Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visited Huntsville Center May 28-29 for the first time since becoming the 53rd chief of engineers.
His visit served three purposes: gain an understanding of Huntsville Center’s capabilities, talk to emerging leaders and deliver a speech to Team Redstone.
Col. Robert Ruch, Huntsville Center commander, senior leaders and program managers discussed with the chief the Center’s capabilities with an emphasis on energy, medical, ordnance and explosives and overseas contingency missions. Bostick also visited the Army Materiel Command and the USACE Learning Center.
Ruch thanked the commanding general for coming to the Center and taking an interest in what we do here.
“This was extremely helpful,” Bostick said. “It took me too long to get here. There are things you are doing that are in line with the Campaign Plan. You are doing a lot of interagency work. They are seeking our technical talent and other things. It is really about going out and showing them what we can do. You’re doing great work. I enjoyed the entire visit.”
Bostick spoke with more than 40 emerging leaders about the world situation and how the Corps of Engineers fits into the big picture, the Corps’ mission in light of recent budgetary challenges, the USACE Campaign Plan and the importance of having good leaders within the organization.
“America is looked at as a ‘super power’ among world nations in regard to its military strength, and the Corps is looked at as a ‘superpower’ in regard to disaster response in our nation,” Bostick said. “What this term depicts is a lot broader than what we do in Afghanistan. We also support the war fighter on installations at home.
“We must transform the way we do our budgeting, such as up-front budgeting and up-front payments. We must maintain the same level of fiscal responsibility at all times,” Bostick said. “We must use strategic engagement and strategic communication to relay clear, consistent and concise messages when we go out, especially when it pertains to water infrastructure. Much of our nation’s goods and services come through the Corps. We must take advantage of every situation where we get an opportunity to get this message out there.
“In regard to reducing disaster risks, we can’t just think disaster doesn’t happen very often and not prepare for it,” Bostick said. “We have to continue delivering support that responds to, recovers from and mitigates disaster impacts to the nation. When disaster occurs and the nation calls on the Corps, we have to be ready.”
Bostick said all these projects worldwide require people, which makes recruiting and retention two major issues facing the Army and the Corps. This is why Goal 4 is so important for the future of the Corps.
“We prepare for tomorrow when we recruit, retain, develop future leaders,” Bostick said. “Diversity in the work force is very important. We’ve got to spend more time on developing and building diverse teams. I think young employees bring energy, enthusiasm and creativity into an organization. They have new ideas no one has ever thought about.”
Bostick said replenishing the work force is not going to automatically happen. The Corps has to grow future leaders from the ground up – a competent leader knows how to grow first-rate employees.
When Bostick began speaking about the Corps of Engineers’ leaders, there was no doubt he felt strongly about having capable leaders within the organization. His leadership philosophies are largely based on his military training and mentoring experiences. It is the framework he has used throughout his career. He encouraged employees to be passionate about their work.
“You don’t lead by email, and you can’t lead if you are not approachable,” Bostick said. “Take time to talk with your people face-to-face. Find someone within your organization who is approachable and make that person the point of contact to deal with issues. Communicate, communicate and communicate.”
Bostick gave the keynote speech for Team Redstone’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Observance May 29 in the Bob Jones Auditorium on Redstone Arsenal. Bostick said Asian-Pacific people are part of the diverse team that helps make America strong.
“The strength of a team is gained through diversity of ethnicity, gender, etc.,” Bostick said.
“It is important for us to celebrate the contributions Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have made to our Army and nation. Today, there are 18.2 million Americans of Asian descent, and 1.4 million Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander heritage - I’m proud to be one of them.”
Bostick said Asian-Pacific Americans helped in the fight for our nation’s freedom, citing Asian-Pacific American heroes in military history. He also shared with the audience his personal observations as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy.
“I was at the academy when the first female cadets came to West Point. Many were not ready for this change including Academy leaders, and that had an impact on how those cadets were treated. Our superintendent said women will never be at West Point, but was later relieved,” Bostick said. “Ultimately, 62 of the 119 women who came to West Point in 1976 graduated. They now count among their ranks general officers, Rhodes Scholars and world class athletes. Can you imagine denying the Army that kind of talent and potential?”
Bostick said he loves his chosen profession and does not hesitate to tell people.
“I like telling others about what we do and how we do it. I like talking about our core competency – We build things, and we do it well.
“I’m a leader who has taken great pride in leading people at all levels within the Army. It’s my passion,” Bostick said.