Recapping #SAMEJETC18 in Kansas City

The 2018 Joint Engineer Training Conference (JETC) welcomed more than 1,800 attendees to Kansas City, May 23-25, for three days of learning and training, market research and networking opportunities, and the first steps on SAME’s run to its Centennial in 2020.

From the Society Leadership & Post Awards Luncheon to open the week Wednesday afternoon to the Society Ball & Awards Gala to close out the conference on Friday night,  JETC drew professionals from across the A/E/C industry and joint engineering community to fulfill SAME’s mission of “leading collaborative efforts to identify and resolve national security infrastructure-related challenges.”

JETC featured 60-plus hours of education sessions; a Table Top Exercise (TTEx) on the New Madrid Seismic Zone approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of its National Exercise Program; keynote speeches by Mark Nutsch, Commander of the “Horse Soldiers” and Jake Wood, CEO of Team Rubicon; presentations by The Honorable Lucian Niemeyer, Assistant Secretary of Defense; a panel discussion with the Service Engineering Chiefs; and an Exhibit Hall of more than 175 exhibitors.

In short, #SAMEJETC18 brought people together.

2018 JETC


World War I set the conditions in motion for the birth of SAME, and nearly 100 years later, the nation’s tribute to those who fought “over there” served as the backdrop for the Society beginning its transition into its second century of service.


While the 2018 JETC officially got underway on May 23, ahead of the start on Tuesday May 22, SAME held its spring Board of Direction meeting and then hosted a President’s Reception for members of the board and invited guests at the National World War I Memorial & Museum.

Visitors had the chance to tour the museum and socialize before gathering for a pep rally led by SAME President Col. Sal Nodjomian, F.SAME, USAF (Ret.), who kicked off the Run to 2020 and Beyond, the Society’s march towards its Centennial. The World War I Memorial & Museum was a fitting location to commence the Run to 2020, as SAME was founded in 1920 in the aftermath of World War I, as a response to ensuring that the United States—and the country’s military and industrial engineering base—would never again be as unprepared for conflict. World War I set the conditions in motion for the birth of SAME, and nearly 100 years later, the nation’s tribute to those who fought “over there” served as the backdrop for the Society beginning its transition into its second century of service.


Day 1 of JETC featured three headlining events and the first set of education sessions, which offered a variety of topics from which attendees could earn professional development credits. Sessions included Reality Modeling to Support Military Engineer Missions, Developments in Toxicology and Regulations of PFAS, Cyber Security of Energy Systems, A Sustainable Approach to Coastal Resilience, Infrastructure Security Solutions Against Electromagnetic Pulse Threats, and Bringing BIM and Builder SMS Together.

In addition to the Society Leadership & Post Awards Luncheon, which opened the conference on Day 1, Wednesday included a presentation by The Honorable Lucian Niemeyer, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations & Environment) on ongoing initiatives within government to improve project delivery and a stirring keynote presentation by Mark Nutsch, who was commander of the Green Beret team, the Horse Soldiers that helped to overtake the Taliban after 9/11.

Check out more #SAMEJETC18 coverage from our Guest Contributors.

The opening luncheon celebrated the dedication of SAME’s Posts and Committees & Councils and how the volunteers who lead these groups are making a difference in giving back to local communities, inspiring students into STEM fields, supporting veterans and wounded warriors, and enhancing industry-government collaboration to develop solutions for our nation’s infrastructure needs. A highlight of this annual event is the parade of Post leaders that come on stage as their respective region’s contributions are shared. While just a snapshot of the incredible impact that SAME members have around the world, the breadth and depth of service by an all-volunteer network is truly inspiring.

During the luncheon, Top Post honors were presented to the Central Virginia (Small), Charleston (Medium), and Fort Worth Posts (Large) while the Middle Atlantic Region received Top Region. Additionally, a new award was presented for the first time in recognition of excellence in enhancing collaboration between the public and private sectors. The inaugural Post Industry-Government Engagement Award was presented to the Guam Post as well as the Honolulu Post.


Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Secretary Niemeyer gave the audience of military engineers and industry representatives details on some of the efforts ongoing within the Department of Defense to improve project delivery. Said Niemeyer: “The more we partner, the more we collaborate, the more we work together on common issues is better for our profession and our national security, and better for our support to warfighters.”

In this age of renewed Great Power competition, Niemeyer summarized, “We have to figure out a way to deliver results.”

Niemeyer underscored the need to deliver warfighting capability on time, on target, and under cost. He said that some progress has been made on improving partnering, but there is no doubt more work to be done.

His office, in collaboration with industry and government subject matter experts, including input from SAME members, is working on updating federal guidance on partnering. In this age of renewed Great Power competition, Niemeyer summarized, “We have to figure out a way to deliver results.”

Following The Honorable Niemeyer, Mark Nutsch took attendees back to the fall of 2001 and to the mountains of Afghanistan for a captivating inside look at what earlier this year was depicted in the motion picture 12 Strong.

Nutsch commanded a 12-man team of U.S. Special Forces on a covert mission to Afghanistan, where they would ride on horses to fight the enemy—side by side with their Muslim counterparts—and capture the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif within weeks, successfully overthrowing the Taliban. Nutsch provided behind-the-scenes perspectives on the now declassified mission, sharing the heroics of the soldiers and how their unconventional approach made the difference.

Following Nutsch’s presentation, Day 1 wrapped up with the JETC Opening Reception at KC Live!, an outdoor block party setting where attendees could connect with friends old and new in a relaxed atmosphere and set the stage for valuable networking the rest of the week.


Thursday morning brought Day 2 of the 2018 JETC, and with it, the Year in Review presentation by Col. Nodjomian, the premiere of the Society’s 2017 Annual report video and the unveiling of the official SAME Centennial logo.

Col. Nodjomian reaffirmed his appreciation for being able to lead SAME over the past year and emphasized his three main points for helping catalyze member participation as the organization approaches its Centennial.

GO BIG: Approach everything you do with the Society with energy and purpose.

FIND YOUR PASSION: Evaluate the spectrum of opportunities that SAME offers and discover where you can do the most good.

HAVE FUN: If you are not having fun, you are not doing it right—as a 100 percent volunteer organization, this is imperative.


After the president’s address, keynote speaker Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon and a former sniper in the U.S. Marine Corps, took JETC attendees inside the philosophy of Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher whose lesson of the One Hundred Men brought actionable insights into what it means to be a leader today. Said Heraclitus: “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”


Wood has lived this ethos since he enlisted in the Marines, and saw first-hand the importance of “being the one.” After leaving the service, he founded Team Rubicon, the only nonprofit disaster response organization that utilizes the skills of military veterans to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. In giving veterans an opportunity to continue their service, Team Rubicon provides them with a sense of purpose, community and identity.

Wood underscored the importance of culture within an organization. Passion trumps talent, he said, but culture is king. You can have the highest performing person, but if they don’t fit within the culture you are trying to create it will not matter. Ultimately, Wood maintained, the most important action leaders can take is to “empower, empower, empower.”

Following the featured morning session, Thursday only picked up speed. The Exhibit Hall opened its doors for attendees to visit with more than 175 products and service companies, conduct market research, meet with potential teaming partners, and set the groundwork for future strategic decisions. Then Thursday afternoon, one of the most anticipated events of JETC in Kansas City got started, the 2018 TTEx on the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

The TTEx, the third annual at JETC following previous exercises on setting a contingency theater and then responding to a disaster in the Pacific, was approved by FEMA as part of its National Exercise Program.

The TTEx, the third annual at JETC following previous exercises on setting a contingency theater and then responding to a disaster in the Pacific, was approved by FEMA as part of its National Exercise Program. This year’s scenario looked at the collective state, local, federal, and private sector and nonprofit response to an earthquake on the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Such a disaster would trigger $900 billion in total economic losses. More than 3,500 buildings would be damaged; at least 15 major bridges would become unusable; and there would likely be at least 86,000 injuries or fatalities.

The TTEx set out to achieve four objectives: 1) distinguish between the specific authorizations, responsibilities, and mechanisms in place; 2) identify the command and control challenges; 3) evaluate the whole of nation response; and 4) identify existing instruments and new technologies that might be available for a response. The exercise first looked at the response phase, and then moved into a more length discussion on the recovery phase.

2018 JETC Table Top Exercise


Final planning recommendations will be detailed in written format for FEMA, which is a requirement of the National Exercise Program. While considerations will be numerous, ultimately, the most essential aspect to increase the likelihood of a successful response and recovery is establishing and building relationships ahead of time, so that when the moment arrives there is trust between all stakeholders. While flexibility is necessary, pre-planning is crucial; plans can be adapted only if they exist in the first place.

The results of the JETC TTEx will be incorporated into additional planning exercises over the next year, leading up to FEMA’s overall New Madrid training scenario planned for 2019.

Concurrent to the TTEx and the Exhibit Hall, Day 2 at JETC featured hours of education sessions on a host of topics including Puerto Rico Medical Facilities Stabilization Effort, Going Platinum in the Desert, A-E Challenges in Design-Build Contracts, Common Errors in Building Flood Design, and Improved Management of Pavement Assets.

Thursday at JETC concluded with a Networking Reception in the Exhibit Hall.

2018 JETC in Kansas City Exhibit Hall


Friday morning began Day 3 at JETC, and with it more professional development opportunities for attendees. Education sessions included Leveraging Virtual Reality to Improve Resiliency, Preserving Environmentally-Sensitive Natural Resources during Remedial Actions, New Weapons System Beddown Successes and Challenges, Life Safety Compliance on Military Renovation Projects, and Ground Truthing OPLANs with Geospatial Engineering.

Friday also featured the Academy of Fellows Luncheon, which this year featured an important presentation on the Academy’s new action plan and organizational structure changes.

This last day of the conference was highlighted by the traditional swearing in of the next SAME President, as well as the Society Ball & Awards Gala. Attendees also heard from the Service Engineering Chiefs on their outlooks for the coming years in terms of fiscal priorities, anticipated growth areas, and requirements where industry can provide support.

In the first part of the closing general session, Col. Marvin Fisher, F.SAME, USAF (Ret.) took the oath as the 99th President of SAME. Col. Fisher, a retired Air Force Civil Engineering officer and currently Chief Strategy Officer for Farnsworth Group, has been a member of the Society since 1985 and was invested into the Academy of Fellows in 2005.


In addressing the audience, Col. Fisher outlined his theme for this year, “Just One More,” using the heroics of Desmond Doss, most recently featured in the film Hacksaw Ridge, to move members to want to do just one more thing, to volunteer at just one more event, to give just one more scholarship donation, to help just one more aspiring engineer, to attend just one more meeting.

The idea being, that because all SAME members are volunteers, it can be hard to give all the time that is needed for the Society to have as much of a collective impact as it could potentially achieve; but if instead of some people giving a lot more, imagine the power of 28,000 people each giving just one more.

Making an impactful difference in these areas will take the power of 28,000 members each doing “just one more.”

As SAME embarks on the Run to 2020 and Beyond, the organization is focusing on five key pillars: 1) enhancing industry-government engagement; 2) developing leaders for the profession; 3) preparing veterans for transition into post-service careers; 4) inspiring future STEM professionals; and 5) increasing the nation’s resilience against natural and man-made disasters. Making an impactful difference in these areas will take the power of 28,000 members each doing “just one more.”

Following the new president induction and the Service Engineering Chiefs Panel, the 2018 JETC came to a close Friday evening at the annual Society Ball & Awards Gala.

Gold Medal recipient Ron Torgerson


This year, more than 35 individuals and organizations were recognized for their excellence in architecture, engineering, leadership and for their support of the Society. Highlighting the awards were the presentations of the Walter O. Bachus Gold Medal, which is given for outstanding leadership and accomplishments in support of the SAME mission over one’s entire period of membership, to Col. Ron Torgerson, P.E., PMP, CHPP, F.SAME, USAF (Ret.) and Jim Hagan, F.SAME. Col. Torgerson, who is currently the Rocky Mountain Region Fellows Point of Contact has been a member for more than 45 years. Hagan, who most recently served as Chair of the Resilience Committee, passed away in September 2017. His award was presented posthumously to his wife, Sandy.

Thank you to all the sponsors, speakers, exhibitors, and attendees for making the 2018 JETC in Kansas City a success, and a special thanks to the Greater Kansas City Post for co-hosting the event. Plan now to attend next year’s JETC, scheduled for May 7-9, 2019 in Tampa, Fla.

View additional photos on SAME’s Flickr page. Check out #SAMEJETC for a real time look at the week that was in Kansas City. Access education session presentations at the JETC website.