FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (April 16, 2021) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Commanding General Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon conducted his first ever visit to the Pacific Ocean Division (POD), engaging with key military and governmental partners, as well as with members of the USACE team April 12 - 16.
As part of his visit, the 55th Chief of Engineers conducted office calls with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) leaders to discuss USACE support capabilities, expertise, and engagements with international partners throughout the region. Deputy Commander for USINDOPACOM Lt. Gen. Michael A Minihan, United States Air Force, commented on POD’s contribution to USINDOPACOM’s strategic goals. “The USACE team goes beyond their enduring commitment as America’s engineers, delivering vital solutions to our nation’s toughest challenges, but also extends that commitment to our pacific partners when called upon. This not only contributes to USINDOPACOM’s focus on increased interoperability, information-sharing, and expanded access across the region in times of crisis and calm, but cements USACE’s reputation as global experts in all things engineering,” Minihan said.
In addition to USINDOPACOM, Spellmon also highlighted USACE's efforts to strengthen alliances and partners in the Indo-Pacific with leaders at U.S. Army Pacific, reinforcing the enterprise's commitment to our foreign partners. "This past year has taught us that engaging with our partners in a meaningful way need not come to an end due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but that virtual collaborations, exchanges and trainings are a great way to continue deepening valued international relationships. POD has done this exceptionally well, and I couldn't be prouder of what the team has accomplished," Spellmon said.
POD Commander Col. Kirk Gibbs accompanied Spellmon, highlighting to the Chief the complex challenges facing the command. “The Pacific Ocean Division has one of the most unique missions in all of USACE. We have not only the Arctic in Alaska and the jungles of Hawaii; we also work with our Allies in Japan and Korea and oversee projects across the Indo-Pacific. Our geographically diverse region also faces some of the most acute climate change impacts: coastal erosion, sea level rise, and water management. The scope of our mission is both immense and immensely important, and we accomplish it thanks to the expertise of our talented POD workforce and the entire enterprise,” Gibbs said.
The Chief of Engineers also spent time with POD employees during their regional headquarters’ townhall, which was conducted both virtually and with a limited number of staff face-to-face. During the event, Spellmon emphasized his number one priority of taking care of people. “When USACE leaders at all levels are unilaterally committed to putting people first, we begin to live up to our most important obligation of not only ensuring the health and wellness of our workforce in the time of COVID and beyond, but we begin to cultivate a culture of excellence through employee development, workforce transformation and the enhancement of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” he said.
Spellmon also discussed the future of telework, charging key headquarters staff with reshaping how USACE does business and empowering commanders to make localized decisions. “From the headquarters perspective we are looking at all our policies, procedures and in some cases legislation, and then making revisions where it makes sense. We also want to provide tools and flexibility to sustain the momentum and increased productivity we’ve seen since the start of 2020. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to how things were before the pandemic where we ask everyone to come back to the office, but instead, I expect to see a workplace that takes a diversity of thought approach to how we deliver projects in new ways and implements all that we’ve learned through the pandemic. At the end of the day, the future of the workplace will look different at all 44 districts and nine regions, and that’s completely ok,” Spellmon said.
Other topics included a USACE-level mission update, the fiscal budget, and adapting to increased workloads in support of the nation.
During the visit, Spellmon also engaged with partners and staff from the Honolulu District, which falls within POD’s scope of responsibility.
Several of his stops included site visits to military construction, civil works and other Honolulu District projects on Oahu and Hawaii Island. “We’re very pleased that Lt. Gen. Spellmon saw firsthand how our team of professionals are delivering a diverse and complex set of missions,” said Lt. Col. Eric Marshall, commander and district engineer, USACE, Honolulu District. “He saw that we are fully committed to serving both the military community and the local residents of Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories.”