US Army Corps of Engineers
Middle East District

Service to the nation and USACE is a family affair

Published Aug. 27, 2019
Carol and Bob Hickel, on the outer sides, both ready to go enjoy their retirements, passed the hard hat on to their son David Hickel, who has worked as a summer intern with the Middle East District this year and hopes to finish college and come back permanently.

Carol and Bob Hickel, on the outer sides, both ready to go enjoy their retirements, passed the hard hat on to their son David Hickel, who has worked as a summer intern with the Middle East District this year and hopes to finish college and come back permanently.

Carol and Bob Hickel high-five their son David Hickel as they leave the Middle East District Headquarters in Winchester, Va., and David, a summer intern with the District, enters. Carol is working as a rehired annuitant and Bob is preparing to retire after a 10-year career with the District.

Carol and Bob Hickel high-five their son David Hickel as they leave the Middle East District Headquarters in Winchester, Va., and David, a summer intern with the District, enters. Carol is working as a rehired annuitant and Bob is preparing to retire after a 10-year career with the District.

Through two generations of the Hickel family, there’s a continuous, strong tradition of service to our nation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a combined total of more than 100 years. With a third generation added this summer, that number continues to grow.

For a brief time this summer, the Middle East District has reaped the benefits of three members and two generations of Hickels through Robert (Bob) Hickel, in Logistics Management; his wife Caryl Hickel, in the Project Management Division, and their son David Hickel, a Project Management intern.

Bob's dad started the family’s tradition of service to their nation, serving the Army as a Soldier and then as a civilian; Bob’s sister Cathy served as a Corpsman in the Navy; and his uncle in the Coast Guard.

In 1975, Bob joined the Air Force starting what turned out to be a 20-year career. After he retired, he eventually joined USACE in 2009 as a civilian with his roll-up-your-sleeves and get the job done attitude.

“I have always been proud of our mission here. When Afghanistan and Iraq were hot and heavy, we did a really good job keeping them and the Mosul Dam team supported,” said Bob, who intends to retire at the end of the summer.

Caryl Hickel, whose father was a Korean War veteran, started with USACE in May 1981. “I was working for the Savannah District from the North Carolina Area Office at Fort Bragg, N.C., first as an Office Engineer, Supervisory Office Engineer, and then a Project Engineer,” she said. “I left the Corps briefly to work for Fort Bragg’s Directorate of Engineering and Housing, the former name for today's installation Department of Public Works, or DPWs, for just under a year in the mid-80's.”

She returned to the Corps until Bob's military PCS to Charleston, S.C. in 1993, when she worked for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southern Division for seven years. In 2000, Caryl was PCSed to the Pittsburgh District and in 2004 to what is now the Middle East District headquarters in Winchester, Va.

“Our agreement was that after I retired from the Air Force, I would go wherever Caryl needed to,” Bob said. “That’s how we ended up in Winchester.”

“I first came to Winchester, Virginia, to the Transatlantic Center (called TAC) as a TDY Cost Engineer on the Source Selection Team for the $900 million Iraq Reconstruction, Security and Justice Sector inter-agency project,” Caryl said. “There were team members from multiple USACE districts, NAVFAC, Army Audit Agency, Army Material Command, and many other government agencies.

“After nearly six months of TDY effort and learning that my home district (Pittsburgh District) would undergo a RIF (reduction in force), I found a new home at TAC as the P2 Program Manager,” she said. “I became a Project Management Branch Chief, and retired as the Deputy to the DPM. I also had two deployments to Afghanistan South District as the Chief, Business Management Branch, in 2011 and 2012.”

Caryl retired from TAM with more than 30 years federal service as an engineer and project management chief in 2015, and continues serving through the Rehired Annuitants Program.

The third generation of Hickels, David, worked as a summer hire this year, and has his sights set on working at MED permanently when he finishes school. He was the first Hickel to start serving the nation as a 21-year-old civilian. He attends George Mason University and is working on a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with three semesters to go.

“One of my favorite toys growing up was Lego's, which led me to looking at Engineering and Architecture as electives in middle and high school,” David said. “I ended up choosing engineering as it could allow me to serve my country, since I can't join the military due to some health issues.

“Coming to work here is basically my dream job … I don't want to be anywhere else,” David said. “The earliest memories I really have about TAM are the several times I came to the Halloween party where all the kids came in costumes and got candy. A more recent memory was back in high school during a Day with an Engineer event. There were different schools visiting and after a formal introduction on what the places does, there was a gumdrop and toothpick building competition ... Unfortunately my team lost, but we had a lot of fun.”

About his internship, David said, “I am extremely thankful for the people I worked with for taking time to teach me. “

With renovations going on in the building this summer, the three Hickels have not been able to work in the same building much, but there are other benefits.

“Our dinner conversations are more interesting now to David because he understands references to acronyms, processes, people, projects, and locations in the building,” said Caryl. “I've really enjoyed teaching him and especially watching his understanding grow. And Bob and I were both so proud when he answered that he had attended a Source Selection AE meeting, but couldn't tell us anything because we were not part of that team, i.e., we didn't have the requisite need to know. He already understands that certain topics should not be discussed outside of the cleared project delivery team, even if it's his parents who ask. We’re so glad he’s already learned these lessons that take many career government workers much longer to learn.

“As parents, we are so very proud that David wants to work for our government via USACE,” Caryl said. “He is creative, hardworking, polite, loyal, and has a wry sense of humor. If David is offered an engineer-intern position at graduation next year, he has the potential for a lifelong career with USACE. How many families have continuously served our nation for over a century?”