New employees see ‘big picture’

Middle East District
Published Jan. 21, 2010

Greg Pelfrey, left, and Edward Upson prepare safety equipment, which was required for the construction site tour.
WINCHESTER, Va. -- Employees who joined Middle East District during the past several months participated in a newly formatted orientation program Nov. 18-19, which is designed to provide a better understanding of the organization’s overall mission and how their individual efforts contribute to its success.

“It is important that employees understand how they fit into the organization,” Col. Ron Light, MED commander, told the group. “We’re going to use this orientation to let you know who we are as a district and what we expect from each of you as a part of that team.” Light began the orientation by speaking to the group and described the District as a public service organization that exists to serve customers. It has to be that way, he explained, because the bill paying customers keep us in business.

“Our customers have options to go somewhere else for these services. If they stop coming to us, our organization gets smaller and that could lead to the elimination of positions,” said Light.

“You have an effect on this organization by the way you treat the customers,” he continued. “I expect this District’s employees to bring energy and patience to the table.”  

A group of Middle East District employees tours the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency building, a Baltimore District project located near Fort Belvoir, Va., as part of a newly formatted New Employee Orientation held Nov. 18-19.
Middle East District employees receive a briefing before touring the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency building, a Baltimore District project located near Fort Belvoir, Va., Nov. 19.
The first day included presentations from MED’s division chiefs: Deborah Duncan, Deputy for Programs and Project Management; Darralyn Williams, Chief of Contracting; Roger M. Vogler, Chief of Engineering; and Roger L. Thomas, Chief of Construction-Operations. The District’s lead counsel, Derek Santos, and safety officer, Bob Bourgeois, also provided briefings to the group. Light took a few minutes between each presentation to provide the new employees with a better understanding of how each division coordinates with the others to be successful.

“The new orientation format places the focus on the project delivery process and spells out how we all fit into the big picture of delivering a quality product to our customers,” said Jeff Vandevander, who coordinated the event on behalf of the Employee Council. “The first day brings to light where the employee fits into the organizational structure and provides the framework showing each group’s role in project delivery.”

On the second day of orientation, the group traveled to Baltimore District’s project site for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency building near Fort Belvoir, Md. The trip provided an opportunity for the new employees to visit an active USACE construction project and gain a better understanding of how their efforts support project delivery, even if they aren’t there to see the tangible results of their labor, since MED’s projects are performed overseas.

After returning to Winchester, the program concluded with a panel-style discussion where senior leaders talked about what the newest team members should take away from the orientation, and they answered employee’s questions.  

Middle East District employees stand on the roof of the new National Geospatial Intelligence Agency building, a Baltimore District project located near Fort Belvoir, Va., Nov. 19.
“This is a tough environment to work in. We need to have the right people, and not just anybody will do. We chose you. That means we want you here and believe you can be an asset to our team,” concluded Light.

According to Vandevander, a survey conducted following the orientation confirmed the new format was a success. On a scale of 1-5, 65% rated the construction site visit a 5 for “Excellent.” The other 35% rated it 4 for “Good.” Furthermore, 87% of respondents said MED should continue the program and “keep it the same.”

“Overall, by putting emphasis on the big picture, employees got a real sense of the importance of the work we do,” said Vandevander. “Everyone here at MED plays a crucial part in making our mission successful. This new format pulls it all together in a very powerful way.”