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Posted 5/5/2014

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By Nakeir Nobles

Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort. - U.S. Army website, www.army.mil/values/.  

When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the country of Haiti in January 2010, Tim Brown was moved by the catastrophic event even though he was half a world away, in Kabul, Afghanistan.  

“My heart went out to them, I was devastated,” said Brown. While following the story on the news, “my mind went to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Knowing a little about the history of the country and its economic state in 2010, I knew Haiti was in a fragile economic condition and it would take major outside assistance to recover from the earthquake.

“There were reports of a lot of non-governmental agencies on the ground helping, and I was relieved. But deep inside I wanted to do my part to help Haiti recover,” Brown added.

Already deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Brown knew the opportunity would come for him to support and make a difference. He just didn’t know when.

Shortly after returning home from Afghanistan, he and a friend made plans for a missionary trip to Haiti in 2012. But “life happened,” he explained.

Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast October 2012, and Brown deployed as the mission manager of the critical facilities team. He led the assessment of more than 47 critical public facilities along the east coast of New Jersey.

Unbeknownst to him, a new adventure was on the horizon.

Brown, an engineer and senior project manager in the Programs and Project Management Division, took advantage of an opportunity to work within the division’s Military, Interagency and International Services Branch. The position would allow him to use his expertise to support other agencies performing work in other countries. He had no idea he would soon manage a project that would bring economic recovery to Haiti, a nation that had been ravaged by a natural disaster and that had touched him so deeply.

Then the request came.

“We got a call from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide technical assistance in Haiti,” Brown said.

In October 2013, Brown went to Haiti to initiate the district’s technical assistance to USAID/Haiti on the northern port project, part of USAID’s efforts to complete the U.S. Post Earthquake Recovery Strategy for Haiti. The project will provide needed economic stimulation for Haiti.

Whether supporting the nation at home or abroad, it can be difficult to be separated from family and loved ones for extended periods.

“It’s a tough decision to leave home and loved ones behind to venture off to the unknown,” Brown said. “Comfort and convenience in Third World countries are [few and far between]. You leave the comforts of home to go to a place with unstable power and non-potable water; it’s hard. I explained to my kids, seven and 10 years old, ‘Daddy has to work in Haiti. There are struggling people who need my help.’ They understand that.”

As the plane prepared to land in Haiti, reality began to sink in.

“I had a ticket, a point of contact but didn’t know who would meet me at the airport. I was in a land of people who looked like me, but I didn’t speak nor understand the language.” He was an outsider.

“I was very uncomfortable,” Brown said, “but I was going to perform work that was more important than me and my comforts. I was uneasy. I was anxious, I didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t even read the signs,” he said. “But that’s what selfless servants do. With our gifts and talents, we can make the world a better place, in spite of ourselves.”

To do this type of work, Brown says, one should have a sense of adventure; a set of values where the greater good and what you’re working toward outweighs your own personal comforts.

Not only does Brown work selflessly on Corps projects and disaster recovery, he also actively promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. He recently coordinated a team of fellow employees to assist with the Second Annual Junior STEM camp, held at Jacksonville’s University of North Florida. And most recently, Brown and his co-workers hosted a group of First Lego League students at the district. The event provided a view of STEM disciplines as they are used in Corps career fields.

Brown says he believes to whom much is given, much is required. “We are given abilities for the service for mankind and not for selfish reasons. That is why I do what I do.”

Others who embody selfless service may not have deployed or worked on projects that benefit less fortunate countries, but their service to the nation is equally valuable.

Ronnie “Shawn” Huebner, construction representative in the South Florida Operations Office (SFOO) in Clewiston, Fla. and Maria Bezanilla, project manager in the Miami Regulatory office forget about their comfort zones and what is “not their job” and, like Nike, they “Just Do It,” without any expectation of praise.

“Maria embodies selfless service,” said Ingrid Sotelo, chief of the Miami Regulatory office. “Her attitude at work is the polar opposite of the “not-my-job” mentality. Whether it’s boxing up files or taking on [additional project load], she takes on whatever she sees [that] needs to be done without being asked; without complaining. One day we will figure out a way to clone her,” Sotelo said.

Huebner is a combat veteran and former infantry soldier who now works in the SFOO contracting section. He also supports the Invasive Species Management Branch one day a week, providing quality assurance for Natural Resources Conservation Service invasive plant control projects.   

“I’ve always been taught to think of others before yourself,” said Huebner. He believes that is the definition of selfless service.

“The way I look at it, the phrase ‘it’s not my job’ is not in my vocabulary,” said Huebner.  “Whatever task a supervisor asks [me] to do, or if a co-worker needs assistance getting a job done, [I] just do it. I don’t look at an assignment as not being my job. Often, that assignment gives me an opportunity to learn something,” he says.

Huebner said he thinks his wife, Angie, who works in the district’s Invasive Species Management Branch in Jacksonville, portrays selfless service more so than he does.

“I was in the military from 1988-91; I was single. But when I went to Afghanistan from 2011-2012 as a Corps employee, my wife supported me. She made the sacrifice,” he said.  “Without her, I couldn’t have done it. She is the selfless servant.”

army values Jacksonville District Selfless Service U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE