The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Engineer Regiment hosted a senior delegation of Brazilian Army engineer officers Nov. 13 to 16, for a wide-ranging tour as part of an ongoing military engineering partnership between the two nations.
The Brazilian delegation included Gen. Anisio David de Oliveira Jr., chief of the Brazilian Army Dept. of Engineering and Construction, Maj. Gen. Everton Pacheco da Silva, Brazilian military attaché in Washington, and other senior officers.
U.S. Army Engineer leaders escorted the delegation to the USACE Mississippi Valley Division (MVD) headquarters and USACE Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi; the U.S. Army Engineer School at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri; and the Pentagon and USACE Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“We were incredibly proud to host Gen. David and his team's visit with our engineer family. The relationship we share with our Brazilian counterparts is extremely important to us both,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kimberly M. Colloton, USACE deputy commanding general for military and international operations. “Our ongoing dialogue over many years enables us to explore new ideas to help each other to address existing and emerging environmental and climate risks, understand design and construction challenges, and share best practices for solving our nations’ toughest problems.”
While at MVD on Nov. 13, the delegation received a brief by the division’s commanding general, Brig. Gen. Kimberly A. Peeples, about the importance of the Mississippi Valley Division and its mission to serve the region by providing vital public engineering services and stewardship of water resource infrastructure, partnering in peace and war, strengthening the nation’s security, energizing the economy, and reducing risks from disasters.
The delegation rode an inspection barge along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, where they met the USACE Vicksburg District commander, Col. Christopher Klein, and learned about the Mat Sinking Unit (MSU). The MSU places hundreds of thousands of articulated concrete mats, also known as revetment, along the Mississippi River to protect flood control works, prevent riverbank erosion, and provide navigable waterways for commercial transportation. The unit’s work spans the jurisdictions of the Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans districts and more than 1,500 miles of river.
During their Nov. 14 visit to ERDC, the delegation received overviews of a variety of coastal, digital and geotechnical technology. They visited the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory for a presentation on the center’s ship simulator and physical river models. At the Information Technology Laboratory, they received more information about CAD/BIM technology, and at the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, they learned about ERDC research in the area of post blast forensics.
At Ft. Leonard Wood on Nov. 15, the delegation met U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck, commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Ft. Leonard Wood. They learned about the U.S. Army Engineer School and even tried out bulldozer simulators. They visited the Contingency Basing Integration Training and Evaluation Center (CBITEC), which provides U.S. Army Prime Power School students with testing facilities throughout their year-long training program. They also visited combat engineer mine detection dogs and learned about their training program.
Ft. Leonard Wood is the home of the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment, which encompasses over a dozen engineer-related military occupational specialties and represents more than 80,000 uniformed personnel assigned to Engineer units across the active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.
The visit concluded in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, where the delegation visited the Pentagon, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. They were welcomed to the USACE headquarters by Colloton, who also joined them for dinner along with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William “Butch” Graham, deputy chief of engineers and USACE deputy commanding general, and other senior USACE leaders. The dinner also included a performance by the U.S. Army Band.
“The delegation was very impressed with how well they were received in all visits and especially at the dinner,” said Marcelo Salles, USACE South Atlantic Division’s international program manager, who accompanied the Brazilian leaders throughout the trip. “The Army Band was a great success.”
Regular visits between the Brazilian and U.S. armies’ chiefs of engineers began in 2006, along with other long-running initiatives to continually enhance engineering partnership and increase technical interoperability between the two armies.
Another key feature of the U.S.-Brazilian army engineer partnership is the ongoing Military Personnel Exchange Program, which started approximately 20 years ago. The current MPEP positions were established 10 years ago and include a Brazilian colonel at MVD’s division headquarters, a Brazilian colonel at ERDC, and a U.S. Army captain serving in the Brazilian Army’s 1st Engineer Group.
No one likes to do the maintenance. That’s true whether talking about a house, a car or multi-million-dollar missile defense infrastructure. Or so says Brian Ball, the chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District’s (TAM) Procurements and Services Branch.
The branch can provide regular and corrective maintenance for facilities, equipment, procurement of spare parts & consumables, and new or replacement construction for facility related equipment, building renovations as well as training and professional services support.
“We build some really great facilities for our mission partners,” said Ball. “But even the best facilities only last if you maintain them. Our District has had a presence in the Middle East for over 70 years and some of our early projects are still around today. But we’ve also seen cases where we built something, no one does the maintenance on it, and even just a few years later its fallen into a state of disrepair.”
TAM is unique among USACE districts in that most of it’s work is done on behalf of U.S. allied nation partners. When the U.S. sells weapons systems or military equipment (aircraft, missile defense, etc.) through foreign military sales cases, those nations will often pay TAM to build the infrastructure for those systems. Using USACE helps ensure what’s known as a “total package approach and means that the FMS partner will not only receive the actual equipment but that the infrastructure to support it is built by an organization familiar with the requirements. It can also include follow on material such as spare parts and training to help ensure everything is kept in good working order.
Ball said that using his branch benefits his district and USACE as well as their mission partners.
“It's in our best interest to see the facilities we build reach their full service-life potential and not fall into disrepair,” Ball stated. “Our customers benefit from that increase in facility lifespan and from not having to dedicate their own time and personnel to maintenance activities. We benefit because these big, fancy, impressive buildings we’ve built remain in good condition and can serve as showpieces and points of advertisement for USACE’s design and construction quality.”
According to Ball, one of the biggest challenges of his job is convincing the district’s mission partners to use his services.
“It’s sometimes hard to measure success in a program that’s meant to prevent something bad from happening rather than just building something. What I will say is that I’ve yet to see an instance where a mission partner has asked us to stop providing O&M services on any facility once we’ve put a program in place."
Ball was also quick to attribute much of the success his branch to the district’s contracting section.
“Anything you could say about the uniqueness of our mission in (TAM) Programs and Project Management, you can say about them in the context of the USACE Contracting Community and our contracting section. “What we do is not unique but the expertise with which we are able to do it providing our mission partners with what they need when they need it is. This is something we’ve developed over time and we’d love to see utilized more and more.”
In 1973, the U.S. ended its involvement in the Vietnam War by signing the Paris Peace Accords, George Foreman became the heavyweight champion of the world by knocking out Joe Frazier. Model and actress Tyra Banks was born, and artist Pablo Picasso died.
And in Mobile, Alabama, Willard Bush was beginning his career as an accountant with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District.
Fifty years is a significant milestone, and that is how long the Mobile native has been serving the District and his customers.
“I have always enjoyed the work I do; this is my dream job,” Bush said. “I have stayed so long because I enjoy my work environment, and I also enjoy the services we provide our customers.”
Bush was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, and has been married to his wife, Phyllis, for 44 years. They have four children: Willard Bush, Jr., Sharon Bush-Coaxum, M.D., Jeremy Bush and, Jonathan Bush.
He and his wife also have two grandchildren, Sarah Bush and Louis Coaxum, IV.
Bush said his family has always been an essential source of strength while serving the District.
“My family is very supportive of what I do,” Bush said. “They are always encouraging me. Whenever I am having a hard time, I can always depend on them to help me.
Bush has also been willing to share his vast knowledge with others.
One person who benefitted from learning from Bush was Brian Ivey, Chief of Resource Management.
Ivey said Bush took him under his wing as his first supervisor when he came to work for the District.
“He spent many hours training me on many aspects of accounting,” Ivey said. “He has always been willing to share his knowledge of accounting procedures and the history of events effecting accounting data. His keen memory has been very helpful over the years to us to remember why we do what we do in the financial arena and which laws and regulations we have cited for our decisions.”
Another person who can testify to Bush’s willingness to share his knowledge and offer advice and help is Lita Trotter, supervisory accountant.
“Willard was already working with the Corps when I was hired in 1994,” Trotter said. “Over the years, he has taken the time to explain a number of functions and processes to me. I really appreciate the time he took out with me. He is always willing to share his knowledge. Whenever we are discussing complex issues and getting into a lot of details about how something should work, his favorite saying is, “That’s too much sugar for a dime.’ It always tickles me. He is very dedicated and loves his job.”
Bush’s advice to someone who wants to work with the Corps, is to remember that it is an honor to work for the government.
“First, it’s a privilege to work for your government,” Bush said. “The pay is good, and it’s a stable work environment. The work can be rewarding for one who has determination, passion for work and good work ethics.”
Bush said that overall, working for the Mobile District has been a great experience, and he loves the people he works with and his work environment. He says it has indeed been a dream job.
“I consider my career with the Corps as one great experience, and I count it as a blessing,” Bush said. “I have always loved accounting, and this is my dream job. I am pleased to have had over my career the opportunity of being surrounded by and interacting with hard-working, capable co-workers who are knowledgeable and dedicated to their work.”
Historic flooding of the Upper Missouri River Basin in 2011 prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District to explore additional solutions in improving flood prediction. This led to the implementation of Project Snowpack, a multi-state and federal agency program that will revolutionize floodplain management throughout the region.
The project utilizes a network of mesonet stations, designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena and microclimates to better understand local weather patterns. The stations are fitted with equipment that reports the soil moisture, ground temperature, snow depth, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, relative humidity, precipitation, and air temperature every five minutes along with cameras to capture variations in surrounding snow depth caused by snow drift.
The Omaha District’s Civil Works Design and Planning Branch was at the forefront of the effort in creating partnerships – public, private, and Tribal, who will work together to expand the network across five states. This includes providing the resources, connections and coordination for the project.
“We are essentially planning, designing and implementing [the project] all at once, which makes it both exciting and challenging at the same time,” said Carlie Hively, USACE project manager for Project Snowpack.
Project partners include meteorologists and technicians from the University of Montana, University of Wyoming, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University.
Nathan Edwards, the mesonet operations manager at SDSU’s Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, explained that one of the hardest elements to monitor is water content in packed snow.
“Snow on the ground is just precipitation that has yet to actually fall,” Edwards said. “Without knowing the depth of snow across the upper Missouri basin, snowmelt predictions can have a wide margin of error. In the past we have always worked to track precipitation, and now with these new monitors, being able to extend that into the winter is a big step forward.”
Project Snowpack is in the process of building one mesonet station every 500 square miles across the Upper Missouri River Basin, covering rural areas that previously had no local forecasting available. The stations provide readings (data-sets) every five minutes, improving emergency response times for severe weather emergencies such as flash flooding and tornadoes.
“Weather is something that impacts every single South Dakotan. It has been so rewarding to give South Dakotans the weather monitoring they deserve,” Edwards added.
The project will also provide valuable insight to improve agriculture through wind, temperature and humidity monitoring. Tracking these conditions assists agriculturists in planning for range movement, best times to plant and fertilize crops, and identification of drought conditions.
“Partnership between USACE, SDSU and the other universities involved in the project ensures the successful ongoing implementation of Project Snowpack,” said John Remus, Chief of the USACE Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “The states played a really big role in the technical part of planning this and they’re playing a huge role in implementing it.”
According to Remus, the utilization of existing centers of expertise like the universities is “a great example of having the right people do what they do best.”
Mesonet stations that were installed prior to USACE’s involvement have now been updated with ultra-modern monitoring technology; and the continued implementation is now federally funded as part of the project.
To date, approximately 170 mesonet stations have been installed and the data provided is available for federal, state and local agencies to use.
In its completed state, the data pulled from the network will allow USACE to better plan dam retention and water releases to help mitigate flooding, Remus explained. Even more importantly is how the data will bolster the planning for flood fighting efforts. Knowing where flood fighting will likely be needed allows USACE and its partners to better position resources to be available where they are needed most, he added.
The project is expected to be completed in 2027 and will include 540 mesonet weather stations across the entire Upper Missouri River Basin covering 270,000 contiguous square-miles, making it the largest network of its kind worldwide.
“Although the targeted users [of this project] are the Army Corps of Engineers and its Northwestern Division water reservoir management group, as well as other federal agencies, the benefits get really broad really fast,” Hively said. “It will provide benefits to the agricultural industry, forest and stream management, and researchers will have a ton of fun with all the data that this is providing, not to mention the benefits to climate resiliency itself.”
From the benefits it will provide to future flood and drought mitigation efforts, to improving the lives of agriculturists and rural communities at large, Project Snowpack is going to make a world of difference along the entire upper Missouri River Basin.