Center employees reach out to local Korean community

Huntsville Center Public Affairs
Published Aug. 16, 2022
Lady of Korean decent with microphone tells members of the North Alabama Korean Association her personal story of how she chose a career with Huntsville Center during NAKA's celebration of Gwangbokjeol, also known as National Liberation Day in the Republic of South Korea.

Moon Hemm, a USACE employee for more than 12 years, tells members of the North Alabama Korean Association her personal story of how she chose a career with Huntsville Center during NAKA's celebration of Gwangbokjeol, also known as National Liberation Day in the Republic of South Korea.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Recognizing that diversity in the workplace yields substantial benefits for an organization’s culture and employees, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville employees took the stage at a North Alabama Korean Association event Saturday to present their personal stories about working for the federal government and how their work not only benefits their livelihood, but also their nation and their Korean culture.

Angela Morton, Huntsville Center Equal Employment Opportunity office chief, began the presentation by explaining the importance of diversity within the federal workforce.

She said Huntsville Center leadership works through the EEO office to proactively enhance the employment of women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities through policy development, oversight, complaints prevention, outreach, education, and training programs.

Morton said since Asians and American Pacific Islanders only make up about six percent of the federal workforce, it’s important to participate in events specific to target communities such as the NAKA.

The NAKA event saw more than 150 people gather at a church in Madison, Alabama, to celebrate Gwangbokjeol, also known as National Liberation Day in the Republic of South Korea. Gwangbokjeol is similar to Independence Day as Koreans and their Korean-American counterparts commemorate the liberation of Korea from the subjugation of Japanese colonial rule.

After Morton’s presentation and introduction, Huntsville Center employees Dang Hoang and Moon Hemm stepped to the stage to tell their personal stories of how they chose careers with USACE and Huntsville Center.

Hoang, Huntsville Center EEO specialist, described how he began looking at federal employment as a student at the University of Alabama Huntsville. He said he never thought of a career with the federal government until he attended a job recruitment fair at UAH and began evaluating the benefits of working for the government as opposed to working in private industry.

“I looked at the economy and realized that even in economic downturns, the federal government keeps moving forward, and that stability and the benefits were something I strongly considered (while looking for employment).”

Hoang began his federal tenure as a student hire at Huntsville Center working for Morton in the EEO office. His status as a full-time employee began in 2020.

Hemm, a USACE employee for more than 12 years, relayed to the crowd her struggle immigrating to the U.S. and how daunting finding one’s way in a new country can be.

She said as an immigrant to the U.S. with limited understanding of American culture and poor command of the English language, she often felt out of place. However, she said with her Korean work ethic and willingness to assimilate to her adopted country, she soon found success.

“As an immigrant, coming to the United States was a grueling experience,” Hemm said. “I faced depression, language issues, and cultural barriers.  In short, I had a hard time adjusting to a new life.”

However, Hemm said she recognized at a certain point that she had to stop feeling sorry for and take matters into her own hand. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree from Athens State University in 2007 and working in the private sector, she began learning more about working with the federal government. After applying through the USA Jobs website, Hemm joined the Army Corps of Engineers in 2009 taking a position as a GS-5 Secretary. From there, she worked her way up the ladder of success. Now, as a GS-13 senior project manager with the Center’s Utility Monitoring and Control Systems program, Moon said the importance of the work Huntsville Center does in support of national interests has never been clearer.

As a senior Project Manager, one project Moon currently manages provides for facility upkeep and maintenance for U.S. Forces Korea.

“As a project manager, I oversee a project that helps defend South Korea's security. Coming from that country; it means a lot.”

With more than 1000 employees, Huntsville Center provides a certified, professional workforce with an expeditionary mindset capable of pioneering solutions to unique, complex, and high-risk missions in strengthened partnership with the USACE enterprise, key Department of Defense stakeholders and our strategic allies.

The NAKA formed decades ago to share diversity and culture to the Huntsville and Madison, Alabama areas to preserve and share Korean culture and strengthen the Korean community and identity.