10th CES commander honored as Great Minds in STEM Military and Civilian Hero

The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron commander Lt. Col. Jose Rivera, was recently named as one of the Great Minds in STEM 2014 Military and Civilian Heroes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron commander Lt. Col. Jose Rivera, was recently named as one of the Great Minds in STEM 2014 Military and Civilian Heroes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron commander Lt. Col. Jose Rivera, was recently named as one of the Great Minds in STEM 2014 Military and Civilian Heroes.

The STEM Military and Civilian Hero Awards were established in 2010 by Great Minds in STEM, formerly the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense. These awards pay tribute to the men and women who protect and serve our nation through their work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Award honorees will be recognized during the HENAAC Conference in New Orleans in October.

Rivera was surprised by the award, but said he felt humbled and honored to represent the District and the Corps of Engineers. He feels very strong that promoting STEM to young people, especially in underserved communities, is important.

"There is a bright future with lots of potential and great opportunities in STEM here in the U.S. and abroad," he said. "In the future, these careers will continue to give the United States the leading edge in technology."

Rivera, former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle East District Military Deputy for Programs and Project Management, worked at the Middle East District for a year and a half, and began his time at the District as the Small Projects branch chief and then transitioned into the programs and project management position.

He started at the District in 2012 as part of the Afghanistan Pakistan Hands program, which was established by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2009 to create a greater continuity, focus, and persistent engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The program is designed to allow personnel to rotate between positions in theater and out of theater who directly influence the U.S. strategy in the region.

"As part of the program, I provided firsthand experience for the projects the District was trying to execute in Afghanistan since those were the same projects I was working on while I was deployed," Rivera said.

The program has benefits to both the Corps of Engineers and the Air Force, he said.

"It really helps me to understand USACE's processes when executing projects," he said. "I'm now able to articulate the details and challenges USACE experiences when delivering projects overseas or in the U.S. Before my experience was just as a customer, now I feel I'm just part of the Corps' team."

Rivera said he enjoyed his time at the District and will take that with him throughout his career.

"I feel extremely lucky to have been able to work with such an amazing organization," he said. "I've learned so much from so many incredible people and leaders. It is definitely one of my best experiences in my 21 years in the service."