Deputy Director Fleming enjoying her career at ERDC

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, September 30, 2017

Thirty years ago, a senior chemical engineering student from Mississippi State University went to work in the hazardous waste lab environmental laboratory of what was then the U.S. Army’s Waterway Experimental Station.

Sept. 1, that student, now Dr. Beth Fleming, was named deputy director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

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A Louisville native, Fleming said a cousin helped her get the student job at WES by giving her the name of a classmate who was looking for a student worker.

“I made contact with him, and just really bugged him until he gave me a job,” she said.

She returned to school to get her bachelor’s degree, and had several job offers, but her time at waterways was imprinted in her mind. So she came back to the ERDC because she enjoyed her time while  in Vicksburg.

Coming out of college, she began her career with ERDC as the manager of the hazardous waste lab where she worked as a student. She also served as acting branch chief and later became deputy director and then director of the environmental laboratory, the position she held until being named ERDC’s deputy director.

She said her experience with the environmental lab was a great opportunity.

“I had the chance to lead some really exciting research and do a lot of things that I think supported Vicksburg and the community, and it has been really, really a lot of fun; I really enjoyed it.

Now, she said, she’s looking forward to doing things on a larger scale in her new position.

As deputy director, Fleming said, her duties “are expansive.”

“One is to serve in the director’s absence when he needs me to cover things, and he’s gone quite a lot, so that covers a lot of territory.”

She is responsible for ensuring programs are meeting the requirements of the Army and ERDC’s mission of environmental quality in installations, military engineering and geospatial research and engineer resilience systems and civil works.

“There’s a big emphasis on delivering on what the customers’ requirements are in those business areas,” she said.

Compared to environmental lab director, “It’s much larger, in that before, as the environmental lab director, I had the responsibility for the civil works business area; everything that ERDC does in the civil works area, and also for part of the environmental quality and installations work. Now this covers all of the ERDC programs.”

Fleming is also responsible for ERDC’s human capital, or human resources, office “which is something I’m very passionate about, since I started that many many years ago.”

“I’m real excited to be coming back to that and getting to work in that area again and just the opportunity to open doors for new employees and get them incorporated in ERDC’s work force and into Vicksburg — how we bring them into the organization and get them trained, and get them successful and productive as quickly as possible.”

Another area she is involved in is technology transfer.

“Technology transfer has been important to me personally for a long time, because being an engineer, if I create something or have a part in creating something, and our team feels that way as well, we want to make sure something happens with it. Somebody uses it,” she said.

“To me that’s what technology transfer is all about. We’ve done a fabulous job with technology transfer in terms of our customers and providing them with solutions, no doubt about that.”

The new opportunities in technology, she said, sounds like the commercialization of technology, which is a different area from ERDC’s traditional understanding of the term.

“It means finding people who are interested in using your technology and commercialization, and a lot of that that we’ve done in the past is things like patents. If you patent something, then companies can come to you and ask questions and use your technology to advance products they make”

And while some of the products developed by ERDC sometimes find their way into the civilian sector, the new vision of technology transfer puts emphasis beyond ERDC’s traditional missions.

“What we’re talking about is going beyond that into a little bit more effort in commercialization and techniques.”

Besides her administrative duties, Fleming believes one of her roles is supporting the needs of Army as a whole and the nation.

“Which means serving the taxpayers and what their needs are, and what they entrust us with, which is supporting the warfighter and supporting the water resources for our nation. I take a great deal of pride in that, and those fee missions.”

That role has become personal. At the same time she began as deputy director, her son was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps and is now at boot camp.

“I was already passionate about serving the warfighter, and now it hits home very hard,” she said. “In the past, I worked for Marines at the Marine Corps Logistics Base, and I would hear stories about somebody who had a child or family member deployed, now it’s very personal and in my house and I’m very proud of that.

“I look at it with new eyes … I have always been somebody who believes in meeting the customer’s needs. Meeting our stakeholders’ needs. If we’re not doing that, we’re not doing what we need to do, and we have always delivered.

“I’m very proud of what ERDC does. It’s very exciting, always has been, and what has kept me here for 30 years”

She said she is in constant contact with ERDC director Dr. David Pittman daily, adding her job evolves daily.

“I have to be ready to assist with people, facilities, programs, technology transfers. He expects me to pick up the ball when he needs me to.”

And she plans to continue her love affair with ERDC.

“I love working at ERDC, I love what I do; I don’t want to do anything else. There is noting else n the Army that interests me, so I’m hanging on for as long as I can.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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