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NEWS | March 13, 2013

Let us try

By Lt. Col. Aaron Altwies 628th Civil Engineer Squadron commander

As an engineer, I'm faced with lots of problems and expected to develop solutions. I ask my team to look at different ways to attack an issue and most times, they come up with innovative solutions. Nowhere is this more present than in deployed locations.

I just returned from a deployment and was honored with the responsibility to command the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Squadron. This unit and its Airmen completed work at 27 locations in five countries in Southwest Asia. We tackled small jobs, such as minor generator repairs, to large jobs, like building a major expansion to a Forward Operating Base.

In one case, engineers repaired a water well pump and provided running water to Soldiers who had not had running water in eight weeks. On another job, engineers responded after a vehicle-borne explosive device devastated a portion of the base, including the clinic. In just five days, and with limited materials, they rebuilt the facility and provided the Forward Surgical Team a place to operate and potentially save lives. In another, we were given a large structure to build, but had no assembly instructions and dealt with missing parts and inadequate tools and equipment. The only similarity among these jobs was that they were not standard, meaning we had never done them before or they had significant challenges to overcome. But we went at them head on and attacked these problems using sound problem-solving techniques.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' motto is "Essayons." It's translated into "Let us try." It's a great summary of how engineers constantly move forward as we look to solve problems, and describes the attitude we have towards getting the job done. But this philosophy is not limited to engineers.; it can be claimed by all of us, military and civilians alike, as we strive to find solutions to tough problems. Essayons is a philosophy that encourages innovation and "outside the box" thinking. It demands a look at things as possibilities and forces us to seek solutions. It requires us to look beyond the "no" and figure out a way to get to a "yes."

With the ever-increasing challenges we face here on our own installation and across the entire Department of Defense, , a let us try attitude becomes even more important. We have no choice but to come up with new ways to think about our challenges and turn them into opportunities. Putting this philosophy into action like my Airmen did in Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf, solutions become reality and the mission gets done. Ideas. Innovation. Essayons!