A year in command

Portland District Commander Col. Jose L. Aguilar

Portland District Commander Col. Jose L. Aguilar

Portland District,

You often hear the stories of people who love their job and “GET TO” do some awesome things. I am that person.

Here are some of my first year observations of the depth and breadth of our tremendous team:

During a recent visit to the Rogue River Basin Project, I spent some time with Jim Buck’s small, but motivated team. It felt like having lunch with family. What a great team! I “GOT TO” hear about golf passions and traveling the world to watch birds. I learned that nearly the entire team has made some personal changes which have enhanced their physical health. I also observed hatchery operations with our state partners.

In the Willamette Valley, on a beautiful weekend, I enjoyed the best burger I’ve ever had with the operators at one of our projects. On another visit, I ran on Hayward Field with an Olympic runner AND with Erik Petersen and several highly motivated runners who woke up early and took him up on one of his many challenges to the workforce. We also ran all the way up Prefontaine’s Hill and made a quick stop at “the rock.”

At Bonneville Lock and Dam, where Jerry Carroll has hosted me many times, each visit is a learning experience for me. Most recently, my good War College classmate visited and saw a part of the U.S. Army, which most Infantrymen seldom see. He was impressed with our organization, and he learned how he can better support our civilian workforce with the Army programs of the future.

At The Dalles Lock and Dam, after a group lunch, we walked the powerhouse and talked through some of the future investments. Ron Twiner’s team, after a bit of encouragement, asked some superb questions about the future of our District.

At John Day Lock and Dam, Kevin Moynahan continues to coach (no really, he does remind me of a coach). I also was fortunate enough to make their Christmas gathering – what a hoot, and what a family atmosphere. Dwane Watsek did outbid me, however, for the prized chocolate cake (which he also donated back to the group … thanks Dwane).
On the dredges, I witnessed an amazing operations environment – these dedicated professionals are at work all day and all night. If you ever “GET TO” spend time on either the Essayons or the Yaquina, do. They will take great care of you.

And, speaking of navigation, I have stood on every jetty structure from the mouth of the Columbia to Brookings.

Here at Block 300, the Engineering and Construction Division team led by Lance Helwig has proven they are the engineer technical experts of the District … and apparently, of other government agencies and Corps of Engineers districts all the way to Afghanistan.

Kevin Brice and his Planning, Programs and Project Management Division team continues to push out our planning horizon to ensure the requirements of the region are resourced and that the long term health of the District is secure.

Steve Miles and the rest of the Hydroelectric Design Center team are always working to provide the best support to
our hydropower mission and to 15 other districts across the Corps, while also engaging with the most senior level of our government partners to ensure we have the upper hand in cyber space.

As for the Operations Division, Dwane Watsek and his small contingent of professionals work hard to ensure the teams out in the field are properly supported.

Finally, the Support Division led by our deputy Lt. Col. Shawn Patrick – nothing gets done without the support of his great team.

As for me, I “GET TO” represent you in our relationships with others. Starting with our Northwestern Division and national headquarters in DC, we have a superb working environment based on trust and mutual respect. I met with Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick on May 5. After providing him an update on the status of the Portland District, he said he was tremendously thankful for your service and that we are operating within his intent. He often uses some of your accomplishments as examples when talking with the Army’s senior leadership.

I also had the opportunity to meet with our 11 Congressional delegates, who have interest in all that we do in Oregon and southwest Washington. They thanked us for what we are doing in support of the people of the Northwest. Industry is also very happy with your performance and is a superb advocate. We also often meet with our Tribal partners to discuss topics of mutual interest. Though we don’t always agree, we have a collaborative relationship based on trust. These engagements are always personally and professionally rewarding for me.

This is a superb District with tremendous breadth and depth. Not one of us has the ability to see all that our teammates do in support of the American people. I have the opportunity to see more (yet probably understand less of the specifics) of the District. I share this with you to convey that you are part of something special.

So … (I’ve learned that is how you always start a conversation here in Oregon), I “GET TO” do some very cool things, but best of all, I am proud to be your commander and that I “GET TO” interact with all of you; civilians, military, family members and retirees of this awesome institution dedicated to serving the American people.

Competence follows Character.
Col . Jose Aguilar
61st Colonel of the District