Col. Green hands over ERDC control

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Friday, after three years at the controls, Col. Bryan Green hands over command of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center to Col. Ivan Beckman.

Dec. 31, he officially becomes a civilian.

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“Dec. 31 will be my final day in uniform,” he said. “This Friday I’ll change command, I will start the retirement process, and at some point I will go on terminal leave. That means I will take all my leave at the end; I’ll be hanging up the uniform, if not in November, as early as October.

“I’m actually reaching 30 years of career, so it was a question of when, not if,” he said of the decision to retire. “I would have to retire by summer of next year, (but) we did not want to have a gap between the commanders. Col. Beckman happened to be here in Mississippi, and that gave us an opportunity to put a commander in the summer, versus me leaving in December and being without a commander for six months.”

The situation was more exasperating, he said, because his deputy commander is deploying to Afghanistan for a year, “So we’re going to be a little bit under strength here. We don’t want a gap, because I’ll have no deputy.”

Green characterized the highlights of his career as “the cool people and cool places, and doing unusual things. There’s always been something interesting to do.

“In my career, I got to build a city, I got to do nation building all over the world — 53 different countries I got to visit and do nation building. I got to lead some of the best America has as a battalion commander and district commander.”

The city, he said, was Camp Humphreys in Korea, which required building a military city to accommodate 40,000 American troops with the facilities to train, house and sustain them and their families.

“Literally, we built it out of a rice paddy; raised it 10 meters above the water level. That’s the neat thing. You don’t get to do that very often. I always get to do neat things.”

ERDC, he said, “is like the cherry on top.

“What an amazing last tour of duty,” Green said. “Global responsibility, solving the nation’s toughest problems (and) doing it with brilliant people, with an amazing community support and everything we do is interesting; it’s neat.

“It’s 21st century, it’s new materials, new technologies, everything we do makes someone’s life better. Now you can’t say that about everything, but as a Corps of Engineers guy, pretty much everything they do in some shape or form helps somebody get clean water or protects somebody from explosions. … You’re at the foundation of the science in all that for the next generation.”

ERDC unique, challenging

ERDC’s uniqueness, he said, is one reason “they really need you to have the experience in the Army Corps of Engineers, which is unique, and you need the Army experience of running garrisons and installations, and you need the combat experience to really make the technology relevant. “

What makes ERDC challenging, he said, is although commanders have previously dealt with civilians and Department of the Army civilian engineers, researchers like those at ERDC “are their own different caliber of individuals. They’re highly intellectual, highly focused. They’re very singular, and it makes for a very unique challenge to lead folks of that caliber.

“We bring that real world relevance to those folks who are focused on their research. They’re working on stuff, but sometimes you have to say, ‘That’s an amazing piece of technology, but nobody can use that; we’ve got to kind of shift it back this way and make it so it’s good for a soldier.’

“That’s kind of what the commander does. We act as the senior military adviser to all the directors. I’m the senior mission commander so we share that with the directors because we’re working the same mission.”

Part of being a leader, or being in command, Green said, “Is finding that one space so you can do the special things. Because when you put that energy into the special things, you make the place special and that’s what I think I got to do here.

“I got to take ERDC to be a little bit better, a little bit brighter, a little more fun, a little more community. And that takes effort.”

He has worked to open the ERDC campus off Halls Ferry Road to the public through a Christmas lighting program on the campus and the first Mad Scientist run, a 5-kilometer race through the campus, and displaying military hardware that was developed at ERDC.

“We need to tell the story of ERDC, we need to tell the story of Vicksburg. That’s one of my favorite things about my job.”

He said the decision to open the campus came from his assessment of the campus after taking command.

“My assessment was we’ve been behind the fence too long. 911 put us back there, we focused on securing a nation but we lost our connection to the public, and so that became a high priority; to tell our story, get our researchers back out there, to re-bond with the community.

“We’re proud of our work, but we got so focused, we kind of neglected telling our story and making the campus look what it is, a world-class research set of facilities set over four states.”

Green said he and his wife will stay in the Vicksburg area after he retires, and he hopes to continue working to improve the community.

“We really feel like the city and the town have embraced my wife and me,” he said. And while he is worried he may miss the camaraderie of the military, “Maybe I won’t have that problem, because we’ve really created a good sense of community. Monday morning, after the change of command, I’m sure I’m going to reflect on a lot of things, and miss some of them.”

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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