NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 21, 2021) – Aras Barzanji, a hydraulic engineer within the Water Resources Section of the Engineering and Construction Division, is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Employee of the Month for August 2021. He is recognized primarily for his efforts as a team lead responding to the Middle Tennessee Flood in Humphreys, Hickman, and Dickson counties.
Lt. Col. Joseph Sahl, Nashville District commander, announced Barzanji’s selection and referred to him and his efforts as “another example of the District’s team members and mission working to provide invaluable support to the folks and communities in our region in times of disaster.”
Barzanji began his journey with the Nashville District 10 years ago. “I love helping, and USACE gave me a unique opportunity to help people in ways that is hard to do anywhere else.”
Barzanji, who serves as the Floodplain Management Services (FPMS) Coordinator, manages the FPMS program, which provides a hotline for private citizens to call in and seek floodplain assistance.
“Being able to help ordinary citizens with floodplain questions or issues gives me great joy.” He continued, “they are very appreciative because in many cases, USACE is the only [agency] that will answer their call[s].”
The August flooding in Humphreys, Hickman, and Dickson counties provided Barzanji another opportunity to help people. To support USACE and FEMA’s emergency mission, Barzanji assembled a team of more than 12 employees from Hydrology and Hydraulics and surveyors from the Nashville District (LRN) and Mississippi Valley Division’s Memphis District (MVM) to collect data.
Barzanji has been part of teams like this in the past; however, this was his first time leading a team.
“I set specific locations for different teams to focus their efforts and implemented quality assurance/quality control procedures on the collected data.” Additionally, “I helped coordinate funding and project requests between different offices throughout LRN, MVM, Cincinnati (LRD) districts and USACE headquarters.” He also worked closely with the program coordinator of the Silver Jackets, a joint program bringing together multiple federal, state, and local agencies to share information regarding flood disasters and discuss ways to work together in reducing flood risk.
Regarding his efforts in Waverly, Barzanji feels accomplished. “Professionally, I got to learn new skills, and it was great personally because I know this data will help the local communities build back better and be more resilient. It’s great knowing I was able to contribute a small piece to that.”
Barzanji is humble about his contribution. His supervisor, Kelley Philbin, says without him, “the high-water mark collection effort would not have happened.” She continues to describe his tireless efforts, “[He] started his days early coordinating with the survey crew and local officials, spent hours dangerous conditions navigating roadblocks and devastation, and stayed up late at night to prepare for the next day’s work. For weeks, Aras manned the entire operation with gumption and a positive attitude.”
Barzanji feels honored to receive the designation of the employee of the month. “This selection really means a lot. It means that your work is noticed.”
His work is more than “noticed”! Philbin brags, “Aras is an asset to our section and to the Corps – we are lucky to have him with us!” Philbin describes his work ethic and nomination, “Aras is a humble yet hard worker. He carries out an entire program within the section, coordinates with countless agencies and communities, and does this all with a smile on his face. Aras doesn’t ever ask for praise, instead, he shares the acclaim with his teammates and uses it as an opportunity to lift them up.”
(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.