Category Archives: Awards

Dedication Shines Through in Awards

Shining a spotlight on Dennis Bradley, the current chief of safety and occupational health for the Little Rock District is not hard. Bradley is a kind, genuine, and humble man whose dedication to duty is hard to match. Bradley received two awards recently for his stalwart efforts in furthering the Corps’ missions. Bradley received the Special Recognition Award for safety from Lt. Gen. Semonite for his role as the interim national program manager for emergency response for safety from August 2017 to present. The Risk Management Award was awarded to him for his exceptional performance and contributions to the Army Safety and Occupational Health Program over the last year.

Dennis Bradley receives the Special Recognition Award for Safety from Col. Bob Dixon, commander of the Little Rock District.

When asked what his favorite part of the job is with a smile he said, “I love helping people. It’s an awesome thing to be able to take someone who didn’t know how to get from point a to point b and give them a road map to get there. I just love helping people.” Safety professionals serve as an essential function of the Corps because they contribute greatly by being present and relevant in all aspects of operations. It means interjecting themselves in operations like engineering and construction, locks and dams, or powerhouses.

When asked for more detail Bradley responded, “In and of ourselves safety doesn’t produce anything other than interpreting regulations and hopefully facilitating a safe work environment. We aren’t turning wrenches or fixing locks or any of those things but by interacting with all our folks out there, understanding their safety concerns or limitations, we are facilitating them doing those things safely so they can get their job done.”

Bradley’s dedication to his duties is astounding. Not only did he manage safety support for Hurricane Maria he also managed support for Harvey, Irma, and the wildfires in California. He managed the deployment of more than 120 USACE safety professionals, nurses, and industrial hygienists.

In addition to this, he was filling in as the Southwestern Division’s interim safety manager as he continued to support the Little Rock District. Knowing that the mission has to get done no matter what, Bradley even deployed himself during the holidays to Puerto Rico when no one else was available.

Dennis Bradley monitors the draining of the Spilling Basin at Millwood Lake.

When asked how he felt about receiving these awards, he responded with, “It’s always nice to be recognized. Everyone wants to be valued and I am no different. I don’t try to bring a lot of attention to the things I do, but it is nice every once in a while to be recognized for your efforts.”

These types of awards are important to Bradley because even though it’s nice to have one’s supervisors notice your work it’s even more uplifting when your peers do. A lot of these awards are peer driven so when an individual receives them it’s because their peers have taken notice of their efforts and want to recognize them for it.

Bradley is no stranger to federal service. He is a combat veteran of the United States Army and retired as a chief warrant officer four in 2008, after 27 years of service in the Arkansas Army National Guard. During his service, Bradley had many jobs. He was a detachment commander for two and one half years. He was also a brigade movement officer. During this time, he planned the movement of 3,000 troops from Arkansas to Iraq and back. He handled all the logistics and arranged for transportation and rail load. He was often called upon to take on duties of this nature because he didn’t mind doing it. He enjoyed it.

Laughing he stated, “Like any horse you have, you let it haul the load until it stops.  But it was fun and it gave me a lot of experiences.” Experiences that have transitioned with him into the Corps.  Given his length of service in the military he has won numerous awards along the way.

When asked about these awards he stated, “I don’t have a love me wall or anything like that I keep my individual awards at home and all the awards that are currently up on my wall are for the district. At the end of the day I’m proud of the things I have done but it’s not ever one person who gets the mission done.”

Alongside his duties to the Corps, family is one of the most important things to Bradley. He has four children and ten grandchildren!  His grandbabies occupy a lot of his free time and he plans to spend his time taking them to see all the wondrous things our nation has to offer.

When asked why this is important to him he stated, “I have been blessed to see most of the United States and a lot of the world actually, and I want them to have those experiences too.” Smiling for a moment, he then laughed and replied, “That’s how I am going to spend my retirement money.”

He is a modest man and wants to ensure that those who deserve credit receive credit where it’s due. Instead of taking sole recognition for his achievements he acknowledges that it was a team effort.

“When I say I deployed 120 plus people I physically did a lot of work but there were five, ten, and twenty people at any given time who were helping with all of these things all the time so it’s never one person who gets it done. It’s a team effort and I appreciate that and like to thank these folks all the time. Even though I am a big part of it, without the folks actually punching the buttons and doing the emergency and resource management piece, none of these deployments happen. Nobody gets down range and the hurricanes don’t get safety applied to them. I appreciate the recognition, but it’s a team effort that gets everything done.”

But as we all know the mission never stops. At the time this article is posted Bradley will have just returned from the Bahrain district where he supported a dive mission. Dennis Bradley is an illustration of exemplary character and a great role model for all.

“We have an outstanding safety program, which is a credit to Dennis, his team, and the culture of safety that our leaders at all levels have adopted. I am particularly proud of the positive attitude Dennis brings to the work. He approaches each project not by asking how our folks can be safe, but by asking ‘how can we help people accomplish the mission safely?’ This attitude makes all the difference. I’m extremely proud of Dennis and our whole safety team.” Said Col. Bob Dixon, commander of the Little Rock District.

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.