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Corps employees take the helm to improve motor boating skills

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published June 25, 2018
(USACE photo by Mark Rankin

Noel Smith, natural resource specialist offers boating advice to Harvey Toby, also a natural resource specialist during a boat safety course on J. Percy Priest Lake June 11, 2018. The class is mandatory to all Corps employees that operate a water vessel.

(USACE photo by Mark Rankin

Noel Smith offers boating advice to Ryan Evan during a boat safety course on J. Percy Priest Lake June 11, 2018 as Harvey Toby looks on. The class is mandatory to all Corps employees that operate a water vessel.

(USACE photo by Mark Rankin)

Gregg Nivens, a park ranger from Dale Hollow Lake instructs Samantha Bedard, a park ranger from Old Hickory Lake on boat maneuvers during a boat course on J. Percy Priest Lake during a boating safety class June 11, 2018.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June, 23, 2018 –  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District employees attended a four-day Motorboat Operator’s Course. Class participants came from across the district to the J. Percy Lake shop conference room at J. Percy Priest Lake.

Brian Mangrum, natural resource specialist and course training coordinator said the course was a requirement for all employees throughout the district that operate Corps vessels the knowledge and skills required to operate Corps vessels safely.

 “This motor boat operator course is important because it is a great opportunity for us to teach and provide to all corps employees that require a motor boat operator’s license,” said Mangrum.

Mangrum said a group of 12 employees shared classroom and boat time on J. Percy Priest Lake. Topics included: Navigation; fire safety; boating rules and regulations; trailer maintenance, unloading and loading. The group also participated in practical exercises, water safety group exercises and practiced hands-on field exercises and maneuvering a boat through an obstacle course. 

The course is set up in two sections. Section One covers equipment requirements, rules, regulations, laws, emergency procedures, water safety and boat orientation.  Section Two, aids to navigation, course familiarization, serpentine course, transitional course, evasive maneuvering, open water docking and launching and loading.

According to Mangrum, multiple rangers and instructors from area lakes provided classroom and water training in boat operation, patrol basics, water safety and group activities.  The instruction included: boat patrol basics, understanding floatation devices, hypothermia.  

“This is the best opportunity we have to provide training and have several of these courses during the summer,” said Mangrum.”

He said throughout the year, park rangers have extensive work schedules providing patrol, water safety on area lakes and attending various educational opportunities with the boating public.   Park rangers also educate children by presenting water safety demonstrations at public schools and by passing out water safety information at the swim beach.

Gregg Nivens, park ranger from Dale Hollow Lake and senior boat course instructor said the classes and courses offer employees other than park rangers the chance to familiarize themselves with various types of boats and give the seasoned boat operators that need licenses the opportunity to brush up on their skills.

"This is the best way to teach a boat operator course and it is fun to see the students get hands-on-training that will help them on their everyday jobs,” said Nivens.  “Most of all, it provides a better understanding of the importance of operating a boat safely, how it affects others and over time we see their progress.” 

Nivens said Nashville District park rangers with this training have the ability to enforce federal boating regulations and routinely engage the public recreating on Corps lakes to promote good boating and water safety practices when boating and recreating.   Others like Nashville District Biologist Ryan Evans needs the training to operate a boat for collecting water samples.

“We have a variety of folks out here from our locks, power plants, maintenance teams and rangers,” said Nivens.  They will become better boat operators, water safety practitioners that will have confidence to provide safety for others," Nivens said.

Samantha Bedard, park ranger from Old Hickory said her training has been beneficial because she has experienced various types of boats and it allowed here to gain confidence to operate her boat.

“This has been great for me to interact and meet with experienced instructors and other rangers,” said Bedard. 

Mangrum said to promote public safety, the park rangers maintain a presence on the lakes, at recreation areas and campgrounds throughout the year, they interact with the public in these areas during the recreation season.

“Everyone that goes through this training will feel better about themselves and their training,” said Mangrum. "Training and educating our rangers about boating and water safety is a primary mission and it is key to helping provide the public the safest recreational environment possible especially during the summer when the public frequent our lakes most, our primary focus is to always keep them safe.”

The Nashville District operates 10 lakes in the Cumberland River Basin, which includes recreation areas and campgrounds. The district also provides collaborative water resource engineering solutions, world class public infrastructure management, and environmental stewardship for the Cumberland-Tennessee River Systems.

Nashville District Instructors were Tyler Matthews, Gregg Nivens, Jamie Summers, Terry Marin, Noel Smith, Bryan Mangrum and Kayl Kite. 

 (The public can get more water safety information at and local lake information at The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at