Commander’s Column: Competence follows Character

Portland District Commander Col. Jose L. Aguilar

Portland District Commander Col. Jose L. Aguilar

I had the privilege to join our Leadership Development Program cohort when they visited Washington, D.C. in January. We had a tremendous week interacting with Congress, many Administration officials and federal partners, the media and industry partners. We were afforded a rare treat on our first day with an initial engagement with Maj. Gen. Ed Jackson, deputy commanding general for civil works. The week culminated with an address on leadership by our Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Tom Bostick. We also had the opportunity to hear from alumni of our great District: Director of Civil Works Steve Stockton, Mindy Simmons and many others. Our reputation is strong in D.C. because we deliver on our commitments and produce leaders of character for the future of our nation.

The following week, we conducted a quarterly Operations Project Review in the Willamette Valley. The close timing of these two events resonated with me. Our local challenges are not unique. Headquarters hears from all the districts about the challenges we face regarding policy, funding and competing priorities. And, the partnerships we foster here help us work through those issues and our partners let headquarters and our Congressional delegation know the great work we are accomplishing here. It is only through Portland District’s workforce – people tremendous of character, superb competence and tremendous commitment – that we are able to work these tough challenges.

The future of the District looks great. The president released his FY17 budget to Congress and the FY16 work plan (how we will execute our FY16 funding) on Feb. 9. While we did very well in both, we must continue to focus on execution to maintain the trust of the American people.

Change is all around us. At the national level, the Chief of Engineers is scheduled to transition on May 19, and Maj. Gen. Todd Semonite has been named as his successor. At the regional level, Lt. Col. Tim Vail and Col. Andy Sexton, our Walla Walla and Kansas City district commanders, respectively, will change command this summer.

Our U.S. Coast Guard partners also have two significant transitions with Capt. Dan Travers, Columbia River Sector commander, and Capt. Patrick Ropp, Marine Safety Unit Portland commander, transitioning this summer.

At the District level we have multiple changes this year. I ask for your continued patience and dedication as we bring so many of our teammates and partners up to speed; these relationships are great investments.

Finally, our deputy commander, Lt. Col. Shawn Patrick, will assume command of the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McCord in July. We will bid farewell to him and his family later this spring and will welcome Lt. Col. Cullen Jones and his family later this summer. In the interim, Capt. Dan Robledo will assume the duties of our deputy. Dan was recently approved for promotion to major, so please congratulate him.

Please take the time to scan the articles in the issue. Many hit on our OPLAN focus: People, Process, Programs/ Projects. As a reminder, the six focus items are Workforce/ Workload, Knowledge Management, Asset Management and Future Investments, STEM, Cyber Security, and Acquisition. Although Headquarters and Northwestern Division are drafting up adjustments to the current campaign plan and implementation plans, I am confident that we have properly evaluated the operational environment and have dedicated energy on the highest payoff initiatives.

I would like to highlight “Water Matters” as our theme for the year. We rolled out the theme and video at the New Year’s reception with all of our senior District leaders and their guests, and at the January Town Hall. The article on page 7 does a great job of explaining the theme. Please take the five minutes to watch it and even better, use it educate your friends, neighbors and members of the Great American public.

It should be pretty clear to you through the Water Matters video, that it is our People of character, competence and commitment with disciplined and ever improving Processes who deliver on our Programs/Projects that makes us a great organization. And, our reputation of mission accomplishment is our capital. Thank you for all you do to continue to add to the tremendous reputation of our District team and team of teams across the Corps of Engineers.