Tambour Eller, currently serving as the project executive on the Mosul Dam Task Force during its final close out, was recently named the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civilian of the Year. Eller received the award for her combined work in three jobs over the course of the awards period.
The award, established by and subsequently named after Lt. Gen. John Morris, the 44th Chief of Engineers, recognizes the USACE employee who individually has made the most significant and noteworthy contributions to the mission, reputation, and prestige for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Eller was recognized for her work on the Mosul Dam Task Force, her work during her detail to the South Pacific Division as acting Regional Business Management Director and as the Sacramento District’s senior civilian advisor to the Commander & the Programs & Project Management Division Chief.
Eller volunteered for the MDTF because of the challenging nature of the mission of stabilizing what at one point in time was considered one of the world’s most at risk dams.
“One of my approaches to our business is to get comfortable being uncomfortable because you will need to be innovative, creative and take risks that maybe you are not used to state side. This mission allowed that freedom. It’s also great to get some “boots on the ground” experience in project construction,” Eller said.
Among the things Eller was recognized for in her award nomination was the effort she invested in the individuals with whom she spent countless hours supporting, coaching, mentoring and training on the project delivery business processes for Mosul Dam.
Col. Philip Secrist, the MDTF commander during Eller’s tenure, said her ability to foster good relationships both internal to the task force and with their Iraqi hosts made an impression on him.
“She took over as project executive from someone who had really cultivated good relationships with the contractors and the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources. When someone new comes in there’s naturally a concern about keeping the relationship strong. Tambour immediately built a rapport with those in the ministry, especially some of the women there who were just starting their careers. She proved a great mentor and quickly gained the trust and respect of everyone she worked with,” said Secrist.
That ability to build relationships seemed to be a theme in her award nomination and was also mentioned as key to her work at the Sacramento District where she “developed and fostered key leadership relationships with the Army’s Surface Deployment & Distribution Command (SDDC), Army Material Command, and local Directorate of Public Works staff as part of the District’s largest military construction project at the Military Ocean Terminal, Concord.
Brig. Gen. Kimberly Colloton, commander of the South Pacific Division, praised Eller for the work she did while she was acting business director at the division.
“Tambour is an exceptional team builder. Her personal dedication and leadership were instrumental in strengthening our ability to deliver not on just one project, but for enduring success,” said Colloton.
Colloton also praised Eller for her ability to keep things moving in a fast-paced environment.
“While she was Regional Business Director for the South Pacific Division, the Division was moving at full-speed tackling emerging missions and new challenges. She did an outstanding job ensuring the Division had the strategic direction, technical engineering support, and financial acumen to support the largest program year on record for our region.”
Eller for her part, attributed her success to everyone who has helped her along the way, beginning with the Head Start program in grade school which helped foster a lifelong interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects. She used the theme of “head start” in her acceptance speech to talk about the work USACE does daily.
“We give the people a head start to rebuild their lives when they have been devastated by natural disasters such as the Northern California wildfires. We give our military a head start to complete its mission by providing the infrastructure for shipment of critical resources needed, such as our pier work at Military Ocean Transport, Concord. We give cities like Sacramento--one of the most at-risk cities for flooding in the US-- a head start by studying, designing and investing in our levee systems. We give the people of Iraq a head start to build their engineering capabilities and to the regional economy by supporting efforts to stabilize the Mosul Dam. We give our Corps team a head start to face some of the most complex challenges of the Nation by coaching and mentoring others like others have done for me.”