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Social distancing, the MVM mission

Memphis District
Published April 15, 2020
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IN THE PHOTO, After placing the flange on the end of the pipe, Fitter Randy Channel grinds the flange welds down flat. Only after this is complete can one flange be bolted to another flange to create a seal. This pipe is for the Vicksburg District’s Dredge Jadwin; one of several projects Ensley Engineer Yard is still working on completing. (USACE photo by Machinist Brandon Almeida)

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IN THE PHOTOS, (not in this order) Memphis District Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Molica, Physical Support Branch Chief Lawrence Thomas, Plant Section Chief Kevin Woods Dep. Chief, Deputy Chief Michelle Williams-Newsom, Yards and Docks Unit Chief Billy Manley, Metals Unit Chief Curtis Pigram, Metals Unit Dep. Chief Paul Lacy, Shops Unit Chief Marvin Roddy, and Maintenance Scheduler Planner Nicholas Schrup (attending by phone) sit in the Plant Section’s weekly team meeting to discuss ongoing projects within the Carpentry Shop, Metals Shop, and Yards and Docks. (USACE photo by Lt. Col. Molica)

Ever since the very first case of COVID-19 hit the United States, we, the citizens, have felt the impact. Our nation has seen and been through its fair share of ‘struggles’, but nothing like we’ve seen with this virus.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has several recommendations in place to try and stop the spread of this monstrous virus, to include such measures as wearing a face mask when out in public and practicing what has become mandated in many states: social distancing.

While social distancing and other precautions are in place for the right reasons, they can unfortunately have a challenging impact on business operations.

Especially difficult is when your employees cannot do their job behind a computer. Memphis District Ensley Engineer Yard Tradesmen encompass a large body of specialty workers that include machinists, welders, electricians, carpenters, and toolmakers, just to name a few. These men and women cannot do their job from home; telework just isn’t an option. So what do they do?

“COVID-19 does make our job a little harder to accomplish, but safety in the workplace is a top priority, so we make it work,” Machinist Brandon Almeida said. “Because we’ve been implementing the six foot rule, we’ve actually had to cancel a few jobs because of how close the work required us to get to one another.”

For example, the Metals Shop had to discontinue the siding job on the Metals building because of the two-man per basket requirement; there’s no way to keep six feet in distance between people while in a basket hanging on the side of a building.

Yes, they postponed some projects, but Ensley Engineer Yard is still plenty busy with many different jobs, including projects like piping for the Vicksburg District’s Dredge Jadwin, repairing a mooring barge recently removed from the Ensley stringout, and project to repair a malfunctioning gate at Ditch 81.

Not only is this team still working the projects, leadership is still conducting the weekly meetings, safely, to ensure these big jobs are planned well and correctly carried out.

“The Plant Section is continuing to support MVM's Mission Essential Projects all while practicing social distancing,” Physical Support Branch Chief Lawrence Thomas (LT) said. “This meeting is coordinated by Plant Section Chief Kevin Woods with the purpose of discussing ongoing projects within the Carpentry Shop, Metals Shop, and Yards and Docks.”

As LT mentioned, they are practicing social distancing, making sure not to sit too close to one another during the meetings.

“If personnel are teleworking or want more social distance, they dial in,” Woods said. “As part of the agenda, we review the high priority projects that we are responsible for. This is an opportunity to discuss where we are on completing each project and what help is needed from the other units or management in order to sustain progress.”

COVID-19 has impacted people all over the world, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to stop operating; it just means we’re going to find solutions to the problems this virus tends to create.