U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Southwestern Division Commander, Brig. Gen. Paul E. Owen talks with eighth grade students during a power lunch at Thomas Edison Elementary School in Dallas, Texas about National Engineers Week, the Corps of Engineers’ history, and the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees.
Owen talked about how rewarding the engineering profession has been for him and how important it is for students interested in STEM careers to start taking advanced courses now to better prepare them for college and advanced degrees.
Q: You have been with the district 31 years, how has your job changed over the years?
A: Originally I was a hydrology and hydraulics engineer building HEC-1 (hydrology) and HEC-2 (hydraulic) models using a Harris 3000 dumb terminal and main frame. Now the smart people working in HTS Branch have cell phones with more computing capabilities than our old main frame computer.
Q: What positions have you held in the district?
A: After my two years as a Department of the Army Intern I was a hydraulic engineer (in H&H Section and Reservoir Control Section) working on flood insurance and flood hazard studies; I also worked as the Arkansas River System engineer and Big 3 (Nimrod-Blue Mountain-Clearwater lakes) system engineer; study manager; project manager; chief of Reservoir Control Section; and chief of Hydraulics Technical Services Branch.
Q: What was your favorite job position and why?
A: Hydraulic engineer. The focus of working on a flood insurance study was very satisfying, especially if I could get Glen Raible to sign off on my models. I also enjoyed my time as a study manager, working on a multi-disciplined project deliver team kept me connected with people across division, branch, and section boundaries. It was fun knowing the whole district.
Q: What are your short and long term professional and personal goals?
A: Professional – Finish strong, I am eligible to retire in 21 months but I have an 11-year-old so I will be here a while. I am content with my current position, I believe in our mission.
A: Personal – Lose 20 pounds, hike Hadrian’s Wall in England; but most importantly, make the mortgage so I can retire baby.
Q: What do you do to instill your veteran knowledge in new employees?
A: Spend time with them. Try to give them opportunities that require some “Dick Tracy” work, something like updating water control manuals.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I like working with partnering agencies and stakeholders. Our multi-purpose water management projects touch many aspects of people’s lives, and we have the opportunity through collaborative efforts to maximize project benefit to the region and nation.
Q: What projects are you working on now and what are some of the challenges?
A: As a branch chief I am working budgets, transition to Defense Performance Management Appraisal Program, and hiring actions. The challenges include navigating ever changing budget guidance, multiple rating sessions, and working with Human Resource rules and procedures in an effort to hire the best talent possible for the Little Rock District while executing our real time water management mission and Corps water management system implementation. We are also working with Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Geological Services, National Weather Services, and several state agencies on a variety of water related studies.
Q: What has been your favorite project you have worked on?
A: I don’t have a single favorite project. The White River minimum flows, Dark Hollow, and Mid-Arkansas Water Alliance studies were challenging and interesting. Implementing a portion of the Arkansas River 12-foot channel project was interesting because it gave me a chance to work with people in Little Rock and Tulsa districts.
Q: What ways have you found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?
A: I try to leave work at the office. When I go home I try to be involved in activities that connect me to my wife and children and I volunteer at my church and in the community. In the spring I boil crawfish!
Q: Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
A: My daughter and I are working through the astronomy Messier Certification Program.