FORT NORFOLK, Va. – Matt McKeehan seems like a natural choice as the Norfolk District’s first “Hero of the Week.”
After all, he specializes in laying groundwork to be built upon.
“We do anything with soils – foundation designs for buildings, earthen dams and levees,” he said of his position as a district geotechnical engineer.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District Commander Col. Patrick Kinsman introduced the Norfolk District Hero of the Week program, Jan. 19.
It was McKeehan’s assessment work, in conjunction numerous district employees and with the Air Force’s 633rd Mission Support Group, on a Joint Base Langley-Eustis dam that Kinsman attributed to his selection. But this wasn’t his first time working in concert with uniformed military.
In 2010, upon completing the Army ROTC program at Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania, he served six years on active-duty. His service included the Technical Engineer Competency Development Program, which offered him USACE experience. The program inspired the young Soldier to progress in rank and experience in order to tackle large engineering projects.
“I always wanted to serve in the military and always wanted to pursue engineering,” said the Carlisle, Pennsylvania-native. “In college, I was interested in USACE, given the large projects - unlike anything done in the private sector - that support the public.”
The Corps’ history includes grand structures such as the Panama Canal, Kennedy Space Center, hydropower plants and coastal harbors. McKeehan was motivated to take part in similar ventures.
While in uniform, he transferred to USACE Rock Island District and added levee safety, civil works, inspection and small design projects to his portfolio. His time there helped mold his post-military pursuits.
After his tour with the Mississippi Valley Division ended, his next assignment settled him at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. While there, he branched out from purely engineering work – further bolstering his repertoire.
In 2016, he separated from military service, but quickly found a home in the North Atlantic Division of at the Norfolk District.
“Coming here to the Norfolk District was the first time that I was exposed to large, multimillion-dollar (military construction) projects,” he said. “Just learning the projects and the scale of the design was new.”
McKeehan proved to be an integral component in delivering the mission his past two years here, said Adam Walker, a district project manager specializing in military construction.
“We appreciate the efforts from Matt in past and ongoing projects,” he said. “And (we) look forward to his continued support of the Norfolk District mission.”
Beginning at slope stability analysis and ascending to multi-aspect design and settlement calculations, McKeehan’s career has been gaining momentum. He credits the Corps with offering him the opportunities to excel.
“It’s a great place to work,” he said. “I think one of the best aspects of the Corps is that they do a lot of large technical design projects, and you can actually get involved with doing design.”
When he left active duty, McKeehan got some advice from a senior officer – and it certainly resonates at the Norfolk District.
“I was told, ‘Remember, if you’re working for private sector, you’re making money for someone else,’ which is fine and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re accustomed to the work we do in the military, with USACE you’re still in that kind of public service. You can continue to contribute to the good of the nation.”