A Danish Storyteller named Soren Kierkegaard once spoke about a man who would feed wild ducks as they migrated south each Fall. These ducks eventually lost the desire to fly south, and wintered in Denmark on what the man was feeding them. After a while, the ducks grew fat and lazy, and were no longer able to fly at all. Kierkegaard came to this simple conclusion: you can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again.
The Wild Duck award was presented to Larry Brotherton after serving 40 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by his colleague and engineering and construction chief, Ernie Drott.
“The award is about not taming but maintaining and protecting the wild ducks in your organization,” said Drott. “You need the creativity, the wildness, to keep the organization moving along. The wild ducks are the creative ones, the innovators.”
Larry Brotherton is fortunate to retire in the same city he is originally from. After graduating college from the University of Cincinnati, he entered the workforce amidst the tough economic recession of 1982. Though it was tough finding work, he ended up in the construction industry working a variety of positions. He may not have known at the time, but an engineer with construction experience would become one of his biggest strengths as he progressed in his career.
“He was trained to be an engineer, and then learned to build,” said Brig. Gen. Peeples, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. “Both of those are the most critical skills for anyone in our business because if you design it and you can’t build it, it’s worthless.”
Brotherton eventually found his Army Corps home with the New Orleans District, where he worked for ten years, mainly in levee safety inspections. It was here that he learned all the ins and outs of the organization. He later came to the Ohio River Division where he has stayed for 30 years, working in many different roles and positions, and seeing many projects and command staffs rotate throughout the years.
“He’s done value engineering, he’s done cost engineering, he’s done… engineering, he’s done everything,” said Brig. Gen. Peeples. “The list goes on and on with what he’s done in his career.”
Though Brotherton has seen many roles and responsibilities come and go throughout his time with the corps, during his retirement ceremony, he reveled in some of his most impactful moments.
“I have a lot of memories of things I was involved in during the years,” said Brotherton. “I remember going to DC after all the planes were grounded following September 11th to understand where the possible terror threats were in our infrastructure within our division.”
Brotherton spent years following the devastation of September 11th traveling throughout the country, leading the technical efforts to understand possible terror threats that could impact the corps’ critical infrastructure. This work improved the electronic and physical security of all corps projects and made our nation safer.
“I was lucky enough to be selected on a value engineering study on the Panama Canal,” said Brotherton. “I worked with some of the best engineers in the corps on that study.”
In addition to this study, Brotherton also helped centralize cost estimate reviews, and adopted risk analysis in estimating processes. These were great improvements and raised the quality of estimates around the corps.
“During Hurricane Katrina, I worked in the recovery efforts with my former district,” Brotherton said. “It was the most difficult assignment in my career. There were several bright moments that helped everyone get through the mental and physical strains. There were so many stories demonstrating the goodness of humanity.”
The overarching theme presented in each of these moments Brotherton shared involves people; working with people, helping people, mentoring people, learning from people. Brotherton truly knows what it means to be a part of a team, and to serve his nation, but understands that it starts with the individual.
“The thing that I want to say about Larry, that’s most unusual for me anyway, is that out of all the people I’ve known in the corps, Larry is probably the most caring, and the most concerned about everyone,” said Ernie Drott. “Not just because he knows you, but because he really is concerned for you as a human.”
Larry was surrounded by his family, including his wife, brother, sister-in-law, son, and grandson during the ceremony, as he was showered in awards and achievements handed out by both Brig. Gen. Peeples and Ernie Drott. In addition to the Wild Duck Award, Brotherton also received the Meritorious Service Award, a length of service medal, and the division coin.
“It’s hard to fully capture what 40 years of service means,” said Brig. Gen. Peeples. “But what it truly means is that you’ve given us, your teammates, but also citizens of this great nation, a huge part of your life. And now it’s your turn to get some time back. We wish you the best in this next chapter.”
The next chapter for this Wild Duck involves traveling the country in an RV alongside his wife. After selling most of what they own, they plan to depart on their voyage across the same nation he dedicated 40 years of his life serving.
“We are really excited for our story to begin.”
For more photos from the ceremony, visit https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAfqeS