What do engineers do? And why is engineering important? National Engineers Week, celebrated every year in February, helps us answer those questions, and more, by taking an in-depth look at these elusive professionals and what they are accomplishing across the nation. Here at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division, our engineers spent EWeek sharing their thoughts, experiences and enthusiasm for their profession – despite their slight reluctance to be front and center.
Transatlantic Division engineers are on the frontlines of innovation for engineering solutions across the Middle East and Central Asia. With oversight of nearly $4 billion in projects supporting U.S. Central Command and its components, as well as dedicated support to the U.S. Special Operations Command, our division combines the strength of a long legacy of engineering excellence with the power of cutting-edge, agile innovation. From missile defense infrastructure, airfields and hangers, to clinics and housing critical to our U.S. service members' quality of life, our professionals create solutions for engineering and construction challenges in one of the most complex construction environments in the world.
But who are these engineers and what impact does what they do have on our world? EWeek gave us the opportunity to, quite literally, pull our engineers into the spotlight and get some answers.
“Most engineers are introverted in nature, we tend to put our nose down and just do the work,” shared Ingrid Howard, geotechnical engineer and regional lead engineer in the Transatlantic Division’s Engineering and Technical Division. “It is important to recognize the engineers for their work, the impacts of their work that changed quality of life, and let others know, especially the younger generation, who may want to know more about engineering as their future of study.”
Howard is a geotechnical engineer and is the subject matter expert and technical adviser for the engineering aspects of the Transatlantic Division’s military construction, foreign military sales, and host nation programs.
Howard, along with several of her fellow Transatlantic Division engineers, participated in a virtual panel discussion during EWeek. While it took a bit of encouragement to get our engineers in front of a camera, once they got going, their excitement about what they do was easy to see.
“If you look back at history, our world is really defined by engineering and engineers,” Ted Upson, Transatlantic Division regional construction engineer explained during the discussion. “How do we define the passage of time and the stages of human development? You think of the Iron Age, the Bronze Age, and what are those? Those are what the cave man engineers, if you will, were using to build things. That’s how they defined the world. You move forward into the industrial age. What’s that? It’s about engineers furthering society, creating industry, creating manufacturing. You get to where we are now with the information age, what does that really mean? We are here because of engineers.”
Steve Markland, Transatlantic Division Business Integration Division program manager, also participated in the EWeek panel discussion. Markland has 44 years of experience as a mechanical engineer and has been a licensed professional engineer for 33 years.
“I really love the work with USACE, the travel, the sites and just the scope of the engineering projects we work on. I get a feeling of pride when I see any project I’ve had some part in. It just really swells up and you’re just proud of that whole team that you’ve worked with on that job.”
When Markland began his career, he knew he was an engineer, but even he wasn’t sure what engineers do.
“When I graduated engineering school, I was armed with all this engineering theory, and I had absolutely no experience in how to apply it,” Markland said. “I started in a huge petrochemical plant in Houston and was assigned a really good mentor who guided me though that initial period. Completing those first few projects was really rewarding for me.”
John Adams, Transatlantic Division Programs and Business Director and senior executive service officer, also joined the discussion and reflected on his 37 years of engineering experience as well as the collective experience of the panel members.
“Right here among this panel there are hundreds of years of experience,” Adams stated. “I can tell you from experience, working for the Army Corps of Engineers will immediately provide you with responsibilities that take years to gain in the private sector. And with these responsibilities you’ll be guided and mentored by seasoned team members along the way. Just an incredible wealth of knowledge.”
What is the impact of that collective engineering knowledge and experience? What do Transatlantic Division engineers do that matters so much? Adams summed that up perfectly.
“What we do here at the Transatlantic Division directly supports national security objectives abroad,’ Adams explained. “And that’s important. A lot of us think we are just building stuff, but it really is making an impact on our security back home and for our mission partners. We are making our world a safer place for our country as well as our allies and partners. That’s what we do”
“The profession needs creative minds now more than ever to help us solve our nation’s, and the world’s, toughest engineering challenges. Whether it’s to repair deteriorating infrastructure or to seek ways to combat climate change and it’s impacts, engineering is a noble profession that improves the quality of life for all of us.
EWeek “What Engineers Do” Panel Discission members included: John Adams; Ingrid Howard; Ted Upson; Dan Lyons, Transatlantic Division Engineering and Construction Division lead architect with 37 years of architectural experience; Zenovia Wilcox, Transatlantic Division Programs Integration Division program manager and licensed architect in the commonwealth of Virginia with 30 years of experience; and Steve Markland. The full Panel Discussion can be found at: What Engineers Do: A Panel Discussion - YouTube