Huntsville Center project manager goes where he’s most needed

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published Feb. 6, 2017
Army Reserve Capt. Richard Locklair says good-bye to his family prior to deployment in August 2013.  Courtesy photo

Army Reserve Capt. Richard Locklair says good-bye to his family prior to deployment in August 2013.

Though not an engineer by occupation, he likes helping to solve complex engineering problems. Something that attracted him to a career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I’m an engineer captain with the Army Reserve and a project manager for the Huntsville Center,” said Richard Locklair.  “I have enormous respect for degreed engineers and professional engineers.”

A native of Conway, South Carolina, Locklair earned a master’s degree in engineering management from George Washington University and has been with USACE Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, for eight years. 

During a deployment to Afghanistan, he illustrated one such complex engineering problem that needed resolution.

“During the drawdown in Afghanistan, we were closing and reducing bases in the Kabul area,” Locklair said.  “Camp Phoenix is surrounded by hundreds of concrete T-Walls, each weighing in excess of 10,000 pounds.  Our team had to return a section of the base to the Afghan government.  To do this, we had to open a hole in the wall between Camp Phoenix and a major highway through Kabul, and emplace a new wall without endangering the camp.”

He said it was a coordinated effort between U.S. troops, Afghan National Police, the Corps of Engineers and the contractor. 

When Afghan crowds realized the wall was opened, they rioted and looted in what was no longer part of Camp Phoenix, he said.  The Afghan National Police disbursed the mob with gunfire and had mistakenly detained some contracted employees.  In the end, Camp Phoenix wasn’t damaged. The land was returned to Afghanistan and the detained employees were released. 

Locklair, who is currently in Kuwait, is not new to deployments. Previous assignments have included deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan.

He said he accepts these assignments because he enjoys working on contracted technical solutions that support warfighters.

“I’m just glad I get to help,” he said.  “The Ordnance and Explosives Global (OEG) team that I work with has a lot of talented and dedicated people who have been doing this work for decades.  That gives our team the continuity that units rotating in and out of theater just don’t have.  They are great people to work with.    OEG is currently executing projects including Unexploded Ordnance Removal, Fire and Electrical Safety, Environmental Remediation, Base Reduction, Depleted Uranium Removal and Munitions Disposal throughout the world.

Locklair admits, however, that the hardest part about being deployed is being away from family.  

“I have two daughters and a son due in June,” he said.  “My wife is incredible and keeps the family running while I’m out here.  Thanks Melody.  I love you.”

Nonetheless, it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to accept.

“I like knowing that I’ve been a small part of a massive mission that affects the global balance of power,” he said.  Not many jobs let you do that.

Locklair further explained how important engineers are to the future Army, and he suggested that students trying to decide on a career field might want to consider cyber warfare.  

The Huntsville Center is the Corps of Engineers’ Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Cybersecurity Technical Center of Expertise (TCX). The TCX leverages ICS cybersecurity technical expertise from across the Corps to ensure it delivers cyber secure facilities to its military customers.

“It’s really hard to explain how important technology and the engineers who design it are to the Army,” Locklair said.  He suggested listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, “Blueprint for Armageddon,” on World War 1. 

“Among many other things, you’ll understand how four technologies: machine guns, tanks, artillery and chemical weapons rendered 3,000 years of proven military tactics obsolete,” he said. “That’s how important engineering and technology are to modern conflict.”

In October 2010, the U.S. Army Cyber Command was established because of the impact cyber warfare will have on the future battlefield. 

“Computer engineers, software engineers and electrical engineers are going to be designing and defending against custom-built cyber weapons that are hard to imagine.  If Stuxnet (a malicious computer worm) could destroy Iranian Nuclear Centrifuges in 2010, what are the cyber weapons of 2017 capable of?  How do you build them and how do you stop them?  This career field is going to be in huge demand whether you want to get involved as a military service member, Department of Defense civilian or private sector contractor – or all three.”