By Jess LevensonMay 22, 2018
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District held Advanced Facilities Engineering training (known as FE-302) at the District headquarters, May 7-11, 2018, in order to increase facility lifecycle efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars.
Tom Switala, former Technical Services Chief, Buffalo District, and Mike Wilson, former Deputy for Project Management at the Corps of Engineers Nashville District, instructed the class of 30 employee participants.
"The Department of Defense passed down a requirement across the Department that resulted in a need for a significant number of Corps personnel to become certified in facility engineering at different levels, said Wilson. "This was done to help assure the Corps maintains acquisition and contracting authority. The training is normally done by Defense Acquisition University, but they couldn't handle such a large requirement in the two-year timeframe."
"Students would've had to travel to DAU facilities in Alabama, Ohio, or Virginia," said Switala. "And there would only be a few slots in each class."
Wilson and Switala became involved due to a solution the Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division proposed.
"Mr. Steve Durrett, LRD Regional Business Director, proposed having retired senior Corps staff become certified adjunct professors to teach facility engineering to LRD [Great Lakes and Ohio River Division] staff," Switala said.
The DAU agreed with the concept and it was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding between DAU Midwest Region and LRD.
"Steve's idea became an opportunity to meet the DoD's mandate in a quick and economical way," Wilson said. "It saves taxpayer dollars, teaches more students in a shorter period of time, meets requirements from a higher authority, and brings a Corps flavor to the program."
"FE-302 training is crucial because it covers the entire lifecycle of a facility from real estate planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance, to include military and civil works requirements," said Frank O'Connor, Buffalo District Senior Project Manager and participant at the FE-302 training. "It made all the difference to have former experienced Corps employees teach us in a classroom setting. They put exercises in a Corps context that we could relate to, and there was a greater focus on teamwork in the exercises."
The Buffalo District has currently certified 64 personnel out of the required 80. The District is on track to meet its division's metric of greater than 96% before the end of Fiscal Year 2018.
Wilson, Switala and Marilyn Lewis, former Louisville District Chief of Engineering, began teaching facility engineering to Corps of Engineers districts in Oct. 2017. They began in Louisville, then traveled through Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Huntington, Korea, Japan, Chicago and Detroit. They will be teaching classes at least through Fiscal Year 2019.
"As people retire, others have to replace them and move up into positions that require facility engineering certification," said Wilson. "Then they'll have to take the class, so this will not end in two years. It's the peak right now."