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Posted 2/6/2014

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By Jean Pavlov

We see them on cards that are handed out in our orientation packet from Human Resources. We see posters listing them on the walls in conference rooms or along the hallways. They are the seven U.S. Army values, which Soldiers and Civilians are asked to know and live by. But what do they really mean? And how do we apply them in our lives and in our work? This seven-part series will take a look at each of the values and showcase team members who embody them.

Brian Blake, senior lead of the coastal navigation team in Cost Engineering, has been with Jacksonville District since October 1982.  

“Brian has long been a member of the Cost Engineering Community of Practice and has served in the cost section as an engineering technician, preparing construction cost estimates for dredging for many years,” said Laureen Borochaner, chief of the Engineering Division. “In the past few years, Brian has held the role of team lead for the dredge estimating team, and in this capacity has demonstrated his loyalty to the Corps by working as a mentor to junior staff, even when he could have retired. Brian's contributions to cost engineering and to his fellow employees demonstrate the highest regard for others and the greatest loyalty to the cost section, Jacksonville District and the Corps of Engineers.”

"Brian is dedicated to Jacksonville District's coastal/navigation mission, exemplifying the Army value 'loyalty' in his daily work in cost section, estimating dredging projects through his dependability, reliability and trustworthiness,” said Tracy Leeser, chief of the cost engineering section and Blake’s immediate supervisor. “Brian can be counted on to turn out a top-quality estimate, to provide thorough and consistent mentoring to junior staff, and to get the job done on time,” she added. 

Two technical teams determine the cost of Jacksonville District projects; one is Blake’s team of six members that estimate the cost of coastal navigation projects, and the other team estimates the cost of heavy construction non-dredging projects. “We have the biggest dredging team in the entire Corps,” said Blake.

A Jacksonville native, Blake came to the district from the private sector after his tour in the U.S. Marine Corps (1974-1978). He started as a hydrographic surveyor, working for the Survey Branch on the original survey boat Florida, before moving to the operations navigation section, providing technical management of dredging projects. 

“One of the more involved and interesting projects I’ve worked on,” said Blake, “was when we raised the sunken dredge Crest in the Kings Bay entrance channel in Fernandina Harbor. All the subs had to go around the sunken dredge. The channel conditions were very restricted, it was a serious obstruction to navigation.”

Blake then moved to Cost Engineering Branch in 1994, where he has worked since. The coastal navigation estimating team’s job is to provide cost estimates that support project development from beginning to end. Some of the projects they have worked on are Miami Harbor, Jacksonville Harbor and San Juan Harbor, to name a few.  

Since 1998, Blake has also been a member of the Corps’ east coast dredging team, in which he does dredge cost consulting for other Corps districts, divisions and headquarters as well as other government agencies in areas such as Boston, Mass.; Wilmington, N.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Wash., and Yuma, Ariz.

In one example of a success story in assisting other agencies, Blake and Al Fletcher (district dredging expert and Blake’s mentor) were dispatched to Yuma, Ariz. in 1998 to work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on a dredging project on the Colorado River. 

“The BLM was proposing to dredge a sediment basin at the end of the river and pump the dredged material 10 miles south into Mexico, into an abandoned canal as an alternative to the existing nearby upland disposal site.  There was an ongoing cultural resource issue involving a Native American burial ground,” said Blake. “The dredging would have required the use of a portable pipeline dredge pumping through five booster pumps cross-country, through rough terrain to the proposed disposal site.” 

Using the Corps’ Dredge Estimating Program (CEDEP), the team demonstrated that the estimated cost for the 10-mile pumping alternative would be excessive, prompting the BLM to reconsider negotiating with the local Tribe the use of the existing site that was much closer to the sediment basin, and less costly.  

“Brian is probably one of the best dredge estimators, if not the best dredge estimator in the Corps of Engineers,” said Fletcher. “His advice is respected Corps-wide.  I feel it a privilege to have worked with Brian over the years.”

Blake said his many years with the district revolves around his experience working on dredging projects. “My personal sacrifice to not retire is nothing compared to the joy I get in the things I cherish most – the physical, mental and emotional feeling I get from helping others and achieving our goals here in engineering.  I’d probably leave today if I didn’t feel that way.”

Army army values Jacksonville District loyalty U.S. Army Corps of Engineers