Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III came to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Washington Aqueduct June 5 to visit the people charged with a unique and vital but frequently unseen mission.
The Washington Aqueduct is a federally-owned and operated public water supply agency that produces an average of 160 million gallons of water daily at two treatment plants in the District of Columbia.
“Those 156 civilians are part of our Army team. No matter what the conditions or circumstances, the people there provide us something that we likely take for granted,” Chandler said. “One of the people I met has been with the Corps at the aqueduct for 38 years - making sure that the water we drink is safe. That's commitment."
In 1859, USACE designed, built and began operation of the Aqueduct. At that time, the mission was to supply raw river water to a sparsely populated District of Columbia. Over time, the Aqueduct has substantially expanded and improved its capacity and functions.
Today, the Aqueduct provides safe drinking water to more than one million people in the District of Columbia, Arlington County and the city of Falls Church, Va. This includes permanent residents and visitors to the Nation’s capitol.
“When I was deployed, I often saw Army Corps of Engineer signs, but I didn't really understand the total impact that those professionals have at home and worldwide,” Chandler said. “I didn't learn about that until I came to my current position at the Pentagon. Their civil works and construction projects happen all over.”
Many may know USACE as the nation’s engineers, conjuring thoughts of building and constructing facilities. That is one of the many missions it contributes worldwide. More than 37,000 Soldiers and civilian employees in USACE work side-by-side to provide services to more than 130 countries.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has nine divisions with 44 districts worldwide committed to creating sustainable projects that are environmentally friendly, cost effective and beneficial to all customers every day,” said USACE Command Sgt. Maj. Karl J. Groninger. “Our mission is a diverse and complex one - from emergency operations to overseas contingency operations to reducing the risk of flooding nationwide - we have well disciplined professionals behind every project. The Corps is a great organization with a robust day to day mission that exceeds the standard engineering definition.”
Far beyond building, constructing, and maintaining crucial infrastructure lies a diverse and complex mission consisting of delivering vital public and military engineering services, partnering to strengthen national security, energizing the economy and reducing the risks caused by disaster.
Groninger and the Aqueduct’s General Manager, Tom Jacobus, provided an operations briefing and led Chandler’s visit of the facility.
"The Washington Aqueduct was delighted to have SMA Chandler spend time with the employees who have the singular focus of producing, safe and reliable water service to our nation's capital,” Jacobus said. “We are all proud to be Army Civilians serving in the Corps of Engineers in this long standing mission. His visit reinforces how important the Army is to the nation in so many ways."
As part of the visit, Chandler also met with five noncommissioned officers within the Baltimore District, the command unit for the Aqueduct, and offered to answer any of their questions.
Sgt. 1st Class Shermaine Malone, Contracting Division, requested advice from Chandler to give his son, who recently enlisted in the Army.
“Being the best at what you do and looking for opportunities to show you can do more than one thing sets you apart from the group,” Chandler said, noting that the Corps of Engineers team do that every day.
“My visit to the Washington Aqueduct was fascinating,” SMA Chandler said. “If you think about how critical that is -- for our nation, our government and our citizens -- you realize that it takes people of character, commitment and competence to deliver that service 24-hours a day, seven days a week.”