Army Lieutenant gains invaluable experience working with the Far East District

by Antwaun J. Parrish, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District
Stripes Korea

Seoul, South Korea – Finding unique and developmental assignments for career growth is essential for Soldiers to succeed throughout their career. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District (FED) provides opportunities for young officers to grow and excel.

1st Lt. Zachary Hawkins, a project engineer, has worked with the Family Housing Resident Office for the past three months, after being part of the 11th Engineer Battalion.

“I was a platoon leader with the 630th Clearance Company,” said Hawkins. “Our company along with other companies throughout the Army came to Camp Humphreys to form the 11th Engineering Battalion in October 2017.”

Hawkins was educated at Georgia Southern University where he participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. At the end of his time as a platoon leader, Hawkins explained how his battalion commander helped him figure out his next career move.

“He saw that I had applied for a USACE position back in the states, but due to my date eligible to return to the U.S., I wasn’t able to accept it,” said Hawkins. “So he [former battalion commander] talked to the FED commander to inquire if I could come over to the FED and work as a project engineer, and Col. Schlosser allowed it.”

Although Hawkins was educated as a civil engineer, during his first three years in the Army he worked in combat engineering. He explained that studying civil engineering in college and performing combat engineering tasks in the military are polar opposites, and he felt a little rusty in his technical engineering skills.

“So coming to work with the FED made me re-visit those skills and use what I actually learned in college and put it to use,” said Hawkins. “I have gained some valuable experience for my future career so it’s been great.”

Since working with the FED, Hawkins has been able to work on several projects which have allowed him to exercise his technical skills to the maximum due to an abundance of projects at Camp Humphreys.

He stated that his main project, the unaccompanied enlisted housing is set to be complete around spring or summer 2020. He is also heavily involved in the housing division’s mini-mall project at Camp Humphreys.

“The project [mini-mall] is the most interesting one because it is an important project on Camp Humphreys that all the commanders are pushing to have open as soon as possible,” said Hawkins. “Seeing the process of how things work and how they [projects] get turned over form the Korean contractors to the US government is pretty interesting.”

Working on the large scale projects being developed at Camp Humphreys and accepting a developmental assignment sets Hawkins apart from his peers.

“I feel like it sets me up for success,” said Hawkins. “Using this experience with working on two opposite ends of the spectrum from civil to combat engineering shows my diversity. So in the future of my career, my commanders can see that and say that I am very flexible, meaning they can put me in any position and I can succeed.”

Hawkins has plans in place that will continue his career progression after departing the FED.

“My plans after this is to attend the engineer’s captain career course and while I’m there I’m going to obtain a master’s in civil engineering,” said Hawkins. “I hope to use these skills that I’ve learned here and apply them to my education so when I do leave the military I will have some engineering experience that I can take to the civilian side.”

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