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Civil engineer recognized as employee of the month for outreach efforts

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District
Published Feb. 8, 2024
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has named Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton as employee of the month for November 2023 for her public outreach efforts to showcase ongoing geotechnical ground remediation at Mountain Home National Cemetery with students in the Department of Geoscience at East Tennessee State University. (USACE Photo)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has named Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton as employee of the month for November 2023 for her public outreach efforts to showcase ongoing geotechnical ground remediation at Mountain Home National Cemetery with students in the Department of Geoscience at East Tennessee State University. (USACE Photo)

Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton works with Valiant Construction Superintendent Jacob Allen on quality assurance Feb. 5, 2024, on the Mountain Home National Cemetery Expansion Project for the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee. (USACE Photo)

Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton works with Valiant Construction Superintendent Jacob Allen on quality assurance Feb. 5, 2024, on the Mountain Home National Cemetery Expansion Project for the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee. (USACE Photo)

Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton works with Valiant Construction Quality Control Manager William Mullins Feb. 5, 2024, on the Mountain Home National Cemetery Expansion Project for the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee. (USACE Photo)

Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton works with Valiant Construction Quality Control Manager William Mullins Feb. 5, 2024, on the Mountain Home National Cemetery Expansion Project for the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee. (USACE Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 8, 2024) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has named Civil Engineer Sarah Rhoton its employee of the month for November 2023 for her public outreach efforts to showcase ongoing geotechnical ground remediation at Mountain Home National Cemetery with students in the Department of Geoscience at East Tennessee State University.

Rhoton is based out of the Eastern Tennessee Resident Office in Knoxville, Tennessee, but has been working as a daily field engineer and quality assurance representative on the Mountain Home National Cemetery Expansion Project for the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Lt. Col. Robert W. Green, Nashville District commander, said Rhoton took the initiative to approach officials at ETSU to see if a class would be interested in observing geotechnical ground remediation literally across the street at the cemetery.

“She established a presentation for the class with speakers from the National Cemetery Administration and USACE and facilitated an on-site visit that allowed 12 students and two instructors to view low mobility compaction grouting operations that were being performed,” Green said.

Green said her efforts made it possible for these students to see current soil and ground conditions and ongoing construction to remediate sinkholes that developed during the excavation of the cemetery expansion project.

“Sarah’s professionalism and initiative were integral in the planning and execution of this amazing opportunity for the public to see a very important portion of what we do here in the Nashville District,” Green said.

Rhoton joined the Corps of Engineers in August 2022 as an engineer intern after earning a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech University in civil and environmental engineering in 2020 and master’s degree from TTU in civil and environmental engineering in 2022.

Little did she know the Nashville District would assign her to this excavation project at Mountain Home National Cemetery, which is located in her hometown. She graduated from University High School nearby the project. While in high school she took an “Intro to Geology” class with Dr. Arpita Nandi at East Tennessee State University, who is now the chair of the Geosciences Department. While visiting the university, Rhoton bumped into her former professor in the hallway, and they discussed how beneficial a site visit would be for these students.

Rhoton said Contracting Officer Representative Nathan Alford and NCA Foreman Chuck Jones helped her lead the presentation and share the importance of a National Cemetery in the area and how the VA supports veterans. The prime contractor, Valiant; subcontractor, Keller; USACE; and NCA prepared the site to make sure the students were safe on site. Geologist Bruce Rogers and Dr. Nandi also helped with preparations.

“I worked with Bruce before he passed away recently,” Rhoton said. “Bruce was a wonderful man, and I learned a lot from him. I will miss his encouragement, wisdom, and enthusiasm for geology and science education courses.”

The Nashville District is involved with adding four additional crypt fields and eight columbarium structures, which involves placing more than 3,000 concrete crypts, 3,000 columbarium niches, and 80 traditional burial sites. Grouting work finished on schedule and an early turnover of a cemetery section took place as other available plots were filled. Approximately 30 burials have taken place in the newly constructed section.

Resident Engineer Jackie Huff said Rhoton is low key and humble, and well deserving of this recognition. Huff said she jumped into the project with both feet to learn as much as she could about construction, quality assurance, and contract administration.

“She has proven herself as a great asset to our office and the overall organization,” Huff said. “She conducts herself in a very professional manner and consistently strives to increase her knowledge. She is a self-starter and seeks out ways to contribute to the mission and assist her coworkers.”

Huff noted that Rhoton also serves as the contracting officer representative on current and upcoming projects in Cleveland, Tennessee, and will be involved with the Spillway Gates Replacement Projects at Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Kentucky, and Center Hill Dam in Lancaster, Tennessee, when they get started.

Rhoton said she is honored to be recognized, but the real honor is working alongside USACE, NCA and Valiant officials that honorably served the country such as Nathan Alford, Joe Duncan, William Mackie, William Mullins, Jacob Allen, Scott Saylor, and Chuck Jones.

She said the importance of the project when it comes to taking care of veterans is borrowed from a phrase she often hears from the contractor and other personnel on site: There are very few project sites that you can see the true price of freedom. Mountain Home is one of them.

“I have really enjoyed working at Mountain Home because this is truly home,” Rhoton said. “I grew up in the area and went to the VA often with my home church, the oldest church in Tennessee, Buffalo Ridge,” she said. “I love seeing Buffalo Mountain from my job site and being a part of the team that is developing this property to support our veterans.”

Rhoton said she appreciates all the guidance she has received by her coworkers, supervisors and the resident engineer. She expressed great appreciation to her parents for their continual support throughout her life, and her sister Emily, who also lives in the area. In her off time. She also thanks her friend and colleague, Cayce Grall, for introducing her to USACE and encouraging her to pursue a career as a civil engineer.

Rhoton said she enjoys camping, skiing, scuba diving, going to church, and hiking. She’s been to 172 waterfalls… and counting, she said.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. Follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Nashville District employment and contracting opportunities at https://www.linkedin.com/company/u-s-army-corps-of-engineers-nashville-district.