NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 14, 2017) – Excited youngsters eagerly donned life jackets today for the chance to learn about navigation and water safety on board several Corps of Engineers boats docked on the Cumberland River at Music City’s Riverfront. Throughout the day they participated in lots of fun activities, learned about Nashville District operations and missions, and their parents did a lot of “show and tell” on “Take Your Kids to Work Day.”
Bobby Jackson, natural resources specialist in the Nashville District Natural Resources Branch, organized the day’s activities and asked the children a poignant question about their future when he gave his opening comments.
“What are you going to do for the rest of your life for work?” Jackson asked. “You are going to be working a third of your life and you need to know what you are going to be doing. Hopefully this event will help guide you.”
Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander, welcomed the kids to the district headquarters and explained that the work their parents do is important to building, operating and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure.
“In the Corps of Engineers we do some incredible things,” Murphy said. “Your parent works for an organization that is almost as old as the nation and has been instrumental in making the United States what it is today.”
Murphy informed the kids that throughout history the Corps of Engineers built a lot of great structures, including the Washington Monument, Pentagon, Panama Canal, not to mention the modern dams in the Cumberland River Basin.
“We are really glad you get to come here today to see what we do and what your mom and dad do,” Murphy said.
Eric Pagoria, civil engineer and Construction Branch chief, said the Corps of Engineers’ employees are the nation’s problem solvers who work to support the military around the world and build the nation’s infrastructure projects such as levees and dams to reduce the risk of flooding for public safety.
“We are building all these things that help your cities,” Pagoria said. “We make sure we have clean water. We protect our nation’s water by cleaning the areas that are contaminated, and taking care of the environment so you can enjoy it.”
Diane Parks, Nashville District Operations Division chief, said when projects are constructed, her team is charged with operating and maintaining them, which include dams, hydropower plants, navigation locks, recreation areas, hiking trails, campgrounds, playgrounds, and designated swimming areas.
She added that commodities such as coal, sand and gravel are moved throughout the inland waterway system and hydroelectric power makes it to the grid because of the collective efforts of the district’s maintainers, operators, navigation experts, water managers and electrical engineers.
The kids were divided into age groups and escorted to Riverfront Park in Nashville by the Cumberland River. James Sowell and Tim Rochelle, emergency managers, gave them a tour of a command and control vehicle. Cordell Hull Lake Park Ranger Ashley Webster talked about water safety and wildlife. Ben Rohrbach, chief of hydraulics and hydrology, gave a wetland model demonstration to show the kids how development can sometimes be harmful to the environment and increase the risk of flooding.
Carina Long, who spent her ninth birthday with her father Brad Long, Nashville District Soils and Dam Safety chief, boarded a navigation survey boat with him where she saw how the Corps maps the river bottom. Civil Engineers Noel Smith and Cody Flatt talk about hydrographic surveying with all of the kids who boarded the district’s navigation survey boat.
“I loved it,” she said. “I liked how the boat rocked back and forth.”
Park Ranger Pamela Backus from Old Hickory Lake supervised kids on a patrol boat at the dock and encouraged them to stay safe when boating and swimming at Corps lakes.
"I was really trying to promote awareness with the safety materials that are on the boat,” Backus said. “We talked about making sure you stay in the right navigation channel. We talked about having the right sound-making equipment. We talked about having the right communication device and the right size fire extinguisher. They can pass along this information and know that safety awareness is a big issue.”
She said some kids had never ever been on a boat, so she stressed that wearing a properly-fitted life jacket is always the number one priority.
In the afternoon the kids toured the district headquarters and received a hydropower presentation from David Mistakovich, supervisory electrical engineer and chief of the Nashville District Hydropower Branch. Brad Bishop, Navigation Branch chief, gave a presentation about navigation on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and Mark Elson, Geology Section and Civil Design, led an interactive activity designed to show how limestone presents challenges to engineers who design dams.
The kids participated in a number of interactive activities such as building dams with Legos, working with CAD drawings, and using software for designing bridges.
Peyton Dawson, 7, daughter of Ashley Williams, administrative specialist in the Civil Design Branch, said she had a great time going to work with her mother.
“I learned about electricity and rocks,” Dawson said. “I liked how they smashed the rocks. I saw boats and this big car. They have this thing that goes down into the water – it’s a camera to see how deep the water is. We saw Bobber and learned to always wear a life jacket.”
A’monte Briscoe, a student at Northwest High School in Clarksville, Tenn., said he came with a friend and had fun learning more about the Corps of Engineers and the various career fields that are available within the organization. He said he enjoyed learning about engineering and building structures and bridges.
At the end of the day, kids received certificates and had their pictures taken with the commander and Bobber the Water Safety Dog.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)