News: USACE Savannah District welcomes new commander
Story by Tracy Robillard
SAVANNAH, Ga. - During a ceremony overlooking the Savannah River on historic downtown River Street, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District welcomed a new commander, Col. Thomas J. Tickner, and said farewell to outgoing commander Col. Jeff M. Hall.
Officiated by Brig. Gen. Donald E. Jackson, commander of the Corps' South Atlantic Division in Atlanta, the change of command ceremony marked the Army tradition to introduce a new commander to the District every three years.
As the river outside experienced its highest water flow in years due to recent high rainfall, Tickner will take over the Savannah District's lead role in managing three hydroelectric dams on the Savannah River during a major milestone in the river's history.
"As difficult as it is to lose a great commander, I can assure you the new commander is the right man for the job and is more than up for the task," Jackson said to a crowd of 300 people during the ceremony. "Col. Tom Tickner is a proven leader who will do great things over the next three years in Savannah."
Tickner joins the Savannah District as a recent graduate of the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, formerly known as the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.
Before attending the school, Tickner served as the military assistant to the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. He has served in various military assignments including a deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served in the Corps' Sacramento District and commanded the Philadelphia District.
His experience in civil works projects and the Delaware Harbor deepening project makes him a valuable asset to the Savannah District as the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project moves forward, Jackson said.
"To the people of this great region, I look forward to getting to know you and I pledge to continue servicing our nation by passionately pursuing and balancing the needs of the region," Tickner said during his remarks.
"I especially want to thank the senior leaders in the Corps and Army civil works who allowed me an inside look at the national perspective over the last several years," he said. "I believe this experience will serve me and the District well."
Col. Jeff Hall: Reflecting on three years of Savannah success and a 29-year career
Hall, retiring after 29 years in service, reflected on his career after formally relinquishing command.
"Serving as commander of the Savannah District has been absolutely the best job I have had in my 29-year Army career," Hall said. "I knew my time here would be an honor and a challenge, but also I knew it would be the pinnacle assignment of my career."
"What makes this assignment so special is the extraordinary people I served with," he said. "The Savannah District team is a collection of talented, dedicated, and patriotic professionals who are up to any challenge."
In the last three years commanding the Savannah District, Hall led the district to significant accomplishments in both its civil and military missions.
During Hall's tenure, the Savannah District executed more than 635 projects valued at $5.45 billion and managed 941 construction contracts; while ranking number one in military construction customer satisfaction throughout USACE for all three years. That military mission included $3.5 billion in projects for the Base Realignment and Closure program at Fort Benning, Ga.
On the civil works side, Hall entered the District while all three reservoirs on the Savannah River were full (lakes Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond)—and left the District with all three above "full pool." In between, the basin experienced a severe drought and rainfall deficit, posing its own set of challenges for the district and many stakeholders throughout the basin.
Most notably, under Hall's leadership, the district completed the final report and the Record of Decision for the long-awaited Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. This $652 million project would deepen the Savannah shipping channel to 47 feet, allowing for safe passage of large, Post-Panamax cargo ships to the Georgia Port Authority's Garden City Ocean Terminal. Because the project will increase shipping efficiencies and lower transportation costs, it is expected to yield an annual net benefit of $174 million to the nation.
But according to some, one of Hall’s greatest strengths was his relationships with people and his commitment integrity and transparency.
"You have truly made a difference," Jackson said to Hall during the ceremony. "You have poured your heart and soul into every assignment, every triumph, and every challenge you have faced along the way. … You leave behind a legacy from your 29 years of service that has manifested itself in so many young officers, NCOs [noncommissioned officers], and civilian leaders you have influenced in your career."