Commander’s Column: Benefitting tomorrow’s children

Portland District Commander Col. Jose L. Aguilar

Portland District Commander Col. Jose L. Aguilar

Last time, I wrote about my travels around the District and my goal to gain situational awareness of our operational environment in order to quickly integrate into our District team. Though I’m not there yet, thank you all for a superb education. Everywhere I go I learn more about elements which contribute to the tremendous reputation of this District. All of those elements are grounded in a culture of character, competence and commitment.We are building a legacy for the benefit of our children tomorrow.

I was reminded of this last July when I participated in the unveiling of a plaque designating The Dalles Lock and Dam as an American Society of Civil Engineers National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

We started constructing The Dalles Dam in 1952, just a handful of years after the end of World War II. According to Christopher Goodell, who nominated the dam for historic recognition, the dam is unique in that it doesn’t span straight across the river like most dams in the Pacific Northwest, but is L-shaped. It was constructed this way to follow and take advantage of the navigation channel which flows through a deep underwater canyon. Also, its powerhouse and much of the structure also were built on dry land on exposed bedrock – making it a lot cheaper to build.

The project benefited the local community by providing jobs and other economic resources right after the war and the Corps’ early engineers, construction workers and other employees worked hard, setting high standards and making sacrifices so that the dam could be completed by 1957. Their innovation and expertise were the reasons the dam was less costly to build; their innovation and determination to get the job done has brought tremendous benefit to many generations living in the Pacific Northwest.

This is just one example of our legacy and reputation for innovation and excellence. There are many more at Bonneville, John Day, the dams in the Willamette Valley and Rogue River Basin, and here in Block 300.

(Corps of Engineers photo)

(Corps of Engineers photo)

As we move into the future we should have the same mindset of our earliest employees. We can emulate their high standards and ethics and always ask how we can make it better. We will challenge ourselves: the task – bring the greatest benefit to generations.This applies to every one of us as we conduct daily operations – at whatever level. It applies as we move forward collectively as a District to support our missions … like executing upcoming repairs to the MCR jetty system and completing necessary environmental work to support fish and wildlife in the Willamette Valley (as mandated by the biological opinion).

As we approach our year-end closeout I want us to have this mindset. This means we have to do what we say we will do and what we have been directed by the American people and our Administration – within the confine of legal, ethical and moral imperatives. We have to look at everything we do and ask where we can improve, be more cost efficient and productive. We must look at our processes with new eyes and be willing to make changes, where necessary.

Portland District’s reputation was built on a capable and innovative workforce. Today, we are still continuing that standard of excellence – by being principled, competent and innovative – so that we will continue to successfully meet our missions in the Pacific Northwest and, ultimately, the needs of tomorrow’s children – just as our forefathers have done for us.

Competence follows Character

Col. Jose L. Aguilar