Deceptively Quiet – Huntsville Center’s army of unseen professionals

Published April 2, 2020
A mission-essential employee walks down a hallway at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville

A mission-essential employee walks down a hallway at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, while the Center professionals utilize maximum telework and adhere to social distancing guidance while continuing to accomplish the mission in Huntsville, Alabama, April 2, 2020. Huntsville Center is supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts in working with FEMA, the White House, DOD, and other federal, state and local partners by developing plans and specifications for the rapid conversion of hotels, barracks and arena-type facilities into alternate care facilities capable of providing care during our nation’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville stands deceptively quiet. The hallways, workspaces and meeting rooms are empty. What you can’t see is the army of Huntsville Center professionals tucked safely away in their homes, working feverishly to do their part in fighting the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped our nation and launched us all into a historic, unified response.

Huntsville Center engineers and technical experts are providing engineering solutions to very real challenges. And the Corps of Engineers, FEMA and our federal, state and local partners are turning them into reality in record time. 

The remainder of the Center’s professionals – contracting, administration, program and project management, resource management, architects, logisticians, and even the cleaning crews – are working long hours ensuring the mission continues unabated.

The whole of the Corps of Engineers, led by Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, 54th Chief of Engineers, is working tirelessly in support of FEMA, the White House, the Department of Defense and the governors of each and every state to ensure medical professionals have the space they need to treat a steadily growing number of patients.

Meanwhile, I type away at my computer trying to capture the story of what is happening in almost disbelief. My words can’t keep up with the response effort. And I am grateful for that fact. I hope that by the time I find the words I will be writing a memoir of what the Army Corps of Engineers and our nation have accomplished.

I type words like “pandemic,” “global” and “quarantine.” I share information on health and safety procedures for venturing into places that were once safe and healthy. I watch the news along with millions of others around the globe. I’m nervous, but I’m focused. I trust in the strength of my organization and our nation as it rallies for this singular cause – stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Huntsville Center, like all government organizations, is maximizing telework and observing social distancing. Only the most essential employees are traveling to work. This has changed the way we do business, but it has not changed the business we do.

Huntsville Center has always been the quiet professionals on the front lines of innovation and action. I have heard it said on more than one occasion that the Corps of Engineers solves the nation’s toughest challenges and Huntsville Center solves the Corps’ toughest challenges.

From ballistic missile defense and energy programs to medical facilities and destroying chemical munitions after wars, Huntsville Center has always been quietly behind the scenes ensuring the Corps has the technical experts, project management expertise and contracting support to continue BUILDING STRONG!

And today is no different. Huntsville Center’s halls are still and quiet, like most government buildings across America, but Huntsville Center’s army of unseen professionals are making thunderous echoes as they accomplish this historic mission at hand.