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NAD celebrates deputy commander at retirement ceremony

Brig. Gen. Geoff Van Epps, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwest Division, hands Col. Samuel L. Volkman, the North Atlantic Division deputy commander, his certificate of retirement during Volkman's retirement ceremony at Fort Hamilton, New York, June 14, 2023.

Posted on June 19, 2023

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division honored the career of Col. Samuel L. Volkman, NAD deputy commander, during a retirement ceremony held June 14 at the Fort Hamilton Community Club. The ceremony coincided with the Army birthday, and Brig. Gen. Geoff Van Epps, the commander of USACE’s Northwest Division and Volkman’s longtime friend and colleague, hosted the event.

“It is such a distinct privilege to help Sam close out his distinguished career,” said Van Epps. “Sam’s done it all, and he’s excelled everywhere he’s been. He is a paragon of virtue and friendship, a peerless peer and the ultimate teammate.”

During the ceremony, Volkman was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Silver Order of de Fleury medal.

Volkman commissioned into the Army in 1995 after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.

“The civil engineering department opened arms and was excited about me joining,” Volkman said. “I was very, very happy. I can’t say enough about the department. They have phenomenal professors there that truly cared about the students.”

After commissioning, Volkman’s first assignment was as a platoon leader, company executive officer and battalion S-4 in the 864th Engineer Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington. He said his first company commander, Capt. Kelly Butler, was a great mentor to him.

“She was infectiously positive and a phenomenal leader,” Volkman said. “I remember as a young second lieutenant, I was pouting or something. Capt. Butler called me into her office, and she kind of read me the riot act. And what she told me was, ‘You need to put a smile on your face because what you do and what you don’t do impacts everyone. Even though you might be having a miserable day, you need to make sure the people around you are not having a miserable day and can go out and are inspired to go do great things.’

“She was saying your job is to influence people positively, to think and inspire positivity. What a great approach to things. Obviously, we need to be accountable and have standards, but in doing so, we don’t need to put people down.”

Throughout his career, Volkman served throughout the U.S., as well as in South Korea and Germany. He also deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti, constructing and renovating a number of buildings, including hospitals and schools.

Volkman reflected on his time as an Army engineer.

“It’s been an awesome career. One of the things that is so awesome about being an engineer is we make life better,” he said. “Somebody once said, ‘if someone asks you what type of engineer you are, you need to just tell them you’re a solutioneer.’ Because we don’t really care if you’re a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer or electrical, but you solve problems. That’s why being an engineer is awesome, and USACE is such a phenomenal organization. We have such a great mission. We make life better, safer for people. That is what we do in USACE.”

Volkman was assigned to NAD in July 2020 and said it has been the “perfect ending” to his Army career.

“This assignment has been amazing. Being a deputy for Maj. Gen. Thomas Tickner and Col. John Lloyd, they gave me a lot of leeway to help the enablers and supporting folks in their work,” Volkman said. “Working with our regional business and programs directors past and present, including Ms. Karen Baker, Mr. Reinhard Koenig and Mr. John Primavera, has also been an absolute joy.

“This division does everything. It is so broad and diverse from what we do in Europe and Africa. Then when you get CONUS side, it’s absolutely amazing. NAD and all the districts just have great missions and great people.”

As retirement nears, Volkman looks forward to spending more time with his wife and son.

“I had a phenomenal life, but I didn’t realize how empty it was until I met my wife,” Volkman said. “We didn’t get married until we were both 40, and your life changes. We didn’t have our son until 2015, and you quickly realize there’s so much more in life. Seeing him succeed, I look forward to being more involved in his life. I’ve just been exceptionally blessed.”


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