Since 2001, more than 100 employees of that small district office have volunteered for service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and elsewhere. That’s America’s Heartland, right there.

People are like diamonds – you find out what they’re really made of when you put them under great pressure. The people who’ve made the Omaha District successful these past 75 years are diamonds in my book with all 4 C’s – my own 4 C’s: Character, commitment, Competency  and Chemistry!

Congrats, Omaha District!

Civil Works, Corps Projects, Locks and Dams, Navigation , , ,

Hold the Line! The Cavalry is Coming!

July 17th, 2009

I just got back from a great trip to Afghanistan, and I just wanted to share with you some of the amazing things we’re doing there, under some unbelievably challenging circumstances. 

This was a new facility we're building at Kandahar Air Field to in and out-process the onslaught of people expected in the Kandahar area as the Coalition mission in Afghanistan ramps up

This was a new facility we're building at Kandahar Air Field to in and out-process the onslaught of people expected in the Kandahar area as the Coalition mission in Afghanistan ramps up

It was 108 degrees with dust and wind galore in Kandahar, where we are getting ready to launch a new district office to help manage the incredibly challenging workload there. Afghanistan Engineer District (AED) South will provide some much needed relief to our office in the north, which is bursting at the seams with people and work.
AED’s workload has increased more than a $1 billion in the last year, and is expected to increase another $2 billion plus next year. So I kept telling them “Hold the line! The Cavalry is coming!” because relief is on the way.

Our big priorities there are all about helping set the country up for a secure and stable future. Most of our work is building facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces, and to support the soldiers and marines heading into country with the recent increase in manning.

We're building lots of new "hooches" or "CHUs," which stands for Compartmentalized Housing Unit, to make the hundreds of employees at AED South feel more at home

We're building lots of new "hooches" or "CHUs," which stands for Compartmentalized Housing Unit, to make the hundreds of employees at AED South feel more at home

That’s everything from barracks and helipads, to recreation facilities and office space.  But last year, we created a Water and Infrastructure Branch at AED to help bring the Corps of Engineers’ expertise on water to Afghanistan, and it seems like that couldn’t have come at a better time.

I attended the first-ever water conference held in Afghanistan – with all of the appropriate ministers who oversee water and energy, and everyone acknowledged that Afghanistan needs a national level water resource management plan. I also had an opportunity to meet with Ambassador Eikenberry while I was there. He told me that everywhere he goes, Afghans report to him that their highest priority is clean water. Well, we’re going to help them get there.

As always on these trips, the highlight for me is getting a chance to hang out with the unsung heroes, the hundreds of AED employees who voluntarily came from all over the world to leave Afghanistan better than they found it.  This time, I also got to visit the 4th and 19th Engineer Battalions as well as the Navy’s 25NCR – and let me just tell ya – these guys are heroes, driving over IEDs a couple of times a week and getting right back into the fight. Amazing. They inspire me – and I hope they inspire you, too. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, will ya?

This sign just cracks me up

This sign just cracks me up

I also got to participate in the change of command at AED. Col. Michael McCormick is now the commander, leading all of these passionate folks to success

I also got to participate in the change of command at AED. Col. Michael McCormick is now the commander, leading all of these passionate folks to success

Afghanistan, Contingency Operations, International and Interagency Services , , ,

Back in Business

July 15th, 2009

I’ve had a few techno issues lately that knocked out my comments link– but it’s working again! I apologize to those wanting to comment on my blogs. I look forward to hearing from you!

Miscellaneous "neat stuff" ,

Freedom Isn’t Free

July 1st, 2009
As we approach the 4th of July weekend and all of the Independence Day celebrations around the country, I’m struck by how blessed we are to be Americans. The news around the world is such a blatant reminder that we have a gift that we must treasure and preserve at all cost.
 
When the founding fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 – they laid the foundation for our gift. In fact, John Adams, a signatory on the declaration – and later our second president, knew it was the kind of day that would be marked and celebrated forever. He wrote to his wife, Abigail, that it “will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival… It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
 
Granted, he was actually talking about the 2nd of July, the day the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. But he was right, nonetheless. And every year since, we mark the occasion with great celebration.
 
But freedom isn’t free. For 200+ years, we have continued to fight to defend our freedom, and for the basic human rights of others. I know so many people, Soldiers and Civilians alike, who have sacrificed more than most can imagine for this country, and this year, we lost two of our USACE teammates, who were selflessly serving to provide a better life for the people of Iraq.
 
So as you enjoy the fireworks and festivities, please take a few minutes this weekend to remember the cost of our independence, and raise a glass to those who continue to make this celebration of independence possible.

Miscellaneous "neat stuff" , , ,