Category Archives: National Engineer Week

National Engineers Week Spotlight – Chris Karamales

Bio Stats: Christopher Karamales

Position: Mechanical Engineer, Design Branch

Years with SWL: 1 year, 4 months

Hometown: Pineville, La.

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Louisiana Tech University

Certifications: P.E. Arkansas

Hobbies: Photography, travel, fixing things that I was too cheap to buy working/new

Q:  You have been with the district for more than a year, how has your job evolved?  Was it what you thought it would be?

A:  At first I thought I would be working strictly on doing design for civil works projects.  Soon after starting I picked up heating, ventilation and air conditioning projects as well which just added to the variety.  I didn’t realize how much of the job was related to project management or getting a project built.  It’s been a learning process figuring out all the aspects of the job that aren’t strictly design.  The job is not entirely what I expected it would be but I’ve really enjoyed the variety that comes with those unexpected projects.

Q:  What positions have you held in the district?

A:  This is my first position with the Corps.

Q:  What are your short and long term professional and personal goals?

A:  Professional – I’m in full on learning mode.  There are so many things to learn here.  From best practices when designing mechanical systems to getting a project from start to construction and beyond.  My goal is to become an expert on the mechanical aspects of our hydropower projects.

A:  Personal – A short term goal of mine is to spend more time reading and less time falling down the YouTube rabbit hole.  Longer term I’m just trying to be better than I was yesterday.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about your job?

A:  There is no shortage of variety at this job.  We have a wide range of projects including high head dams, low head dams, hydropower, river navigation, HVAC, military, and more.  I like that I get to work on so many different facilities.

Q:  What projects are you working on now and what are some of the challenges?

A:  I am currently working on replacing the sump system at Bull Shoals.  It is early in the project but there are some challenges that will be fun to work through with the guys there.  One challenge on these projects is that the site is so far away.  If you want to know where a small component is or how much room you have you can’t just walk down and look.  But all it takes is a phone call and the guys at the sites have you an answer.  They really know their project and are a great resource.

Q:  What has been your favorite project you have worked on?

A:  My favorite project I’ve worked on was the raw water piping replacement at Table Rock Lake.  Very soon after I started working here I was put on this project and started learning the ropes.  I really enjoyed working with the guys at the site whether it was during site visits or working through an issue.  It was a good start and set me up well for future projects.

Q:  What ways have you found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?

A:  I feel like the Corps is a good place to work if life outside of work is important to you.  The schedule is fair and allows me to spend time with friends and family fairly easily.  There is the stress that comes with having several projects going on concurrently but that’s nothing a little fishing can’t fix.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?

A:  I once went on a weekend trip to Israel because I didn’t have enough vacation time to take more than a couple of days off and the round trip tickets were only about $340.  We left on Thursday, spent 8 hours in London seeing the sights, got interrogated by IDF before they let us into Israel, had a great time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, didn’t sleep, and I was back at work Monday morning.

National Engineers Week Spotlight – DeJuan Carter

Bio Stats: DeJuan Carter, 44 years old, married, father of two (DeJuan Jr. – 18 and Taylor -17) Position: Chief, Construction Branch/ Area Engineer

Years with SWL: 25 Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.

Education: B.S. Civil Engineering, University of Arkansas Certifications: Professional Engineer

Hobbies: Basketball, cycling, strength training, playing piano/keyboards

Q: You have been with the district 25 years, how has your job changed over the years?

A: Technology has evolved. Scheduled milestones and metrics have more and more become serious drivers to define success

Q: What positions have you held in the district?

A: Designer in Structures and Dam Safety, project engineer, resident engineer, area engineer, chief, construction, project manager, program manager

Q: What was your favorite job position and why?

A: Probably the project engineer while I was at the Little Rock Air Force Base. I was a GS-12 engineer primarily responsible for delivering my assigned projects on time. Things weren’t overly complicated in that position.

Execution was the name of the game. I felt like I knew the value of my contribution every day I went home. I really enjoyed working with contractors to see projects start from scratch and get finished to the point that our customer was happily using what we delivered.

Q: What are your short and long term professional and personal goals?

A: Professional – chief of Engineering and Construction Division for Little Rock District

A: Personal – Hopefully draw people to Christianity by example; be the best Christian I can be by continuing to have faith and serving through the music ministry; be a great husband to my wife and a great father to my children; stay healthy with a balanced work/life regiment

Q: What do you do to instill your veteran knowledge in new employees?

A: I’m not sure I’m sharing enough. I feel like I’m still learning all the time because things change all the time. I think the thing I try to share is that one must solve problems and make the best decision(s) with the information available at the time. One cannot become paralyzed to the point of indecision. Gather the facts quickly, make a decision, and move on.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: Variety. I can’t get bored. I’ve worked with lots of different people on lots of projects in lots of places. If a person gets bored working for USACE I believe they aren’t looking hard enough at the available opportunities or they’ve constrained themselves too much. If they don’t know about opportunities they need to find somebody to help. I just can’t imagine getting bored within this organization.

Q: What projects are you working on now and what are some of the challenges?

A: This is funny. Medical projects, civil works projects, military projects abound. But I’m in the middle of a settlement agreement for the Little Rock Air Force Base Repair/Replace Runway project. This very well might be the most challenging project I’ve personally been involved with in my career – and that’s saying a lot. This was the first project in my career I truly felt like I failed to deliver to our customer. There were extreme issues that got us all there, but I’ve typically been able to overcome some very tough challenges. There were too many technical and political challenges to explain in a short response.

Q: What has been your favorite project you have worked on?

A: This is a tough one, but delivering a stretch of border fence as a project manager ranks up there. I was a new PM and I was tasked to deliver a stretch of fence in Calexico, California in a very short period of time. I didn’t know much about the pre-award process at the time so I had a very steep learning curve. In the end, we awarded a $50 million fence project that got through acquisition, award, and execution in about five months. It was very fast and everybody seemed to be pleased with the results.

Q: What ways have you found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?

A: I treat my home life like a job just like I treat my professional job. Schedules and priorities are the key. I find if you prioritize yourself you’ll actually do the things you set out to do. I try to take my professional very seriously but I believe if your physical health and spiritual health diminish your professional health will suffer. Therefore, I make sure I spend time with the wife and kids. I make sure I exercise and eat right (most of the time). I make sure I deliver praise through music at church every Sunday. This keeps me balanced.

Q: Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?

A: Hmmm, I don’t think people know that when I say I like all types of music I’m actually telling the truth. I probably could have been a music major in college if I hadn’t gone into engineering. I have music in the genres of gospel, jazz, R&B, big-band, rock, classical, hip-hop, neo-soul. I’ve listened to some country and actually will admit that I like some of it, but I haven’t spent a penny buying any of it.