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Posted 4/20/2017

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U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs


The 2017 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning Associates class visited Vicksburg, Mississippi, Feb. 13 to 17, meeting with researchers and staff at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and at the Mississippi Valley Division.

The PA class included Rachel Grandpre, Institute for Water Resources; Donald Kramer, Seattle District; Nicholas Lutz, Louisville District; Cherie Price, New Orleans District; Matt Schrader, Jacksonville District and Karen Zelch, Walla Walla District.

“It is always exciting showing the Planning Associates the amazing works our engineers and scientists perform everyday tackling complex problems and providing our customers with optimal solutions.   At the beginning of the three-day visit, it was obvious the participants were focused on learning and understanding as much as possible about ERDC’s capabilities in addressing specific civil works water resources problems,” said John George, who assisted with the visit.  “It was also obvious that at the end of the three-day visit, they came away with an appreciation of ERDC’s expertise that far exceeded their expectations in addressing multiple USACE issues.”

ERDC serves as a key component of the program’s intensive training schedule each year, offering opportunities for professional networking with team members for district planners Corps-wide.

“A major benefit to our researchers was to listen to the PA presentations on their ongoing work, challenges they encounter in arriving at a solution, and identifying research needs that would aid in identifying potential recommendations and decisions on their civil works projects.  Just as important was the valuable feedback they provided on how ERDC products and services can be communicated effectively and support planning efforts,” said Antisa Webb, chief of the Technology, Knowledge and Outreach Division.

The ERDC Office of Research Technology and Transfer served as host for the planners.  The visit featured briefings, poster sessions, one-on-one consulting, and tours of the aquatic center, blast load simulator, sediment lab, ship simulator, the Olmsted and Mud Mountain models and the USACE Reachback Operations Center.  The group also participated in a variety of additional briefings and activities during their visit.  A wiki site was developed on ERDCpedia for the PA’s to access the agenda and presentations with links to scientific posters which the class thought was “very cool and innovative”.

Based on the PA comments from their evaluation of the ERDC visit, it was clear the ORTT objectives in providing a clearer understanding of ERDC’s capabilities were met.  Presentations ranging from how the ERDC fits into the civil works process to research efforts that provided techniques and tools that will assist district personnel in accomplishing the USACE Mission were extremely informative to the participants.  Laboratory demonstrations were thoroughly enjoyed and very effective in reinforcing key components of ongoing research efforts.  The participants stated that their interaction with researchers and participating in the technology transfer panel discussions were the highlight of the visit.  In summary, the participants stated that the trip to ERDC was “invaluable” in that they ended their visit with a clear understanding how ERDC provides information and technology to the field and has the capabilities to support Districts’ efforts in the areas of planning, design, implementation, and operations and maintenance.

The PA program targets journeyman-level professionals in the field of water resources, generally at the GS-11 and GS-12 level of federal service.  The program consists of approximately 20 weeks of rigorous training scheduled in one to three week blocks.

The Corps defines the goals of the program as opportunities to broaden planners’ competencies in solving complex water resources problems and challenges.  To strengthen the leadership talents, the curriculum highlights team building, case studies, training in the Corps’ civil works business programs, individual and group projects, instructional training experiences and networking opportunities with leaders from the public and private sectors.

ERDC Planning Associates USACE