Another year has passed and it’s Thanksgiving season once again. Like many others across the states and abroad, I have a tradition of gathering with family and friends to socialize and partake in the requisite epic feast. Along with the stuffing (of both bird and people) another annual custom we participate in is taking a moment for each person gathered to share what they are thankful for.
Working as a journalist and public affairs specialist for 20-plus years, I have covered many stories about Thanksgiving. I’ve written about soldiers eating at chow halls overseas, injuries incurred during the playing of annual Thanksgiving Day football games, unique meals people prepare instead of turkey, and many more. But this year, when I started thinking about a possible Thanksgiving-themed story, I realized that one of the things I am grateful for is my job.
Grateful for your … job did you say? For work? Yes! While working for the Sacramento District, I’ve met a handful of people who told me the Corps is their first job. But for many of us, the path to a job at the Corps was a long one, filled with some crazy stepping-stones. Some of us had to start with, how shall we say it, humbler beginnings. You know, those early work days of busing tables, washing dishes, pushing brooms.
Personally, I’ve worked some doozies. From house painter to lumberjack, janitor to journalist, bellman to banquet server. So, yes, I’m grateful for my job. I’m grateful for my colleagues, and thankful for the interesting work I get to do with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
I began wondering if other people might feel the same way, and decided to ask some Sacramento District colleagues their thoughts on the topic. So happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy the responses people provided on, “Why I am grateful to be working for the Corps.”
: Andra Homer, Deputy Chief, Resource Management
Where: Resource Management
When: I started with USACE in 2006, and transitioned to USACE Sacramento District in 2016.
What: Financial Management
Why I’m grateful: I am grateful for the amazing support from my phenomenal team here in Resource Management. I experienced a sudden tragedy in my family this year, which had a significant impact to my personal life outside of work. The Leadership within Resource Management, as well as the Senior Leadership of SPK, was extremely supportive of me both personally and professionally. I received so many kind words, thoughts, and encouragement as I went through a period of my life that was most challenging. I know that our mission is incredibly important, with multi-millions of dollars entrusted to our District for the amazing work we do. However, I wanted to mention being grateful for something that is priceless! Something that cannot be measured with money, or a chart, or a planned schedule of project execution. Those things are critical and important, but I am grateful for something that can only be felt through personal experience. I am forever grateful for the kindness and warmth from people at a time when I needed support the most. I could not have made it without my team’s technical support and willingness to step up and assist while I was out. Taking care of people is much more than a phrase, or a Campaign Plan, or a terminology used – but rather for me, Taking Care of People was an experience for which I am grateful and will always cherish!
John Parrish, Supervisory Electrical Engineer
Where: Electrical Design Section, Military Design Branch, Engineering Division
When: Started November 1987.
What: Used to design electrical systems for military projects, technically lead our electrical team, and started the Solar Photovoltaic Center of Expertise. Now I supervise those that do these same things.
Why I’m grateful: I like the people at Sacramento District. Quality, professional and genuinely good people work here. I like helping the new engineers who are just out of college start their engineering careers with USACE. I am grateful for Sacramento District because it has given me and my family stability for over 30 years.
The work is interesting, due to the variety, working with many people, and the unique military projects we are involved with. It is also an honor to support the “military customer.”
: Therese M. Lafferty
Where: Black Butte Dam and Lake in Orland, California. Student Trainee (Administrative and Office Support).
When: Since January 2019, I’ve served as the Pathways Project Assistant.
What: I’m pursuing an MBA degree in management and finance.
I’m training in administrative support as well as in natural resource management including recreation and visitor assistance. At the reception desk, I’m the “face” of the project. I greet and help visitors, answer calls and emails, and coordinate communications with volunteers, contractors, and District partners. I regularly convey information about water safety and our Life Jacket Loaner Stations to visitors and callers. I also issue annual and lifetime recreation passes and much more.
Why I’m grateful: What I appreciate most about working for the Corps is the genuine teamwork that I’m experiencing. At Black Butte Lake, the Park Manager actively promotes the idea that everyone here—maintenance crew, rangers, and admin staff—works together as a united, well-functioning team. He has us do teambuilding activities, and he treats us all, even the Pathways interns, as equal members of the team. As a result, we all share common feelings of pride, fellowship, and loyalty. Working for the Corps is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m immensely grateful for this opportunity. My father is a U.S. Army veteran which is one reason why I applied for this Pathways internship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I’m extremely grateful and proud to serve my nation as a member of the Corps while fulfilling my passion for office and administrative work. I’m very thankful to have this internship that will allow me to continue working in federal service.
: Nancy Haley
Where: Chief California North Section, Regulatory Division
When: I started with the Corps as a student in 1990 when we were at 650 Capitol Mall.
What: I have a team, and am part of a larger team, who regulate Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. My work has taken me from the top of the Tehachapi’s, to the top of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges and everywhere in-between. I have worked in the south Central Valley all the way to the northern border of California, from Lake Tahoe, to Yosemite, little tiny valley towns to larger ones, from authorizing work for UC Merced, to boat docks in the delta and wetlands in the valley.
Why I’m grateful: Working for the Corps has been a great experience. They have allowed me to finish my degree, be sure my job was waiting for me when I had my two younger children, and have given me lifetime relationships. In my job, I have met some awesome leaders who have trained me well for my positions and had a good hand at the helm of our district. Opportunities to work at the Pentagon and Headquarters in DC, participating in my own leadership development and the chance to help other staff develop, move on and upward have filled my career. I am grateful for being able to work for a strong institution with good people.
: Darlene Stacher, Branch Administration
Where: Environmental Engineering Branch
When: I’ve worked for the Corps since July 20, 2009.
What: Along with my normal duties, I work with the Annual Children’s (Homeless children) Christmas party, and have participated on four emergency deployments: Hurricane Irma in 2017, where I worked 45 straight 12-hour days on the Florida Blue Roof project (where the alligators roam!). In 2017 (2018 actual deployment) I deployed to the California Wildfires Resident Field Office for 45 days and received 2-Star Deputy Commanding General/civil and emergency operations coin as well as a California Wildfire Recovery coin. In 2018, I deployed to Hurricane Michael and the Georgia Debris Mission where I Received the Department of the Army Achievement Medal. In 2018 I participate in the California wildfires reach-back for FEMA reporting.
Why I’m grateful: The people. I have met so many great people in a wide variety of job categories while on deployment – People that I am still in contact with, and friends who have visited me here in California. And not just co-workers! I have made many new friends, from teachers to police officers, and even one of my new besties – a tattoo artist. I am very grateful for the opportunities I have experienced working for the corps of engineers. The majority of those who suffer loss during the hurricanes and fires we respond to are so grateful for our help (I actually have only met thankful people.) On deployments, I’m glad to do the 12.5 hour days, seven days a week. They are brutal, but worth it!
Cory Koger, Senior Chemist, Water Quality Program Manager
Where: Environmental Chemistry Section
When: I’ve worked at the Corps as a for 18 years, since November of 2001
What: Toxicologist and Chemist
Why: I’m grateful to be working for the Corps because it has allowed a work/life balance, even including deployment for emergency response. I’ve been able to work on a large and small civil works, habitat restoration, Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS), Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and emergency response projects along with many other aspects of our USACE responsibilities. I’m also grateful to have worked with so many fantastic people within the Sacramento District – people that make the job more enjoyable and meaningful.
Keley Stock (at left in photo.) Where:
District Office, Management Support Branch, Operations-Technical Section, NRM
I’ve been with USACE 20 years, starting in 1999. (1999-2009 South Pacific Division and 2009-2019 Sacramento District). What:
I am a Natural Resources Specialist/Park Ranger, as well as the District Environmental Compliance Coordinator for Operations. As a Subject Matter Expert, I am responsible for conducting assessments within Operations evaluating compliance related to air emissions, wastewater, hazardous materials, hazardous waste, natural and cultural resources, solid waste, pesticides, and petroleum, oils and lubricants. I am a certified hazardous materials instructor for the state of California and provide annual hazmat, hazard communication, and spill response training to field projects from Black Butte to Success Lake. I also serve as an in-house Oleoresin Capsicum (Pepper Spray) instructor and am the district collateral duty safety officer for Operations. I currently serve as an instructor on a national headquarters-sponsored training team, teaching comprehensive environmental compliance assessment processes. As the Sustainability Program Manager, I support development of sustainable work packages, track and report energy and water data, and more. Why I’m grateful:
I like working for the Corps of Engineers because of the myriad of training and growth opportunities that have been afforded to me. I’ve enjoyed working as an interpreter educating the public, participated three times in career development assignments in Public Affairs and deployed as a Quality Assurance Inspector during Hurricane Katrina and a Quality Assurance Supervisor for Hurricane Michael. I’m grateful for the relationships that I’ve developed and built with mentors at headquarters, South Pacific Division, and in our Safety Office and the Emergency Operations Center. I am lucky to teach on a national level with an incredibly smart and competent training cadre, representing six districts across the country, and have found the networking with other districts and divisions most valuable. I’m thankful to have been selected to serve on environmental compliance inspection assessments teams for places like ERDC
, The Naval Weapons Station, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston. Another added bonus working for USACE is being able to travel to parts of the United States that I may not have otherwise visited. I am grateful and most proud to be a USACE Park Ranger. It is great to be part of an incredibly unique group of individuals who I consider not only my friends but family.
: Twanisha Murphy, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Specialist.
Where: EEO Office, Room 820.
When: I’ve been with the Corps for two years.
What: I advise employees and managers, brief employees on their rights and responsibilities, review resumes, manage Special Emphasis Programs and host events, Disability Program Manager, Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator, Counsel EEO complaints.
Why I’m grateful: I enjoy meeting employees who are working in various positions around the district. I also enjoy helping to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
: Lynn Moquette (at left in photo), Supervisory Civil Engineer
What: Chief Levee Safety Section, Geotechnical Engineering Branch.
When: I started working for the Corps in 1985. I had an MS in Geotechnical Engineering from UC Davis, and the private firms that I interviewed with did not want to hire a female Geotechnical Engineer, seemingly because they didn’t think that women could hold their own out in the field with men. I was very grateful that Clark Stanage decided to give me a chance, making me the first female Engineer in Geotechnical Engineering Branch here at Sacramento District in 1985. I stayed with the Corps for 21 years, leaving in 2007 for an exciting job in the private sector with a local Geotechnical Engineering firm. When things slowed down there, I came back to the Corps in 2014, landing back in the Geotechnical Engineering Branch, Levee Safety Section. I have now been with the Corps a total of 26 years out of my 34-year engineering career.
What: As the Chief of Levee Safety Section, my primary concern is the well-being of the nine engineers and one Admin in my Section, ensuring that they are fully supported, trained, and resourced. Our main responsibility is the Corps’ Levee Safety Program, which was created in 2006 in response to Hurricane Katrina to assess levee integrity to ensure that Corps levee systems do not present unacceptable risk. Over much of the last decade, we have been conducting risk assessments of Sacramento District’s levee portfolio with the ultimate goal of making risk-informed recommendations to improve public safety associated with levee systems. The engineers in Levee Safety Section are also working on the Lower San Joaquin project, Sacramento Bank Protection Project, Marysville Ring Levee project, and Section 408 permits and construction projects.
Why I’m grateful: I like working for the Corps because I feel strongly about our mission of reducing risk to the public and improving public safety. I have a passion for levees, and the Corps has given me a long and varied career working on levees, and even some dams. What I enjoy most, however, is hiring and supporting the folks in my Section, helping to guide and mentor my new engineers, and making sure that my experienced engineers are supported and challenged. I’m most grateful to the Corps for allowing me to begin my career in Geotechnical Engineering when nobody else would hire a female Geotechnical Engineer, and then for a long and exciting career working on large projects such as the Delta, Natomas, and Folsom Dam. More recently, I am grateful for the gratifying opportunity to develop and contribute to the careers of the other folks in my Section.