I began my career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in April
1985 as an attorney in real estate with the Nashville District. I was assigned to support a new program being managed by the Huntsville Division – the Formerly Used Defense Site, or FUDS Program.
There, I had the honor and privilege of traveling with the Huntsville Division's program manager and others to train many Corps district personnel on that program. I also did real estate closings for properties being acquired at the Nashville District for the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and for some flood control projects in Kentucky.
When the environmental attorney at Huntsville left to go to the Space and Missile Defense Command, the folks I worked with on the FUDS program said I should apply for that vacated position. I did and I started here in August 1991. In addition to environmental work, I worked the Freedom of Information, labor, contracts and other legal matters.
Then, the office consisted of three attorneys including me and a legal technician. In late 1992, another attorney was added to support the Chemical Demilitarization Program. To say Huntsville Center has grown since that time is an understatement.
During the early 1990s, Huntsville had a chart highlighting the programs it worked since it was established in 1967. That chart was nicknamed the coat of many colors. You could see programs that once existed, and either went away, grew or branched into other programs.
I remember Lt. Gen. Joe N. Ballard (a former Chief of Engineers) saying that Huntsville Center had a license for all the work we executed. That was ignored by many – but I still use that quote today.
Huntsville Division became Huntsville Center around 1995 when USACE was restructuring. I was actually involved with franchising work to other districts in the early 2000s. For a year, I traveled to Omaha and Baltimore with other Huntsville Center employees providing structured training for the districts to become design centers for the Ordnance and Explosives program.
Once the design centers were approved, we trained South Pacific Division and the Sacramento and Los Angeles District personnel in setting up their OE design centers. I am truly amazed by all that we accomplish each year.
I sometimes think I know what we do, but then I will see something new come across my desk and realize that due to the expertise within this organization, we will always be tackling new problems and new projects, and delivering those solutions to our customers.
It is rewarding to work for an organization that views every challenge as one having a solution – and making sure the right team is dedicated to finding that solution. We have had a few bumps and bruises along the way, but those bumps and bruises are required for an organization such as ours. You have to experience a failure every now and then if you are truly going to learn and grow.
There is always risk with new challenges – and I think that the culture here is that you have to weigh the risks, make the best decision you can, and move forward. You identify mistakes – so those are not repeated. You identify best practices to make the next journey smoother – and hopefully to share across USACE so that the enterprise is successful.
Huntsville Center employees have so many opportunities to establish programs, work with customers, and even travel to foreign countries. We provided ordnance detection support in 2003 when the Army went into Iraq. We destroyed hundreds of tons of munitions there. We have so many opportunities to touch lives across the world and make places safer for many generations, the same as we do for our nation.
The opportunities to learn, grow and contribute here are endless. I am and always have been proud to be a part of Huntsville Center. Each and every one of you play an important role in the support we provide to our Soldiers, the war fighter and our nation. I look forward to our continued success.