Tag Archives: USACE

Women’s History Month – Persisting for our Nation

March is Women’s History Month, the time we set aside to honor the many contributions that women have made to our Nation.  The theme of the 2018 Women’s History Month is “NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”

All of you probably know (or maybe are) a woman who has persisted. In the face of discrimination or what seemed to be insurmountable odds, these women have gone on to achieve remarkable things, or simply to open doors that expand opportunities for other women.   Their persistence has helped break down barriers, whether in the Army or as a civilian, in the arts, in science, and in life.

Women have played a role in the defense of our nation since its founding.   Deborah Sampson became the first American woman to serve in combat when she disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Continental Army. “Camp followers,” primarily women who were just outside the   battlefield doing cooking and laundry and tending to the wounded, supported the troops during the Civil War. After the Battle of Bull Run, Clara Barton and Dorethea Dix organized a nursing corps to help care for the wounded soldiers.

Approximately 21,000 women served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War I. The Army established the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942, which was changed to the Women’s Army Corps in 1943. More than 150,000 women served as WACs during World War Two. And “Rosie the Riveter” represented the approximately six million civilian women employed in war material manufacturing during that war.

Today, women make up a majority of the U.S. population at 50.8 percent. They earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees. Additionally, they earn 47 percent of all law degrees and 48 percent of all medical degrees.

About 43 percent of the Federal Government is comprised of women.  Serving in the Army’s Total Force is 174,000 of them.  Within USACE, we have approximately 10,000 women employees, representing about 30 percent of our workforce.  The lower percentage for USACE perhaps reflects the STEM nature of our work; women are still not as represented in STEM career fields.

Within USACE, Col. Debra M. Lewis, now retired, was in the first class of women to graduate from West Point in 1980 and later served as commander and district engineer of the Gulf Region Division’s Central District, where she was responsible for engineering and construction management support of deployed forces and Iraqi reconstruction in Baghdad and Al Anbar provinces, Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Margaret W. Burcham became the first woman to be promoted to a general officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jan. 27, 2012, in the Corps’ Washington, D.C. headquarters. In September 2011, Burcham became the first woman selected to command a Corps of Engineers division when she took command of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division located in Cincinnati.  She retired in 2016.

It’s easy to forget that we are only a few generations removed from women obtaining the right to vote in the United States.  Yet with or without women’s suffrage, they have been side by side with men in building and sustaining our Nation. They have persisted.

Thank you, all Southwestern Division women, for what you do every day to support and lead our organization.

Paul E. Owen, P.E.
Brigadier General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Commander, Southwestern Division

Burn Ban dampens camping this season

More than half the counties in Arkansas are currently under a burn ban because of dry weather conditions, with the number increasing weekly.

As of Nov. 28 the counties in red are in a burn ban.

Although county judges approved the ban, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites follow and enforce the ban.

“Burn bans are determined and put in place by the local county judge based off the information he receives from local subject matter experts,” said Scotty Ashlock, natural resource specialist at Lake Dardanelle, Little Rock District USACE. “Our role is to follow and enforces the ban. We don’t add or take away from any of the guidance put out by the forestry commission.”

One of the challenges during the burn ban is that open flames are prohibited. Since fires are a cornerstone of camping and something many families enjoy, rangers thought the ban would disappoint guests.

“Most visitors like to build campfires and sit around with their families, roast hot dogs, s’mores, and tell stories,” Gary Ivy, chief park ranger at Greers Ferry, Little Rock District USACE explained. “Some people may not want to camp if they can’t have a campfire.”

Like Greers Ferry, Ashlock explained how the ban impacts Dardanelle visitors.

“With cool nights, most folks want to build a campfire in the evenings and sit outside,” Ashlock said. “Unfortunately, during the ban they aren’t allowed.”

Interestingly enough, the ban hasn’t lowered the number of people visiting recreations sites. “We haven’t seen a decline at our campgrounds,” Ivy added. “We’ve actually seen an increase in campers this year.”

The same has happened at Dardanelle.

“Burn bans haven’t slowed down visitation,” Ashlock added. “We receive a few complaints about not being able to have a small fire, but most people are very understanding and compliant.”

While it may seem the ban only inconveniences guests, the park rangers have challenges too.

“The main challenge for park rangers is the time and effort it takes to stop and educate park visitors about the burn ban,” Ashlock said. “One of the main issues for visitors is cooking without campfires.”

Luckily guests can cook other ways.

”Gas grills are allowed,” Ashlock said. “We allow cooking with charcoal as long as it is fully contained in an elevated grill, fully extinguished and properly disposed of after use.”

In addition to educating guests park rangers have an even bigger issue on their hands.

“The ban keeps us from doing prescribed burns to enhance timber stands, wildlife habitat, and reduce fuel loading within our parks and timber stands,” Ivy said.

Personnel from Little Rock District conducted a prescribed burn. Currently prescribed burns aren’t allowed in more than half of Arkansas, which keeps park rangers from enhancing timbers stands. (courtesy photo)

Still, the good outweighs the bad.

“There are many positive aspects of a burn ban,” Ashlock said. “Burn bans protect against property damage and most importantly, injury or loss of life.”

In fact since conditions are so dry, one small spark could cause a forest fire.

“With the ban it keeps honest people from building fires that could result in a forest fire,” Ivy said.

Of course under the current conditions, throwing a cigarette on the ground could lead to a fire being started but Ivy explained how people can still smoke.

“Burn bans do not prohibit visitors from smoking but it’s already a violation to dispose of cigarettes on the ground,” Ivy said. “It’s already littering.”

So far burn ban violations haven’t been a problem.

“We haven’t had any issues in our campgrounds with small fires,” Ivy noted. “If an issue arose we would visit ask campers to put the fire out.”

Park rangers take multiple measures to inform guests of the ban it’s still a joint effort between USACE and city officials for enforcement.

“Once a county is placed in a burn ban, we post burn ban signs at the entrance of each park within that county,” Ashlock said. “If a visitor is in violation they can be cited by a park ranger for violation of posted restrictions. Also county and city police regularly patrol all of our parks and officers will issue citations to visitors who violate the burn ban.”

In the event guests are completely unaware of the ban park rangers will usually just give a warning.

“Typically we will warn the campers about having a fire and ask them to put it out,” Ivy said. “If we have to go back to visit with them a second time we will then issue a citation.”

Luckily if a wildfire started the emergency personnel are minutes away.

“If a fire were to escape we would contact the local fire department,” Ashlock said. “All of our parks are within close response time to either a city fire department or rural fire department.

For right now the ban won’t be lifted until conditions improve.

“Until our area receives a substantial amount of rainfall we will remain in a burn ban,” Ivy said.

Park rangers will continue to monitor websites and working with local officials.

We continue to monitor the status of burn bans by viewing the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s website and by staying in contact with local emergency management or sheriff’s office, Ashlock concluded.

For a daily county update on where burn bans are in effect go to

http://www.arkfireinfo.org/