Inspecting Mississippi River shoreline opened door to support DLA site visits nationwide
November 26, 2013
By Donna Hardy
Real Estate Division Region North
Rock Island District
My career with the Corps started more than 25 years ago as a park ranger in the Rock Island District. I have a parks, recreation and tourism administration degree from Western Illinois University and only recently joined the Real Estate Division in 2010.
I've actually been doing real estate work for a long time. As a shoreline management ranger, I did inspections along 314 river miles of the Mississippi River. I learned a lot working with realty specialists, the process of granting Special Use Licenses for permitted items on land owned by the Corps. I issued the Shoreline Use Permits to cover private boat docks and lifts along the river.
I got involved with the Defense Logistics Agency Program when the Fort Worth District asked Ron Williams in my office who might be available to support their efforts. Through all my years with the Corps I have never volunteered for flood fighting or hurricane duty. This was the first time I raised my hand to volunteer because my kids are old enough now. And I'm glad I did.
Two weeks later I was off to Colorado and Wyoming. I went to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base and Cheyenne Air National Guard in Wyoming and Buckley Air Force Base, Pueblo Chemical Depot and Fort Carson/Pinon Canyon in Colorado. On this first trip, I had no idea what to expect. Brian Riggs from the Fort Worth District was my real estate lead and he was great. He was patient and very knowledgeable in explaining the procedures - taking photos, getting GPS coordinates, assisting in defining what was real property and what was not. All the real estate team was on their first DLA site visit except Brian. There was a lot of learning from the first minute.
USACE is supporting the DLA's efforts to comply with the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, which requires auditable financial statements to improve accountability. This effort includes site visits at DLA facilities worldwide to assess environmental and facility conditions and to inventory real property.
When I came back from that first trip, the Fort Worth District wanted some folks to be trained as team leads. Three of us out of the Rock Island office, including Bonnie Tanamor and Jason Appel, joined with Jeff Grow, Ken Peterson and Bob Ayotte from the St. Paul office for the training in Fort Worth. Sharron Montgomery explained from A to Z what our role would be on site visits.
Weather is a typical issue out in the field. You're burning up one minute, the next moment you're in a downpour trying to keep paperwork and equipment dry. You also have to be flexible, open-minded to change and adaptable. While you have to be independent, you also have to work well with others at the same time. As a team lead you have to be able to go do an assignment without someone holding your hand. But you also have to work cooperatively with the other assessment teams.
I've supported the DLA Program by assisting on site visits - most of them a week long. The only exception was the two-week trip to Hawaii. I was sent to the Kwajalein Atoll from the "mainland." The most amazing experience on that trip was crossing the International Dateline, landing on such a small island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and looking out from shore and not seeing anything except water on the horizon.
The New Jersey-Connecticut-Rhode Island assignment was a fun one! That trip was a lot of travel and long days. Six bases in four days! The first day was two bases in New Jersey, and then after working a long day, we had to hop in the car for a five-hour drive, through New York City congestion, to Connecticut. Then after working there, we had to drive on to Rhode Island to inspect three bases before flying home Friday.
I was in awe of the Naval ships docked at the piers in San Diego. You feel so small when you are near them. I am used to seeing towboats with barges, up to 1,200-feet long all the time on the Mississippi River but they didn't compare to the size of the ships in San Diego.
One highlight from my first trip was stopping by the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on the way to the airport. I was impressed by the Cadet Chapel. The architecture and design of the building makes it a work of art. It was interesting the way the chapel accommodates numerous faith communities. It was a moving experience.
All in all, the hard work along the way is worth it.
I have been able to see places, which I never would have seen before. I have found locales I will return to again during retirement; when I have time to sightsee and enjoy the area.