Veterans bring legacy of service to USACE

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District
Published Aug. 27, 2021
Updated: Aug. 27, 2021

SACRAMENTO, California -- Veterans make up around 31 percent of the federal workforce—but did you know that in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that number is even higher?

Former members of the armed forces make up about 40 percent of the USACE workforce, and that’s not counting the active duty members of USACE.

Many veterans continue to serve in the reserves, and this is a source of great fulfillment for them. Just ask Melanie Tymes, who balances a demanding workload as project manager of Sacramento River erosion and mitigation projects with drilling for the U.S. Coast Guard and occasional deployments.

Tymes joined USACE and the Coast Guard around the same time, which presented a unique set of challenges.

“I started with the Los Angeles District in 2014,” said Tymes. “Then I went to Coast Guard basic training two weeks after I joined USACE.”

“It was a whirlwind tour across the country—twice!” she added.

On her drill weekends, Tymes is a marine science technician. Her two Australian shepherds, Hank and Teddy, usually pile into her car for the weekend drive to the Bay Area every month. 

Tymes has one deployment so far with the Coast Guard, a two-month stint in McAllen, Texas in 2019. During that mission, Tymes assisted Customs and Border Protection with the processing of immigrant cases along the southern border.

Deployments can create special challenges for reservists, who must balance a civilian career with the demands of the military. Despite the legal protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, reservists often feel caught between the practical demands of two jobs that can’t be done simultaneously. That’s why it’s important for reservists and supervisors to understand their rights and responsibilities and formulate a plan to support the deploying servicemember and the USACE mission.

“The best scenario is when the deploying person and their supervisor work together,” she added. “No one wants to feel disposable or like they’re abandoning the team.”

Kevin Vestal is a familiar face around the Sacramento District, having been at the district since 2010 and USACE since 2002. A visual information specialist in the G-6, which handles technical support and communications, Vestal is quick to make friends and almost as quick to share stories of his active duty Army career. 

“This job keeps me close to the military community, with all the camaraderie that entails,” said Vestal. “I’m still supporting an Army mission with people I enjoy working with, and that means a lot to me.”

Vestal thinks USACE strikes a unique balance that’s a good fit for service members who have recently separated from the military. 

“USACE may not always have the austerity and challenges of the military, but it’s still a great fit for someone who likes to get the job done,” said Vestal. “That attitude is highly valued here, and we take care of our people too.”

For more information including available jobs at the Sacramento District, visit USAJOBS, the federal government’s hiring site. Veterans are always welcome to apply!