By Dr. Michael Izard-CarrollJuly 12, 2018
Lt. Col. Adam J. Czekanski officially turned over command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District to Lt. Col. Jason A. Toth the morning of June 29, 2018.
The change of command ceremony took place aboard the USS Little Rock located at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, One Naval Park, Buffalo NY. The ceremony is a time-honored Army tradition dating back before the Civil War, and emphasizes the continuity of command and unit identity, despite changes in individual authority from one officer to another.
"It has been a true honor to serve with such a talented and professional team in the Buffalo District," said Lt. Col. Adam Czekanski. "The people in our organization have made the past two years personally enjoyable and professionally rewarding for me. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside these talented, dedicated, selfless men and women in service to the communities of the Lower Great Lakes watershed and our Nation."
On the occasion of his departure, Lt. Col. Czekanski agreed to an interview as an opportunity to reflect on his time with the Buffalo District.
What was your impression of the Buffalo District before you arrived here, and what was that impression based on?
"My overall impression of the Buffalo District was that it was a high-performing organization with great people. I heard a lot of positive things about the professionalism and performance of the District, primarily with respect to the Dive Team and the Infrastructure Assessment PRT. I worked with people in San Francisco who had experience interacting with both teams and they spoke very highly of the people on the teams and their proficiency. Of course, Lt. Col. Jansen [Czekanski's predecessor] spoke extremely highly of the people in the District and the leadership. His genuine praise for the people and the organization made a strong impression on me and convinced me that I was joining a great team."
What surprised you the most as a commander when you first arrived?
"How well everyone got along. There was very little drama and people genuinely worked together to accomplish the mission. I felt like this was accurate to the blue-collar roots of Western New York, that attitude of cooperation and working hard to get the job done."
What have you learned by your experience here in Buffalo?
"The strategic importance of "telling our story" effectively to internal and external audiences. There are a lot of senior leaders in LRD [Great Lakes and Ohio River Division] and USACE who don't fully understand or appreciate the diversity of missions we successfully accomplish in the Buffalo District. It is equally important that we tell that story to external audiences and build an appreciation for the services our District provides to communities throughout the Lower Great Lakes watershed, as well as to our Nation. Gaining that appreciation helps to build trust and confidence in our organization."
What were some of the most memorable moments about your tour here?
"My most memorable moments are the interactions with the people in our District. I always enjoyed walking around and talking to people about how things were going both professionally and personally. I also took great pride in being able to get out to our field sites with a regular frequency to let our employees working at those locations know how much we appreciate what they do for our District 'away from the flagpole'. And it was definitely a pleasure working closely with our leaders."
What was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
"Repairing fractured relationships in Ohio. The greatest challenges during my time with the Buffalo District definitely stemmed from the friction with Cleveland Harbor that impacted our mission in a number of areas. Reaching out to leadership in the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to work collaboratively on the issue of beneficial use of dredged material resulted in a strong partnership with both agencies. It took a lot of hard work by people on all sides to build trust, but it was very satisfying to see how healthy the relationships were by the end of my time in command and how this translated into positive momentum in a number of other areas in our program."
What advice do you have for Lt. Col. Toth?
"Fence time on your calendar every day to get out and talk with members of the District. It is easy to get consumed by a whole host of other things, but I cannot think of anything more important than getting to know the great people of the Buffalo District. Presence matters...in Buffalo and throughout our AOR [area of responsibility]."
What will you miss most about the Buffalo District?
"The people...of course."
Where are you going and what will you be doing in the short-term/long-term?
"Niagara University to serve as the Professor of Military Science for their ROTC program. I will also be attending the Army War College by distance learning simultaneously, so it will be busy. I am sad that my time with the Buffalo District went by so fast, but I look forward to the opportunity to teach, interact with, and mentor cadets. It will definitely be a change of pace going from the numerous activities in the 38,000 square miles of the Buffalo District area of responsibility, to the 38,000 square FEET of office and training facilities at Niagara University!"
Lt. Col. Czekanski leaves a legacy, along with 72 commanders (including acting) before him. While the winds of change blow by the Buffalo District every couple years with a new commander, the work each does provides enduring strength and stability to the organization, long after they are gone.