Category Archives: Leadership

Little Rock District Inducts New Gallery Member

By: Laurie Driver

During most of his 29 years with the Army Corps of Engineers, PJ Spaul was the voice and face of Little Rock District. Sure, he crafted news releases, speeches and public affairs plans. He helped at public events, and even launched an employee newspaper. Yet most people remember him explaining Corps activities in the news media.

Retiree PJ Spaul is presented a plaque by Craig Pierce, Little Rock District’s deputy district engineer for project management inducting him into the district’s Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees June 2018.
Retiree PJ Spaul is presented a plaque by Craig Pierce, Little Rock District’s deputy district engineer for project management inducting him into the district’s Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees June 2018.

During his career, which spanned from 1983 until his retirement in 2012, he responded to reporters’ questions more than 5,000 times.  However, in June 2018 Spaul wasn’t the spokesman on the news, he was in the news when he was inducted into Little Rock District’s Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees.

“I personally know many of the members of the gallery and know what great work they did,” Spaul said after being presented the award at the District’s Engineer Day.  “To be added to this group of employees is just so humbling.”

Spaul began his career with the Little Rock District in December 1983 as a public affairs specialist.  He became the district’s public affairs officer in 2007 where he led his team who used a variety of public information tools to help save lives and protect property during the many floods and natural disasters experienced throughout the district.  Through media queries, public gatherings, social media, and Internet efforts, he and his team developed and disseminated timely, essential information through multiple channels to ensure the public had news it needed.

“PJ was always so cool under fire,” said Mike Biggs, chief of the Hydraulic and Hydrology Branch. “He taught me lessons that I still pass along to my employees.  For example, while dealing with confrontational media personnel, PJ would say, ‘don’t get into arguments with people who buy ink by the barrel.’  PJ just had a talent for communicating with people in tough situations.”

Spaul’s job covered all of the district’s varied missions.

In the 1980s, while President Reagan was engaged in arms limitation talks with the Soviet Union, he was the district’s spokesman to national and world media during dismantlement of 17 Inter-continental ballistic missile silos in Arkansas. Spaul also provided public affairs responses in Arkansas and Missouri during the floods of 1986, 1990, 2008 and 2011; three barge accidents at Corps dams; and multiple tornado recovery efforts in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“PJ was focused on educating our elected officials, stakeholders and the general public,” said Biggs.  “He would remind me that we have honorable missions that are authorized by Congress, but because our missions are so complex, not everyone would understand or agree with how we do our jobs.”

Beginning in the 1980’s, Spaul communicated risk management issues for dam safety rehabilitation projects at Wilbur D. Mills, Beaver, and Table Rock dams, and most recently, during the Clearwater Dam Major Rehabilitation.  He also served as an instructor of risk communications for the Corps’ Learning Center Dam Safety Course.

Spaul was also the voice and face of Little Rock District for the construction of Montgomery Point Lock & Dam on the White River. From its inception in the 1980’s to its dedication in 2004, he managed news coverage and public relations for what was the Corps’ largest civil works construction project underway at the time.

Spaul also deployed outside of the Little Rock District in support of the Corps’ emergency response missions.

PJ Spaul (right) during a national press conference in Little Rock, Ark., during the flood of 1990 on the Arkansas River. Also at the press conference was (left) Col. Charles McCloskey, Little Rock District’s commander and (center) Brig. Gen. Robert C. Lee, commander of the Southwestern Division.
PJ Spaul (right) during a national press conference in Little Rock, Ark., during the flood of 1990 on the Arkansas River. Also at the press conference was (left) Col. Charles McCloskey, Little Rock District’s commander and (center) Brig. Gen. Robert C. Lee, commander of the Southwestern Division.

He went to New Orleans in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina during the unwatering of the city. Spaul worked long hours to provide vital information to storm victims, local officials, and the media. His knowledge, skills, and abilities were used to educate the public with facts that helped people understand why the levees failed and what the Corps was doing for them and their city.

During the 2008 floods in Arkansas and Southern Missouri, Spaul developed innovative responses to the media and the public that helped communicate complicated hydrologic and hydraulic information.  The 2008 flood was a public relations challenge because it was not the result of a single storm, instead it was from the cumulative effects of a series of repeated storm systems spread over months, each storm event creating ever-changing scenarios.  For his work during this flood event, Spaul was awarded the 2008 Michael C. Robinson Practitioner of the Year Award from USACE Chief of Engineers.

In 2011 austere budgets threatened to force mission adjustments that included closing some Little Rock District park facilities.  Spaul and his public affairs team, helped the district gain public understanding and acceptance through a community relations program with elected officials, partners, stakeholders and the public.

“Because of PJ and the PAO team’s attention to detail, the district was successful in generating offers from local governments and volunteer groups to take on maintenance responsibilities so that many of the facilities slated for closure could remain open,” said Titus Hardiman, chief of the Natural Resources Management Branch.

Their efforts were lauded by the Corps’ chain of command because other districts were seeking appropriate ways to reduce their levels of service as well.  The vice chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development said it was a model for others in the Corps.  For this outstanding effort, Spaul and his team were awarded the Corps’ 2011 Locke L. Mouton Award in the Community Relations category.

Then again in the spring of 2011, the Little Rock District experienced a historic flood event.  The flooding affected all of Little Rock District’s multi-purpose lakes and navigational projects (25 dams, 308 miles of navigation channel, 178 public parks, seven hydroelectric plants and more). Communities, homes, businesses and farmland along the rivers and many tributaries were flooded, especially the Arkansas, White, and Black rivers.

In all, the flooding reached record levels in nine of the district’s 12 multi-purpose lakes. Six of the lakes exceeded their maximum capacity, and spillway releases were necessary more than once to prevent the dams from overtopping.  Before the water stopped rising, 60 percent of the district’s park facilities were flooded, and many remained flooded through the recreation season.

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System also experienced unusually high flows.  The Arkansas River normally flows at 20,000 to 40,000 cubic feet per second, but during the worst of the flooding, river flows exceeded 320,000 cfs, requiring small craft advisories that remained in place through the spring and summer months.

Levees along the White, Black and Little Red rivers experienced water levels that had not been seen since 1982.  Some aging levees along the rivers were unable to hold back the onslaught. The Black River reached its second highest level in more than 90 years at Pocahontas, Ark.

Spaul again devised transparent messages to educate the public concerning safety, water levels, water releases, and how the Corps greatly mitigated the damage to people and property.

PJ Spaul is interview by a KTHV reporter in Little Rock, Ark., during the first low water inspection of the Arkansas River by the Mississippi River Commission in 2010.
PJ Spaul is interview by a KTHV reporter in Little Rock, Ark., during the first low water inspection of the Arkansas River by the Mississippi River Commission in 2010.

During his career, Spaul earned an excellent reputation with his supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates.  He remained calm under pressure and was highly sought after as a principal advisor to the command group, senior staff, and field offices on fast-breaking communication issues.

“PJ’s level headed approach to understanding the Corps’ many missions and ability to communicate helped the Little Rock District build healthy working relationships with our stakeholders,” Biggs said.

Spaul is also a retired Army Reservist who spent 23 years as a Soldier in Active, Reserve and National Guard components.  He has served as an Infantryman, Army Journalist, Broadcast Journalist and Senior Instructor.  He has served as editor of two Army newspapers and a weekly university newspaper.  He has been a news reporter and a state bureau chief for the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has completed graduate work at the University of South Carolina.  He is a graduate of the Army Advanced Public Affairs Officers Course, the Defense Information School Broadcast Journalism Course and the DINFOS Senior Public Affairs Course.

He is married to the former Eva Mosley.  The couple has two grown children, six grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Spaul is the 65th member of Little Rock District’s Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees, all of whom were recognized for their significant contributions during their tenures with the district.


SWD welcomes new deputy commander

Col. Kevin S. Brown, Deputy Commander,  Southwestern Division

DALLAS—Col. Kevin S. Brown  became the Deputy Commander of the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on Aug. 13, 2018.   Prior to this assignment, he was the Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

“I consider it a real privilege to serve in an organization that works so closely with both our local communities and our warfighters,” said Brown, who is a native of the Dallas area.

“The effect of Army Corps of Engineers projects is clearly seen throughout our region. It’s also great to be back home,”   he added.

Brown has served in a variety of command and staff positions in both the United States and overseas. Among them have been Director of Training and Leader Development at the U.S. Army Engineer School, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Senior Engineer and Maneuver Support Observer Controller Trainer at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana. He also served as Commander of Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Deputy District Commander for the St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St Paul, Minnesota. Other assignments include 82nd Airborne Division Engineer, 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat, Airborne) Operations Officer, XVIII Airborne Corps G35 Future Operations Planner, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Exchange Officer and Battalion Operations Officer, 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (Royal Australian Engineers), Lavarack Barracks, Queensland, Australia.

His overseas deployments include Operation Safe Haven/Passage in Panama 1996, Operation Desert Thunder Kuwait 1998, Operation Joint Forge Bosnia-Herzegovina 2000-2001, Operation Iraqi Freedom Iraq 2009-2010 and Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan 2008, 2012, and 2017.

“Col. Brown is an outstanding addition to our leadership team,” said Brig. Gen. Paul E.  Owen, Southwestern Division commander.  “He brings proven command and leadership experience, combined with engineering and professional expertise.  These talents contribute greatly to helping us achieve outstanding results in delivering our program for the American people.

Brown was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Engineer Regiment from the United States Military Academy in 1993, earning a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Missouri.

His awards and decorations include the following: Legion of Merit; Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster; Meritorious Service Medal with  six Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with  three Oak Leaf Clusters; Joint Achievement Medal; Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; National Defense Service Medal with Service Star; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with Service Star; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars; Iraq Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars; Humanitarian Service Medal with Service Star; and NATO Medal with two Campaign Stars. He has also earned the Combat Action Badge, the Ranger Tab, the Master Parachutist Badge, and the Air Assault Badge. He also is a proud lifetime member of both the Society of American Military Engineers and the Army Engineer Association, and a recipient of the Silver Order of the de Fleury.