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    In a Service First the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Present Second National Chittenden Award to Saint Louis District Ranger

    Tim Bischoff

    Photo By Michael Billeaudeaux | U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resources Specialist Park Ranger Timothy...... read more read more



    Story by Michael Billeaudeaux 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District - MVS

    SAINT LOUIS -- U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Specialist Park Ranger Timothy Bischoff will receive the service’s Hiram M. Chittenden Award for Interpretive Excellence Wednesday via a virtual celebration starting at 2 p.m. where the 55th Chief of Engineers Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon, will preside over a service-wide ceremony that will include the recognition of Bischoff who is the service’s first ever two-time recipient of the award and whose namesake is legendary for his engineering feats, extensive scholarship and a rugged ‘can-do’ spirit in overcoming some of the nation’s fiercest natural and man-made challenges.

    Fifty-five-year-old Bischoff, who is a self-proclaimed six-year cancer “warrior”, has worked at the Corp’s Rend Lake Project in Illinois as part of the Saint Louis District since 1994, will be recognized for his leadership in rapidly prototyping, digitizing and ultimately delivering school-aged student curricula as part of what is now called the #USACEeducates program.

    Bischoff’s team’s product reached a nationwide network of schools that were early in the stay-at-home phase of the pandemic, were hungry for easily accessed and pre-packaged distance content, a period Bischoff refers to as the “pre-zoom meeting” period.

    “I came up with the idea as to how to solve these problems, so I contacted our teaching team and we brainstormed and started recruiting talent to make it all happen,” said Bischoff whose award package may be viewed here.

    “We had 15 rangers that just dove in and figured it out by working in teams to satisfy the needs of each teaching theme with weekly fieldtrips to virtual dams, the Smithsonian and other activities all made available via Facebook,” he added.

    Bischoff ultimately created and launched what is called the #USACEeducates Program which contains 26 Corps-inspired lessons while the techniques-and-methods of the Interpretive-centric effort reached 2,125 seasonal-and full-time Rangers.

    While Bischoff’s most recent Chittenden Award focuses on a contemporary ‘Covid’ challenge, his first Chittenden recognition came 15 years ago and had Bischoff participating in the Army’s coast-to-coast reenactment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition where the humble 5-foot-8-inch living-history buff gained a coveted role in the three-year excursion after his hobby of reenacting a French Territorial Marine locally was revealed, by chance, to the expedition’s “Corps of Discovery Bicentennial Expedition” planning officer.

    Then, for the better part of three years, Bischoff immersed himself in the role of George Drouillard, the expedition’s half-French/half-American Indian expert hunter, territorial scout, and Native American sign language interpreter.

    Bischoff so absorbed Drouillard, that he changed his accent, picked up French, learned to think and use art of Indian Sign Language and even felt, at times, the spirit of Drouillard along the 4,900-mile trail - extending from Pittsburgh, to the mouth of the Columbia River - was accompanying him citing first time location visits where he oddly needed no explicit directions in finding historic or important locations proclaiming “…it’s as if I’d been there before… I didn’t even need a map.”

    So complete was the transformation that he earned the respect of the East of the River Band of the Shawnee Tribe, which was Drouillard’s mother’s tribe, where members presented him with a medicine bundle, earth from their Great House, ash from their sacred fire, as well as wampum belt.

    Bischoff sees the belt’s multi-colored shell-strung symbolic art as the highlighting the relationship he had with Drouillard, where both men (he and Drouillard) are represented on the wampum traveling side by side on a river, sharing the same space and working in parallel harmony.

    There were many life lessons gained in the shadows of the Teton Mountains or along the sandy banks of the shallow Missouri River in working closely with his second family who “…faced their own trials and tribulations,” said Bischoff who spent parts of three years completing the 2003-to-2006 Corps of Discovery Expedition Bicentennial.

    These experiences helped in providing the spirit, strength, and temerity to beat back what was a shocking 2015 cancer diagnosis which suggested he had only an 11% chance of survival. “I shouldn’t be alive today,” explained Bischoff who wishes to be fully transparent about his current fight and past cancer-related challenges.

    “I count cancer as a B.S. distiller,” proclaimed the married University of Wisconsin graduate adding, “The cancer has changed me for the better as I can focus on the things that matter most and by ignoring the trivial,” said Bischoff who claims this battle coupled with the lessons of his expedition continue to push him to think well beyond his cancer fight.

    “Cancer sped me along to make me reevaluate my life and it’s the Army ethos that impacted me, they’re built in now … into all of us [in the Corps], whether we know it or not,” reflected Bischoff who, after six years, three surgeries and approximately 140 chemotherapy treatments, has won back health throughout most of his body in returning to pre-cancerous levels.

    “Whether it’s a Ranger in a combat zone or fighting a flood, it is truly Essayons everyday… let us try. And just like in the Corps, nobody said ‘it’s not my job’ on the expedition… they handled challenges just like today, we adjust, improvise, and overcome,” he added.

    And the courageous Bischoff predicts he will overcome his remaining cancer where his last three cancerous polyps (down from 100s just a year ago) have retreated from his colon and liver and are now in the lower part of his lungs. He has humorously dubbed the invaders Larry, Moe and Curley after the Three Stooges comedians and calls the overall cancer he continues to successfully beat back “Smaug” – an antagonistic dragon featured in the 1937 novel The Hobbit.

    And in other hopeful news, Bischoff “lost” an oncologist specialist just last month. “I just said ‘goodbye’ to my liver specialist last week as there is no more reason to consult him anymore… I have my liver back and one less doctor in my world,” he explained.

    He also credits his Corps ‘family’ as also enormously helpful in his return to health citing the donation of more than 900 hours of medical leave to allow Tim and his family the peace of mind to focus on healing and not miss a day of pay. “It really speaks to the quality of the person who serves in our agency,” he reflected.

    Bischoff is married with two children, 26-year-old daughter Alissa Lynn and 19-year-old son Bridger – which is a tribute name to a famous frontiersman and a salute to Bischoff’s ‘Bucket List’ dream to serve for one day as Park Ranger at Yellowstone which is, coincidently, where 1000s of park visitors a year cross over the remarkable Hiram Chittenden Memorial Bridge.

    And, just like his boyhood ‘career epiphany’ at the foot of a Mesa Verde National Park ladder as an eight-year-old, he likewise experienced ‘matrimony epiphany’ as a love-struck 22-year-old in 1988 when he spied his future wife, a fellow student named Elizabeth Ann (the daughter of a horse rancher), at the top of a set of dorm stairs.

    “I looked up and saw her standing there… I said, that’s the girl I’m marrying. I knew that she would be my wife,” he said noting that he calls her his “soulmate.” Married in 1991, Bischoff also credits Elizabeth Ann’s special-needs teaching career insights as key inspiration to launch his ‘digital education’ innovation during Covid.

    Despite the family and Corp’s support and encouraging cancer abatement, Bischoff’s routine still includes bi-monthly chemotherapy treatments at a center located more than an hour from his home in rural southern Illinois. The treatment center, however, is located close enough to Bischoff’s family home to allow a routine visit to his mother Sharon.

    When asked about his overall inspiration Bischoff pinpoints the exact start of his 32-year Corps career which began when he was just a boy ‘who always wanted to be a Ranger and noting that this is the career he always wanted.’

    In describing that moment a sly smile accompanied his retelling of his career epiphany, a moment when curiosity overcame fear as the typically well-behaved eight-year-old evaded his vacationing family at Mesa Verde Park in Colorado to chase down, corner and then interrogate a bemused-yet-compliant National Park Ranger.

    “My family continued up the ladders, not realizing that I had stopped to talk to the Ranger at the bottom. My father then had to climb down the ‘up’ ladders to find me… kind of like the only Salmon heading downstream when all the rest were heading upstream to spawn,” joked Bischoff.

    “I wasn't lost, I knew exactly where I was. Needless to say, dad wasn't all that happy when he found me as this ‘ranger talk’ was one of only two times that I can remember ever being separated from my parents.” Thus, Bischoff launched his auspicious Army career placing him on the ‘Bischoff family tree’ with other family members who saw Army service.

    One of his favorites was General Patton’s battlefield interpreter while another served in “Operation Cowboy” - the effort to repatriate the famous Lipizzaner Stallions to safety just ahead of the encroaching Red Army in the closing days of World War II. Bischoff, born in the Chinese Year of the Horse, had his own ‘battlefield’ challenges in earning his awards.

    Examples include years of zigzagging cautiously between Covid-quarantined workspaces as an immuno-compromised patient during periods covering his second ‘training and teaching’ Chittenden Award while his first had him traversing the nation as triple-language-speaking Drouillard, hair in a ponytail, dressed in heavy 1803 Army gear during 100-degree heat, while at 19 events stretching from Charlottesville Va. to Seaside Ore. Indeed, so complete was this arduous expedition in forging leaders that the Army’s Combat Studies Institute still promotes this very journey to aspiring Army leaders:

    “Studying the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, traveling the route, and visiting the places where key decisions were made, the military professional can gain a greater appreciation of what it means to be a leader in today’s Army and gain an enhanced understanding of the time-honored leadership principle of Be, Know, Do.”

    Bischoff tackled his Lewis-and-Clark duties by utilizing the same coping blueprint, the Army’s indelible leadership values. “Selfless Service” is one of these and, by definition, it suggests that those in Army should: “Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service leads to organizational teamwork and encompasses discipline, self-control, and faith in the system.”

    Along these lines, Bischoff routinely dons a shaggy wig, a Hawaiian shirt and any number of instruments, songs or physical performances to roam the Siteman Cancer Center in Saint Louis as part of a spirit-raising troupe called the “Shenanigators” who encourage fellow cancer warriors by offering up a mixture of coping support wrapped around often boisterous comedy skits, practical jokes and lots of laughter.

    Bischoff says the Shenanigators is one of the most important things he’s done in during his recovery, “… as it brings excitement, happiness, giggles and joy to the cancer center,” he explained the cancer, “has given me all kinds of gifts that I probably wouldn’t have got without going through this journey. You can look at it with gratitude and a chance to grow knowing that I could get bitter, or I could get better.”

    In 1995, the Corps launched the Chittenden Award to acknowledge those who have risen above the basic Ranger expectations a 1918 report describes as “…honest, courteous and patient and at the same
    time firm, equal to emergencies, and of good judgement.” Indeed, Chittenden is considered a superstar among the 37,000 Soldiers, Rangers and civilian employees who serve currently with Bischoff in the 246-year-old service where the two men have much in common.

    While both demonstrated an indefatigable, entrepreneurial if not revolutionary spirit in tackling their particular challenges. Both demonstrated a passion for the Army, the American West and undeniable leadership during periods of significant tumult.

    Notably, each suffered through health concerns that sidelined each in their respective living rooms at point of launching each man’s most notable achievements – Chittenden at the opening of the Ballard Locks in 1917 and Bischoff’s launching of #USACEeducates program Tim Bischoff in 2020 – yet each continued to fight past these physical low points to continue storied Army careers during their respective recoveries.

    Most importantly, however, is their shared intense dedication to public service. Chittenden, for instance, designed a Yellowstone arch that’s inscribed “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” and it’s this same spirit of service which has driven Bischoff to an award-winning standard while emphasizing that his Interpretive work is a gift.

    “Teaching is what I love to do, it is one of the things I’m most proud of. In looking back on my legacy it’s hoping to make the next generation of Corp’s Interpreters better. We touch lives and I love that I get to do that.”



    Date Taken: 11.08.2021
    Date Posted: 11.08.2021 18:04
    Story ID: 408941
    Location: ST. LOUIS, MO, US

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