LOS ANGELES – For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District’s 246th Engineer Day observance, the commander joined the district deputy engineer in a virtual format July 29 via YouTube Live to recognize employees’ accomplishments and provide updates about the District and its projects.
Col. Julie Balten and David Van Dorpe hosted what the district traditionally celebrates together with an in-person event, recognizing employees for length-of-service, district, regional and national awards, as well as recognizing past employees for their contributions to the organization. Like many events in the last year, the pandemic prevented this – but it didn’t stop the observance or the employee recognition.
“We’re excited today to share with you the observance of 246 years of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Balten said. “That’s what today is a celebration of, and we’re going to highlight our people today because people are our most valued resource. We appreciate everyone’s hard work in delivering our programs.”
LA District employee recognition included national award recipients, South Pacific Division national award nominees and length-of-service awardees with between five years and 45 years of service.
Van Dorpe highlighted the following LA District employees for receiving national awards: Capt. Douglas Ritchie for the 2020 USACE Civil Responder of the Year Award; Mohammed Siddiqui for the 2020 USACE Military Responder of the Year Award; Jim Hutchison for the 2019 Noel Clay Planning Champion Award; and the Westminster/East Garden Grove Flood-Risk Management Team (LA and Chicago districts) for the 2019 Planning Achievement Award.
“This was presented to the Chicago District and the LA District for our collaborative team approach to completing this study,” Van Dorpe said, referring to the last award. “This recommended and approved plan, and now authorized project, is a $1.4 billion flood-risk management project, located in Orange County, California. The team performed a Herculean effort to deliver this study on time and within budget.”
Van Dorpe also highlighted several employees and teams nominated and then selected at the regional level by the South Pacific Division commander for different achievements. Among the honorees were: Joe Derungs for the 2021 Installation Support Professional of the Year Award; the Malibu Creek Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study Team for the 2020 Outstanding Planning Achievement Award (Enterprise); Mike Hallisy for the 2020 Planning Excellence Award (Enterprise); Megan Whalen for the 2020 Planning Excellence Award (Programmatic); and the Silver Jackets Interagency Tribal Workshops Team, Flood Risk Management, for the 2019 Planning Achievement Award (Programmatic).
Additionally, Louis Munoz, LA District Emergency Management specialist, was nominated by the District as the “USACE Civil Responder of the Year Award (Civilian)” and David Kingston, LA District Emergency Management chief, was nominated by the District as the “USACE Emergency Manager of the Year.”
“Many of these do go on to a national award,” Van Dorpe said. “Even if they weren’t that national-award winner, we certainly wanted to recognize their achievements.”
Other topics included current projects, such as work at the Veterans Affairs medical complexes in Long Beach and San Diego, and the mission at three area hospitals in support of FEMA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Balten also talked about updates on the building renovation and recent changes to the telework policy.
For the telework policy, Balten pointed out that there is a lunch-and-learn meeting scheduled, so employees can ask questions and demystify some of the complexities of the evolving policy.
“The biggest thing I want to convey is that we want to maintain flexibility for everyone as much as possible,” Balten said. “Obviously, we have to deliver. The number one priority is the health of our force. If we don’t have a healthy force, we can’t deliver.”
Although she wished the district could meet in person for Engineer Day, Balten said the virtual event was still a great opportunity to recognize everyone in the district.
“Every single person in this district matters,” Balten added. “I really appreciate what you all bring to the table every day. Please know what you do really does make a difference. Continue those efforts and make sure that we continue the year strong.”