New commander takes over at ERDC

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2001

Col. John W. Morris, left, entrusts the command flag to Dr. James R. Houston, the civilian director of ERDC, during the change of command ceremony at Waterways Experiment Station Wednesday. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/13/01] Col. John W. Morris III took over command of the Engineer Research and Development Center in ceremonies Wednesday at Waterways Experiment Station.

He succeeds Col. James Weller, who retired from the Army in May after commanding ERDC since August 2000. Morris is the third ERDC commander since the center was organized in October 1998 under the command of Col. Robin Cababa.

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Morris will command, in addition to Waterways Experiment Station here, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Ill., and the Topographic Engineering Center in Alexandria, Va. His headquarters are at WES. Labs at WES are Coastal and Hydraulics, Geotechnical and Structures, Environmental and Information Technology.

Together, the labs employ mostly civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel to conduct research and design projects in areas from erosion and flood control to management of pollution and hazardous wastes.

Before taking over command of ERDC, Morris was director of management in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army. Other assignments included chief of the Force Readiness Division in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; command of the Engineer Brigade of the 2nd infantry Division in Korea, deputy chief of staff at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., commander of the 554 Engineer Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood and others.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and received a master’s in engineering from the University of Florida at Gainesville. He is a graduate of the Airborne School, Ranger School, Infantry Officer Basic Course, Engineer Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College and Army War College.

His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Medal and the Expert Infantry Badge.

He and his wife, Tammlia, have two daughters and a son.

Command is something every officer in the military aspires to, Brig. Gen. Edwin Arnold, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division, said during comments prior to Morris officially assuming command of ERDC.

“It is the pinnacle of service to the nation,” Arnold said, adding that after his service in Washington, D.C., Morris received one more chance to command.

“Command demands a lot of our time and energy and that is especially true inside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as we have commands that are spread across a wide area,” Arnold said.

That, he said, makes the time Morris will have to spend with his family even more important.

“I charge you to value your time here in Vicksburg and the time you spend with your family,” Arnold said.

The general said he found Morris especially qualified to command ERDC during a time of transition in the Army in that most of his engineering experience is in the military side of the Corps mission. It will stand him in good stead as he leads the Corps’ major research and development professionals in helping prepare the Army to fight 21st century battles.

In remarks after assuming command, Morris said there is no branch in the Army other than the Corps that is involved in more service to the nation on a day-to-day basis. As a result of that service, citizens can move about easily and do their own work.

“What happens here at ERDC is you solve problems,” Morris said, and those problems involve infrastructure and the military.

He said the Army is in transition toward a new way of doing business, a new method of fighting and a new method of preparing for that fighting.

“It is my goal, with the assist of everybody here, to get ERDC involved in that transformation,” Morris said.