Sprinting to our Second Century: An Interview with SAME President Buddy Barnes

SAME President Buddy Barnes, May 2019In May 2019, at the Joint Engineer Training Conference & Expo in Tampa, Fla., Lt. Col. Wendell “Buddy” Barnes, P.E., F.SAME, USA (Ret.) was sworn in as the 100th National President of SAME.

A Senior Vice President with Arcadis, which he joined in 2016, Barnes has a diverse professional career, including service with the U.S. Army for over 20 years, a decade with the City of Houston as an engineer and planner, and then two decades as an executive with four leading industry firms. Barnes is one of only two Society members who has been honored with both the SAME Walter O. Bachus Gold Medal for lifetime achievement (2003) and the Academy of Fellows’ Gerald C. Brown Mentoring Award for outstanding mentoring (2004). He also has received the SAME Wheeler Medal (1980), SAME Goethals Medal (1997), SAME Post Service Medal (2009), and SAME Presidents Medal (2016).

Bricks & Clicks recently chatted with Barnes on how he first became an SAME member, what his theme for this year is, and the important role the Society has to play as it celebrates its Centennial in 2020.

What have you learned from your travels around the Society as SAME President?

BARNES: Well, after almost half of my “Sprint to the Start” I see Posts getting excited and looking forward to the new 2025 SAME Strategic Plan, which is on track to be approved this fall and then rolled out in January 2020.

I also have been happily seeing great interest in Posts finding new members and then involving all members in the planning for their Post Centennial Celebration. These celebrations are intended to highlight something of importance locally within the A/E/C profession—and we want Posts to reach out to their local partners and stakeholders to celebrate something together. These celebrations are about collaboration.

Describe the importance behind your theme of a “Sprint to the Start” of our second century.

BARNES: We are on the verge of our second century as an organization, with a desire to enter next year with increased participation, an energized membership, and ready to build a sustainable future focused on our 2025 SAME Strategic Plan.

We cannot think of the coming months and year as “business as usual.” We are now being recognized as the integrator for our profession; we have to step up and do it.

SAME President Buddy Barnes (right) visiting the SAME/Army Engineering & Construction Camp in 2019.
Share how you first became a member of SAME, and how your involvement over the years has impacted you.

BARNES: I joined SAME when I was commissioned in the U.S. Army in December 1967. But because of Vietnam I didn’t really become a member until December 1969 when I was at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The president of the Post (a retired colonel) walked in my office once day and ask why I missed the meeting. As I was a new captain I didn’t miss any more meetings!

From there, in Stuttgart, Germany, my boss wanted to start a Post, so I figured out how to do that. The Stuttgart Post was created in 1974. Then, once I knew how it all worked, I went and started a Post on the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway with my U.S. Air Force partners at Columbus AFB, Miss.

After 50 years, starting three Posts, President of three Posts, serving as Regional Vice President, Board of Direction member, and other involvement, SAME has been both my joy and source of networking during my time in the military, local government, and consulting industry. I am bi-lingual; SAME is my primary language.

What do you see as the greatest areas where SAME can make an impact as we begin our next 100 years?

BARNES: We must lead collaboration among military, government, industry, and academia to develop multi-disciplined solutions to national security infrastructure challenges.

Our Communities of Interest must not wait for assistance requests. They need to assess problems and provide the technical guidance to stakeholders, partners and our posts. SAME is a technically diverse organization. We need to utilize that breadth of knowledge to advance the A/E/C profession.

Our members are committed to service. We are the perfect ones to bring everyone together. Our nation will continue to face challenges over the next 100 years—challenges we know already and challenges we have no idea about yet. We need to remain engaged through SAME to ensure our profession is prepared to answer the call, just as the founders of this Society established this organization to help do 100 years ago.

The Centennial Kickoff Celebration at the 2020 JETC in Washington, D.C., will be a tremendous opportunity for us to show we are truly embracing our role as the multi-disciplined integrator of military, public, private, and academic national infrastructure-related capabilities to produce viable solutions for America’s national security.

What role can our major organizational components (Posts/Regions, Academy of Fellows, SAME Foundation, Communities of Interest) as well as our partners and stakeholders play in supporting the Society’s mission to lead collaboration?

BARNES: Posts and, collectively Regions, need to reach out to our partners and stakeholders and improve our understanding of their operational constraints, then use industry-government engagement opportunities to provide solutions.

Our Communities of Interest must not wait for assistance requests. They need to assess problems and provide the technical guidance to stakeholders, partners and our posts. SAME is a technically diverse organization. We need to utilize that breadth of knowledge to advance the A/E/C profession.

The Academy of Fellows must have all members commit to their local Posts and then deliver and strengthen our Posts. Posts are where our members connect; where relationships are formed and trust is built.

The SAME Foundation must focus on building its corpus and finding programs to supporting its compelling purpose of fostering engineering leadership for the nation.

As the Society celebrates in Centennial in 2020, what you are most looking forward to in your role as SAME President?

BARNES: This is an exciting time. Achieving the 2020 SAME Strategic Plan, and its mission, vision and goals, has positioned us to be ready for our Centennial.

As we finalize, approve, and implement the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan, we must continue to energize the Society to lead industry-government engagement, develop leaders, produce STEM professionals, strengthen resilience, and prepare veterans and servicemembers for the A/E/C industry.

Our second century is nearly upon us. Let’s get a running start!

SAME President Buddy Barnes with red running shoes