March 9th, 2010

Thinking Big in Iraq

I talk a lot about the partnerships we have in this business, and there are many that make all the difference to our nation’s infrastructure. But I just got wind of a story that you have to hear – it’s about how our partnership with a company in Norfolk, VA is making all the difference for some future Olympians (perhaps?) near Kirkuk, Iraq.

Check out this story from WAVY-TV 10 in Norfolk:

 

Posted by underIraq, Partnership , , | Comments (2)

February 24th, 2010

African American Engineering History

This week, I had the honor of participating in the release of the USACE Office of History’s latest publication, Nothing But Praise: A History of the 1321st Engineer General Service Regiment.

This book sheds new light on the role of African American engineers during World War II, and in the process, it enriches the history of the entire Engineer Regiment. It chronicles the distinguished wartime service of the 1321st Engineers, which was one of many segregated African American units during the war.

Often operating under adverse conditions, African American engineers played key roles in completing some of the Army’s most difficult construction projects. The 1321st Engineers deployed to France in December of 1944, and supported the Allied drive across Europe. During the months that followed, the unit compiled an enviable record of accomplishments — its engineers repaired bridges, cleared and maintained roads, renovated buildings, constructed hospitals, and built huge supply depots.

We are so lucky that the unit’s commander, Colonel Aldo Bagnulo, did a brilliant job of documenting the unit’s many outstanding accomplishments, and kept dozens of previously unpublished images of African American engineers at work during World War II. This book would not be possible without his attention to detail, or his impeccable record keeping.

A summary of the book and a photo gallery of images is available on the Office of History web page, as well as a link to download the full text of the book.  I encourage you to check out our history and honor it, because the 1321st Engineers were definitely BUILDING STRONG.

Posted by underMiscellaneous "neat stuff" | Comments (1)

February 22nd, 2010

A Tragic Loss for the Nation

In this business, we have many close partnerships with other federal, state and local agencies, and this weekend, we lost a good man. Sam Hamilton, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, died suddenly of a heart attack while skiing in Colorado.

We worked closely with Sam for many years, as he was a partner to the Corps in helping to restore the Everglades, which is the largest ecosystem restoration project in the country. He was also heavily involved in the recovery and restoration efforts of coastal wetlands, wildlife refuges and other wildlife habitat around the Gulf of Mexico after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar said, “Sam was a friend, a visionary, and a professional whose years of service and passionate dedication to his work have left an indelible mark on the lands and wildlife we cherish. His forward-thinking approach to conservation – including his view that we must think beyond boundaries at the landscape-scale – will continue to shape our nation’s stewardship for years to come.”

Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rowan Gould said, “He was inspired by the men and women of the Service who dedicate their lives to protecting fish and wildlife and habitats, always believing that working together, and with our partners, we could accomplish so much.”

The Corps has lost a friend, and the nation has lost a dedicated, selfless servant.

Posted by underPartnership , | Comments Off on A Tragic Loss for the Nation

January 15th, 2010

Help for Haiti

The devastation in Haiti is, in a word, heartbreaking. I hope that you’ll join Paula and me in praying for the people of that nation, for those around the world who are still awaiting word on their loved ones, and for the thousands of volunteers, rescue teams, aid workers and service members who are there, or on their way to help.

At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we are gearing up and ready to support as needed. We are plugged into the State Dept., USAID, Federal Emergency Management Agency and US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and are ready to assist however any of those organizations need us.

We do have four engineers deploying today to support, 1 civil, 1 structural, 1 electrical, 1 hydrological. We also have two 8-person teams from our South Atlantic Division office who are on alert and prepared to deploy. That office has also identified and is preparing additional structural engineers for possible deployment.

In addition, we’ve alerted the 249th Engineer Battalion, which provides emergency power, to be ready to go on a moment’s notice, and have our best subject matter experts for commodities, infrastructure, navigation and debris removal standing by, as well.

So many people are looking for a way to help, and if you would like to give, I encourage you to go to USAID’s website for a list of ways you can make a difference.

This situation will continue to develop in the coming days, weeks and months – and I am sure that our role will continue to grow. I’ll keep you posted…

Posted by underContingency Operations, Emergency Response, International and Interagency Services , , | Comments (41)

January 6th, 2010

Climate Change and USACE

The weather here in Washington, DC is down-right cold, and we only recently saw the record snowfall of a few weeks ago melt enough that we could reasonably get around.  But what we’ve been experiencing is nothing compared to, say, Minnesota or Wisconsin. There was a news report the other day that said the low temperature in one part of Minnesota was so low (-37), that it would have to heat up 69 degrees just to not be below freezing. That’s just crazy cold. In other parts of the world, though, glaciers are melting at a record pace and drought still has people in California under water conservation orders.

 Needless to say, all this extreme weather poses an opportunity to talk about what we are doing at USACE with regard to climate change, in our role as the nation’s environmental engineers.  Gen. Casey, Army Chief of Staff, has said that we are in what he calls “an era of persistent conflict.” Part of that is because of climate change and how it can be a game-changer, creating “haves and “have-nots” around the world. 

I am a member of a United Nations committee called the “High-level Panel on Water and Disasters.”  Last year I presented our report in Istanbul, Turkey.  It was a phenomenal conference.  We came to the conclusion that we need to do much better planning – on a worldwide scale.  We have to ask ourselves – what will our response be? What might the early warnings be?  What would be the evacuation plans?  What would be those measures that an individual can take? What about local and state governments? Federal?  And I’m not just talking about the U.S. – we all need to be asking these questions, all around the world. 

Know that we are planning for all these contingencies, and more than that – we are putting the full capabilities of our Engineer Research and Development Center to work.  We are currently involved in several water studies about conservation and reuse, and we are always working on sustainable practices and technologies. In fact, at Fort Irwin in California, we are currently working on the Department of Defense’s largest solar energy project.

We also collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to write “Climate Change and Water Resources Management:  A Federal Perspective,” released last February, that assessed approaches to climate variability and change in water resources management, on which future agency policies, methods, and processes will be based.  And this past summer, we issued a new policy, “Incorporating Sea-Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs,” that instructs our project managers to be prepared to implement flexible planning and engineering adaptations that account for a range of possible changes.
 
The bottom line is – we are planning and preparing for – and doing everything we can to prevent – issues related to climate change.  It’s a very real concern that could have very real consequences all over the world, and we’re on it.

Posted by underEnvironment/Sustainability, Research and Development , , , | Comments (14)

December 21st, 2009

So much to be thankful for…

Well, the holidays upon us, and with that, all the last minute shopping for gifts, groceries and party supplies. For many, this year’s festivities will be more humble than years past, because so many people are cutting back due to the economy. And although there are many people in America who are struggling this year, I recently came across a story from one of our teammates in Afghanistan that just reminded me of how much we have to be thankful for, and how spoiled we really are. It’s so easy to take things for granted, because we are so blessed to live in this great nation.

I hope that you take a moment to check out this story by clicking here – it’s about some of our dedicated servicemembers and civilians serving overseas who are part of a group called “Volunteer Community Relations” (VCR), a command-directed outreach program that provides clothing, blankets, school and other supplies to Kabul’s poor and displaced, and Afghan refugees who are returning from Pakistan. VCR distributed 900 blankets and more than 500 bags filled with toys and school supplies to 300 families in need on the day of this story.  Here are some of the photos to give you a taste:

Volunteers distribute blankets to needy Afghan refugee families. The blankets were made by widows of Afghanistan National Police members. The Volunteer Community Relations program purchased them with proceeds from a donation to help the widows with their small business. (USACE photo by Hank Heusinkveld)

Volunteers distribute blankets to needy Afghan refugee families. The blankets were made by widows of Afghanistan National Police members. The Volunteer Community Relations program purchased them with proceeds from a donation to help the widows with their small business. (USACE photo by Hank Heusinkveld)

Young Afghan girls, excited by the arrival of their American guests, run towards a line where theyll find bags of toys. (USACE photo by Hank Heusinkveld)

Young Afghan girls, excited by the arrival of their American guests, run towards a line where they'll find bags of toys. (USACE photo by Hank Heusinkveld)

It’s a great little holiday (or any day) pick-me-up.  I hope that your holidays are filled with all the blessings that can only be found by giving of yourself to others. Be safe out there and have a great holiday and a very happy New Year!

Posted by underAfghanistan, Miscellaneous "neat stuff" , , | Comments (3)

October 26th, 2009

A New Era in Iraq

On Friday, we inactivated our division headquarters in Iraq, the Gulf Region Division, which I’ve mentioned in this blog several times. This is good news! It means we’ve come a long way, and that we’re that much closer to being able to leave the country much better than we found it.

Maj. Gen Michael Eyre (left) and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mitch Prater (center) prepare to case the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division colors during an inactivation ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq.

Maj. Gen Michael Eyre (left) and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mitch Prater (center) prepare to case the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division colors during an inactivation ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq.

From the day the division stood up on January 25, 2004, our selfless, dedicated team of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Civilians and contractors has been helping to rebuild a war-torn nation that had few essential services.  Today, GRD has completed more than 5,200 projects that are providing electricity, clean water, transportation, police and fire stations, medical care, educational opportunities and – most importantly – hope, to the people of Iraq. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has deployed in support of our mission in Iraq, past and present – AND their Families – I am so unbelievably proud of your service – and your accomplishments!

We are not finished in Iraq – in fact – we still have two district offices – the Gulf Region District and Gulf Region South district – which have a lot of work to do to finish up our efforts there and complete our remaining projects. But, the division inactivation brings us one step closer to closing this chapter, and opening another – one that we hope will include a life-long, positive, diplomatic relationship between our two great nations. 

In addition to the inactivation of GRD today, yesterday we dedicated the USACE compound on Camp Victory, Iraq – now officially designated “Camp Wolfe” in honor of Navy Cmdr. Duane Wolfe. Wolfe was the officer-in-charge of the Al-Anbar Area Office, who was killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) struck the vehicle he was riding in outside of Fallujah, Iraq, earlier this year.  The designation ceremony was broadcast live via the internet to Wolfe’s family and friends in Los Osos, CA. Two other friends of GRD were killed in that attack, Terry Barnich, the deputy director of U.S. State Department’s Iraqi Transition and Assistance Office, and a USACE employee from the Jacksonville District – Dr. Maged Hussein, who was serving as director of the Office of Water Resources, Public Works and the Environment at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Cindi Wolfe, wife of Cmdr. Duane Wolfe, speaks to the guests via the internet at the ceremony to rename the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers compound on Camp Victory in honor of her husband.

Cindi Wolfe, wife of Cmdr. Duane Wolfe, speaks to the guests via the internet at the ceremony to rename the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers compound on Camp Victory in honor of her husband.

We have come a long way in Iraq – but at great sacrifice. Today, as we look forward to a bright future for Iraq, those people who remain deployed in service of this great nation – and their Families – are very much in my prayers.

Posted by underContingency Operations, International and Interagency Services, Iraq , , , , | Comments Off on A New Era in Iraq

October 16th, 2009

Supporting Our Wounded Warriors

I am unbelievably proud of the Army’s commitment to taking care of our Wounded Warriors. As the father of a Wounded Warrior – and a friend to many more, I know it’s critical that we always remember, support and encourage these brave men and women, and honor their sacrifice.
 
There are a couple of different ways that we get to do that here at USACE. For one, we open our doors to Warriors in Transition who are still under treatment, so that they can work and still contribute to the mission, without being too far from their medical appointments. We’ve had a couple of terrific Soldiers come through headquarters.  They remind you how remarkable our Soldiers really are, and how much spirit – how much grit – they’ve got. We are also actively hiring wounded warriors who are transitioning out of an active duty role into civilian life.

This is a rock-climbing wall at Walter Reed Medical Center's Military Advanced Training Center, a facility we built in 2007 with world-class technology designed to help amputees returning from combat

This is a rock-climbing wall at Walter Reed Medical Center's Military Advanced Training Center, a facility we built in 2007 with world-class technology designed to help amputees returning from combat

Another way we try to help is something that we’re getting better and better at every day: awarding contracts to small businesses owned by Service Disabled Veterans (SDVs). As we just crossed into the new fiscal year, we’re now getting all the final numbers for fiscal 2009, and I am proud to say we broke our FY08 record of $543 million in contracts to SDVs,  by awarding $741 million this year.  A new pool and academy record!!  Not a bad jump, I’d say.
 
That $741 million represents about 2.81% of our total contract dollars – which is huge for us.   We’re bound and determined to crack the 3% mark for next year.

Posted by underContracting, Employment, Small Business , , , , , , | Comments (1)

September 25th, 2009

One Project at a Time…

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about some of the progress we’re making with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (see “The Stimulus“). 
 
As a follow up to that, I wanted to share this newsclip that shows the money is being spent – wisely – and in some unbelievably important ways.
 
We are not just creating jobs, but repairing infrastructure in a nation that the American Society of Civil Engineers scores with a D-. Translation: we need a lot of this kind of work to reduce risk for our families and homes, and to secure our nation.
 
Check it out – click the link below, then scroll down the left side to “Tuttle Creek Dam Project” or search for “Tuttle Creek” in the search function.
 
Click here to see the story.

Posted by underAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Corps Projects, Locks and Dams , , , | Comments Off on One Project at a Time…

September 11th, 2009

Are You Ready or Are You READY?

Here at USACE, we fulfill a vital mission in our response to a variety of emergencies. We spend a lot of time, money and effort preparing, so that we are ready to act when people find themselves in harm’s way.

What is true for our organization in planning for disasters, applies personally to everyone. Now is the time to plan for the unimaginable. Planning protects what you hold dear and reduces the potential for devastating losses.

September is National Preparedness Month, a nationwide effort sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s READY Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps. We are taking part in this nationwide effort to encourage individuals, families and communities to prepare for emergencies… so I wanted to use this forum to encourage you to do the same.

This year, National Preparedness Month is focusing on changing perceptions about emergency preparedness, and will help Americans understand what it truly means to be READY. Preparedness goes beyond fire alarms, smoke detectors, dead-bolt locks and extra food in the pantry. Being READY includes: getting an emergency supply kit; making a family emergency plan; being informed about emergencies and their appropriate responses; and getting involved in community efforts such as Citizen Corps.

There are simple steps you can take to better prepare yourself and your family. I encourage you to take a look at the family emergency plan template and emergency supply kit checklist available at www.ready.gov and for more information. I also encourage you to visit www.citizencorps.gov to explore ways that you can get involved in your community.

By taking a few simple steps now, each of us can make sure we are better prepared for the next emergency or disaster.

Posted by underEmergency Response , , , , , | Comments Off on Are You Ready or Are You READY?