Category Archives: Southwestern Division (Dallas)

Q & A with the SWD deputy commander

OllarQ. You have been the deputy commander for three months now. Are there some things that have really grabbed your attention as you have observed the workings of the Southwestern Division?

A. I think the size and scope of the Southwestern Division, and the impact of our projects on the American people, have honestly been impressive. The entire state of Texas by itself is a whole lot of territory. Throw in Oklahoma, most of Arkansas, parts of Missouri and Kansas (and then reconfigure for the military missions), and it’s remarkable. Add to that the benefit that our projects provide to the communities—as well as the interaction that I’ve seen between the Army Corps of Engineers and the communities—and there is a lot of story to tell there. When you work your piece of it every day, you might not see the overall impact. But from my perspective, what the Southwestern Division team accomplishes is tangible and it is value added.

Q. With short trips to three of the four Districts under your belt, any takeaways from those trips?

A. The dedication that USACE employees have to mission accomplishment. The professionalism displayed by every employee I have interacted with from the park rangers at Lewisville and Table Rock lakes, the staffs at the district offices and the lock operators on the White River in Arkansas.

Q. This is your second assignment with the Army Corps of Engineers but first with a civil works mission, which is unique in the Army, as it is composed mainly of a civilian workforce. What are your thoughts on this?

A. Civilians are a critical component of the U.S. Army. The Army employs about 260,000 civilians, which is about half of our active duty force. So I have worked with civilians my entire career. The bonus with the Army Corps of Engineers is the wide array of skill sets and the professional and technical expertise of this workforce. With just about every type of STEM background, every kind of engineering degree, half of our workforce with an academic degree and 71 percent with some college—the Southwestern Division is a real powerhouse of human capital! Who wouldn’t be proud to be a leader of this kind of workforce?

Q. We understand you come from a military family. Tell us a little about yourself.

A. I am the son of a career soldier and the oldest of four kids. My father retired as a sergeant first class in 1988, the year I left to begin my military career by attending West Point Prep School and eventually the United States Military Academy, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I am married to a wonderful spouse who hails from Baton Rouge, and we are blessed with two beautiful daughters and a brindle boxer named Fred.

Q. Is it true that you accepted this assignment because you are a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan?

A. That is an evil question! I enjoy all sports, but I love college and professional football and rugby. I am a diehard Army Football fan and we will BEAT NAVY this year. I also follow the Louisiana State University Tigers and love Southeastern Conference football. My professional football team is the Denver Broncos.

Q. Anything else you would like to add?

A. I knew coming into the job that I would have big shoes to fill, as Col. R.J. Muraski had six total years in the Division and three years as the deputy commander. I have felt welcomed to the SWD family as I make my way around the various offices and cubicles, and I am often reminded by the SWD folks that I meet that everyone has been new to USACE at some point, so they can relate as I learn new acronyms and new faces. I am excited to be here in Dallas and look forward to getting out to the districts and meeting the team. I feel that it is truly an honor and a privilege to serve with the SWD Pacesetter Team, and I look forward working with and getting to know everyone!


Division Regional Business Director, Perez talks Hispanic heritage, education for students, young professionals

Southwestern Division Public Affairs Office

For many Hispanics, their journey to attain their “American Dream” began from counties near and far and perhaps a generation or more removed. For Pete Perez, the Regional Business Director for Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, his journey began as a youngster growing up in the south side of San Antonio, Texas and has brought him to the ranks of senior leadership in our nation’s government and interactions with some of our national figures such as Ashton B. Carter, the 25th Secretary of Defense.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Perez shares personal anecdotes to encourage students and junior professionals. He is also a member of the Senior Executive Service, a cadre of executive leaders within the Federal Government who lead America’s workforce. There are 41 members of the Senior Executive Service in the Army Corps of Engineers and 279 SES members in the U.S. Army. The number for Hispanics is even smaller: Perez is one of only two Hispanic members among the 41, and nine among the 279.

Observing Role Models

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Perez said his parents were his foundational role models, who strongly emphasized the importance of education. “My personal motivation was driven by meeting my parents’ expectation that I go to college, continue my education in whatever field appealed to me and make a difference with the opportunity I was given.”

Perez’s educational roots were in the culturally enriched environment of San Antonio’s south side, where he attended St. Leo’s Catholic School and then Central Catholic High School, a college preparatory school and one of the oldest high schools in San Antonio with many prominent executives and political figures among its alumni. He then attended Texas A&M University, where he graduated with a degree in civil engineering, and began a professional career with Powell & Powell Engineers and Consultants in Dallas.

Perez was also quick to note that he did not graduate at the top of his class, but was able to achieve through perseverance. “I’m an example of how anything is possible with just a little support. I think there needs to be some energy expended on that part of the student body population that represents the middle of the bell curve because you never know what might come out of it. I did. If I can come out of the bell curve, through perseverance and dedication and a long list of lifelines thrown at me within the organization, good things can come your way.”

Throughout his career, Perez has developed a network of coaches and mentors. “These folks exposed me to the wealth of opportunities and how that aligned with my own career goals,” he said. “The message was consistent from the coaches and the mentors: If these are the things that you want to do, here is what is required; there would be some mobility involved; there would be some cross-functional exposure required, as well as an understanding of all the Corps of Engineers programs.” I had some really sage advice from some great leaders within the Corps: James Dalton, Jim Hannon, Bob Slockbower, even going back I had a slew of people who were advising and guiding even when I wasn’t aware of it.”

Expanding Your Comfort Zone

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Perez began his civil engineering career with a job in the private sector. After several years, he joined the Corps of Engineers in San Antonio, working out of the Fort Sam Houston Project Office and the Kelly Air Force Base Resident Office, primarily on Army and Air Force projects. He held positions of progressively increasing responsibility within Engineering and Construction at multiple locations including San Antonio, Korea, Alaska, and Galveston, Texas. This career progression led to him becoming the Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management in the Galveston District. He was honored with a Professional Achievement Award from the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference in 2002 for his work as a Resident Engineer at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Geographically speaking, career moves — from San Antonio to Korea to Alaska to Galveston — covered the breadth and depth of the Corps mission areas, and helped prepare Perez for higher-level positions with each move. Each move incorporated specific professional development goals. “For example, my assignment in Galveston was a radical departure for me,” Perez said. “My first 15 years were almost solely focused on the military mission, very little on civil works, and Galveston District further diversified my skill sets and professional development by totally immersing me in civil works.”

Leadership assignments also provided unique opportunities to develop not just on the technical skills, but also on “soft skills” – presenting information, building relationships, building consensus, and working through difficult issues. Perez notes, “There is really an art to communication that builds trust and confidence with your stakeholders, and that foreshadows for the future. Your clients are generally going to be the same. Thus, it is your relationship skills that help the partnership survive the ebbs and flows, continuing to maintain the trust and confidence that we will meet our commitments and deliver quality products. That’s critical.”

Sharing With Others

Public service provides the underlying motivation for Perez’s activities within USACE. He shares, “For me, the reward I got was seeing the airman or the soldier when we were turning over a family housing project, to see the look in their eyes, and they earned it. For what they do everyday in service for our great nation, they deserved it. There’s no greater feeling in the world.”

Developed by these experiences, Perez continues to overcome personal and professional challenges with an optimistic spirit. He states, “For me, the goal is to get out in the community and inspire those that maybe do not get the attention or the encouragement that they may need. I can use myself as an example. I am someone who persevered and worked hard. I think I can be an example that anything is possible. I can tell the story of how I overcame, how I leveraged talents that God has blessed me with. At the same time, I think I can also tell the story of the great opportunities that the Corps has and how everyone can contribute by being a part of this great organization to make a difference in the lives of our men and women in uniform and to our Nation.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with APEX participants at the Pentagon Sept. 14, 2015.  (DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz).
Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with APEX participants at the Pentagon Sept. 14, 2015. (DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz).