One common misconception about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is that most people who work for the agency are in the military. In fact, of the roughly 37,000 people who work for USACE, only about 800 are active-duty military, with the vast majority being civilians. Because there are so few uniformed USACE employees across the enterprise, an annual course was developed to bring them together to learn about the organization from a military perspective.
The District Officer Introductory Course is an annual course that is designed to bring junior officers from all over USACE together to learn, collaborate and network. This year’s course was hosted by the St. Louis District in St. Louis, from December 4 to 8. The Kansas City District and the Louisville District both supported the course.
“St. Louis is in a unique location as there are three different districts here and divisions that overlap in this area,” said Maj. Eric Anderson, Next National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency West project manager with the Kansas City District, USACE, and a presenter at this year’s course.
According to Anderson, St. Louis is a great city to host the course because students can see active military construction and civil works projects from three different districts in three different divisions. On this year’s agenda, students visited the Next NGA West campus, a Kansas City District mega project, the Melvin Price Lock and Dam, a St. Louis District civil works project, and military construction on Scott Air Force Base, which falls under the Louisville District’s area of responsibility.
“A common theme for the course is, if you’ve seen one district, you’ve seen one district,” said Anderson. “So here is a chance to see three other districts in addition to their home district and see how things are run. We do things similar across USACE, but some districts do things a little bit differently to optimize efficiency so it’s just a chance to see how things run across the enterprise.”
Anderson knows firsthand how important it is to learn and collaborate with others from across the organization. He attended the course in 2021, when he first came to USACE. By networking with other USACE officers, he was able to make connections and learn best practices that he took back to his job.
“I got to meet with some other officers that are on similar projects to myself,” said Anderson. “[The Next NGA West project] is kind of a unique project … so I was able to network with some of those military officers that are on similar projects and just get some lessons learned.”
While the students had a full week of presentations and site visits, they also had the opportunity to build camaraderie outside of the workday through physical training and social dinners. The course is designed to not only give military officers the knowledge and skills to communicate the value that USACE provides to the nation, but also to build relationships with others across the enterprise.
When asked what he hopes the students will take from this year’s course, Anderson responded, “Relationships. That’s a big thing. As a junior officer, you’re here to learn as much as you can. You’ve got to build positive relationships … because we have some great civilian experts out there … and we are here to learn from their technical expertise.”
After the course, the hope is that junior officers have a better understanding of the various USACE missions, as well as a better ability to communicate the value that USACE provides to the nation.