Category Archives: Fort Worth Employee Spotlight

Fort Worth Employee Spotlight

At 81 years-old Fort Worth’s Jimmy Baggett shares 60 years of service with USACE

Lt. Col. Clay Morgan, deputy commander, Fort Worth District recognizes Jimmy Baggett, assistant chief, Engineering and Construction Division on 60 years of service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Lt. Col. Clay Morgan, deputy commander, Fort Worth District recognizes Jimmy Baggett, assistant chief, Engineering and Construction Division on 60 years of service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Story by Edward Rivera

Fort Worth District Public Affairs Office

In 1942, along with his family, seven year-old Jimmy D. Baggett left his hometown, near Vernon, Texas with a population of about 50 to the City of Fort Worth that boasted a population of close to 200,000.

“My dad changed from being a gas station attendant for the 50 people in our township during early 1942 in order to work at the Bomber plant (in Fort Worth) which has been through several name changes to now being known as Lockheed Martin,” said Baggett, who was born on January 11, 1935.

According to the 81 year-old native Texan, the biggest change was going from foot transportation to public or automobile conveyance.

As a youngster architecture and engineering was far from his thoughts. Although a huge sports enthusiast he loved reading and with early guidance from his teachers his desire for learning was shaped. “I was extremely interested in sports activities and I enjoyed reading,” said Baggett. “In fact my first grade teacher emphasized reading, the writing and the arithmetic elements and those are things I enjoy doing still.”

After his high school graduation Baggett had not decided on what direction he would choose for a career but he knew he would attend college. With limited funds at his disposal, he chose a field and attended a state school. He would graduate with a degree in Architecture from Texas Technological College in Lubbock.

It would be at Texas Tech. where Baggett would make another life decision. He enrolled in the Reserve Officer training Program, ultimately selecting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as his unit of assignment.

“I chose the Corps of Engineers because I liked the curriculum, I liked the activities. Said Baggett. “I liked the fact that it provided for the means whereby the Army could March and move.”

After graduation, the newly commissioned U.S. Army Reserve second lieutenant had to wait six months before his actual entry into the military. With architectural degree in hand, the recent graduate went to the Fort Worth District on June 12, 1956, to inquire about temporary positions due to his pending active duty commitment later that year in October.

“I came in on a Friday and asked if he had any positions of a temporary nature,” said Baggett. He was placed in a rotational architectural program that allowed for him to meet his military obligations and remain employed as a civilian as well.

As the current District Assistant Chief of Engineering and Construction Division, Baggett recalls his first position was in the Architectural Section of the Engineering Division within the District. His early projects included writing architectural specification and plans for several buildings on Camp Gary, a former Air Force base in San Marcos, Texas that was transferred to the Army and used as a training facility.

As Baggett settled into his position with the Corps in the Architectural Section and performing his rotations, he was approached by Charles Myron, Chief of Hydrology about a possible rotation with his section. He agreed to take the training and do a rotation with the Hydrology section. The choice would provide Baggett with his most memorable projects of his career.

“At the time I liked the hydrology and civil works aspects of what the Corps was doing, so I did the training and took a position with the section as a GS-11,” said Baggett. “I got to work on Canyon, Lewisville, Grapevine and Lavon dams. It was a busy time many of the multi-purpose lakes were under study. I thoroughly enjoyed building structures that would provide flood protection, water supply and recreation for their communities.”

With a career spanning from the mid-1950s to today Baggett has seen his share of technological changes. In today’s world of gee-whiz computing devices, electronic gadgets and work reducing applications Baggett recalls one of the biggest technological impacts to his career. It wasn’t the laptop, nor the internet, not even wireless technology…it was the calculator.

“One of the most impactful advances was in 1958 when we went from using the slide rule and adding machines to the (Marchant) calculator. It became the tool of the day,” said Baggett. “And as time went on we were able to computerize and today we can do things at multiple times the speed we did things in 1958.”

Looking back over six decades of service spent with one entity, the Fort Worth District’s sole octogenarian remembers each era having their own special significance and historic events with both personal and professional impacts.

There were many interesting events in almost every era. We had the loss of a president (John F. Kennedy) and the resignation of a president (Richard M. Nixon) both of which had impact on our country and Corps directly,” said Baggett.

Sixty years full of challenges and changes in technology, management and Corps operations have kept Baggett busy. But, beyond the dams, structures and vast number of projects he has had played roles in, it’s the people that he has encountered that have meant the most in his career. Many of the relationships he established throughout the years began with the Department of the Army Intern program.

After becoming a section chief he started getting DA Interns as part of their normal rotations. For the last 40 years he has supervised, taught and mentored more than 100 interns giving them insight about their roles and the importance of the Corps.

“I remember many of the interns I have helped, Brian Giacomozzi, who is now the chief of the Engineering and Construction Division and Terry Nolen who became the chief of the Design Branch and eventually went on to work at the Southwestern Division,” said Baggett.

Giacomozzi went through the DA Intern program in 1989 at Fort Hood, Texas, after completing the program he went to the Europe District but returned as the Area Engineer in San Antonio in 2003.

“Jimmy was our supervisor, he managed our rotations and provided mentorship for all of us,” said Giacomozzi. “When I returned to the District as an Area Engineer and needed help, I knew I could call on Jimmy for assistance. With Jimmy you get a mentor for life.”

Baggett has taken great pride in imparting his knowledge to all and believes the keys to a successful career with the Corps and beyond are timeliness and attention to detail.

“My advice to anyone would be, to be timely even to be early. Devote a full day of activity and concentrate on what you need to do and make certain that you do it thoroughly and complete every task to its finite requirement,” said Baggett.

He not only taught and mentored Corps employees, he spent a portion of his 30-year Army reserve career teaching soldiers attached to the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Air War College.

The Father of two and grandfather of seven retired from the Army Reserve as a Colonel in 1986. But for Baggett managing family life with civilian and military careers at the same time came rather easy.

According to him, he focused on his corps job during the work day and on the nights, weekends and annual reserve training he concentrated on his duties. The rest of his time was completely dedicated to his family.

“When not working or on reserve duty, I focused on my family life. I was able to enjoy my family, engage in sports activities and pursue education. No matter work, military or family I was able to keep them separate and devote maximum effort to each in their time,” said Baggett.

On June 14, Baggett was recognized for his six decades of service during the District’s Engineer Day Awards ceremony. He was praised for his longevity and dedicated service to the District and the nation, but he is ever looking forward and plans to continue working as long as possible.

Baggett said he enjoys getting up about 4:30 in the morning, having breakfast putting things in order and going to the office and working 8 or more hours depending on the day’s requirements.

“I have been thoroughly satisfied with my work here and plan to continue to work and play golf,” said Baggett, who has also recently taken up oil painting. “At 81 years old you ought to start something new.”

(Writer’s Note: For more details on Jimmy Baggett’s account of what happened the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated follow the link to his 2013 recounting of that fateful day as part of the JFK50 remembrance in 2013.


Fort Worth District inducts 61st Distinguished Civilian Employee

The 2016 Distinguished Civilian Employee Award was awarded posthumously to Gene Rice, Civil Works Project Manager with the Fort Worth District's Programs and Project Management Division. Gene Rice's daughters, Caitlin (left) and Stephanie (right) accept the award honoring their father during the ceremony on April 22
The 2016 Distinguished Civilian Employee Award was awarded posthumously to Gene Rice, Civil Works Project Manager with the Fort Worth District’s Programs and Project Management Division. Gene Rice’s daughters, Caitlin (left) and Stephanie (right) accept the award honoring their father during the ceremony on April 22. USACE Photo by Randy Cephus)

Fort Worth District retirees and employees past and present, gathered at the organization’s annual retiree luncheon and Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees Induction Ceremony April 22, to recognize Project Manager Gene Rice posthumously as the 61st inductee into the Gallery.

Rice began his career of 31 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982 in the District’s Planning Division, where he served as a planner and technical manager for flood control projects. During his tenure in the Planning Division, he received his Professional Engineer certification and completed the Planning Associates Program.

In 1997, Rice moved to Programs and Project Management Division to put his abilities to use as a project manager on the Upper Trinity River Basin studies. Working on the Upper Trinity River projects for more than 15 years, Rice became the face of the Corps as he interacted with the public at meetings with representatives of the local sponsors and cities, and in presentations to members of Congress.

The Houston native and father of two received major accolades for his contributions of the Dallas Floodway Extension Engineering Design Study and Upper Trinity River Feasibility Study. At the time, the study was the largest cost shared feasibility study undertaken by the Corps of Engineers since implementation 50/50 cost sharing provisions.

Those contributions led to him being referred to the affectionate nickname “Mr. Trinity.” Rice’s knowledge of the Civil Works processes and public involvement quickly earned him the reputation as an expert and the “go to” person to get guidance on how to overcome project challenges.

“Gene Rice was an example of what we hope to develop all project managers in to being – a technically competent engineer that could bring the technical side of Civil Works projects into focus for the staff, our partnering stakeholders and the public. He fully understood all aspects of the Civil Works Program, from planning to schedule and budget development. He possessed superior people skills that helped to meld high performing project delivery teams,” said Robert P. Morris, Jr., chief, Programs and Project Management Division and Rice’s award nominator.

From 1997 to 1998, Rice was instrumental in preparing District leadership for Senior Review Group meetings on three major focus projects, the Fort Worth Sumps, Dallas Floodway Extension and Johnson Creek. He also worked with District Hydrology and Hydraulics experts to revise the Upper Trinity River Basin floodplain maps. Under Rice’s leadership, three follow-on feasibility studies totaling over $4.6 million were negotiated that helped shape the future of flood protection in Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth, Texas.

One notable accomplishment was when he personally briefed the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, John Woodley and HQ USACE staff in 2004 on the DFE as they prepared to nominate the project for inclusion in the President’s Budget.

Unlike many project managers, Rice worked projects through all study phases and saw them through construction. The Texas A&M University graduate worked hard throughout his career to advance complex projects and implement public involvement into study programs, while also mentoring his colleagues on all facets of the Civil Works Program. The outcome of Rice’s hard work, positive spirit and strong leadership skills resulted in District teams coming together in delivering successful projects to the community of North Texas.

While accepting the Distinguished Civilian Employee award on her father’s behalf, Rice’s oldest daughter Caitlin said, “Growing up we heard a lot about the Corps of Engineers and that if it rained, it was good thing. You all became a part of our family. Our Dad enjoyed working for the Corps of Engineers and loved what he did. We are truly honored that he was recognized for this award.”

In his last months with the Corps, Rice’s health was failing and his colleagues supported him by assisting him with physical tasks. This assistance was graciously provided by many of the project managers and program analysts that he had mentored over the years. It also allowed him to continue to give back to the community and keep his mind focused on where he could still contribute to the people of North Central Texas.

“I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Gene, but I was told that he was one of the preeminent project managers in the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program. His expertise and knowledge of the Civil Works processes and his unselfish nature won the respect of his colleagues throughout his career. Gene left a lasting impression on the District and this was evident by all who attended the induction ceremony, knowing that he is fully deserving of this recognition,” said Col. Calvin C. Hudson II, commander, Fort Worth District.