Becoming an Army engineer officer was not on the list of things Col. Teresa Schlosser, the new Far East District commander, was looking to do while growing up in “Big Sky Country” in Montana. No one in her immediate family had served in the military.
“The last person to serve was my grandfather in World War II and strangely enough he was an engineer Soldier and helped with the rebuilding of Tokyo,” said Schlosser.
She went to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) office while attending the University of Montana and joined ROTC just so her college friend wouldn’t sign up alone, but never intended to sign a contract and was thinking law school was in her future. Twenty three years later she has risen to the rank of colonel in the Army and is exhilarated with taking command of her first U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District.
“It’s an incredible honor to be given the responsibility to command the Far East District,” said Schlosser. “We are the only district that straddles a war mission with a construction mission.”
Thanks to her father’s upbringing she knew how to sheet rock and some of the basics in construction, along with familiarity of the trade nomenclature. Her aptitude led her to be selected as the first woman in the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment in Germany where she was attached to them as the assistant regimental engineer. She also deployed with the 94th Engineer Battalion in one of the first Army units in to Bosnia.
“I had the chance to learn the combat side of the engineers where most females don’t get that chance and it was awesome,” said Schlosser.
Schlosser had her first experience with the Corps as a Captain and Major in the Alaska District. During her time there she deployed to Afghanistan and helped oversee the construction of the Bagram runway project. She also helped in the construction of all the Stryker brigade infrastructure and took on jobs as project engineer, deputy resident engineer, resident engineer and deputy area office engineer.
“Based on that experience, every junior officer I talk to I tell them to go the Corps,” said Schlosser. “It’s so completely different from what we do in the tactical units for construction.”
Schlosser also aided in the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts as well as deploying to the Philippines as part of a Field Force Engineering Team (FEST). Schlosser said what she learned as a young officer in the Corps - from greater construction and engineering methods to disaster response - was invaluable.
“One of the coolest things about working for the Corps is getting to say I built that,” said Schlosser. “Engineers here at the District can say that. The other thing is getting to help people. There is nothing more humbling than to have someone in a disaster situation come up to you and touch the flag of your uniform and say thank you. Also working with Army civilians made me a better leader because I had to be considerate of the best way to use their time. Those aren’t constraints we normally have in the military.”
Schlosser said that during her first week of command while visiting the District’s resident offices she was amazed to find so many employees with decades of experience working for the Far East District.
“You’re not accidentally in the same job for 30, 40 or 50 years,” said Schlosser. “You’re in that job because you love it and that speaks volumes about this District.”
Schlosser also said with the District’s headquarters scheduled to move to Camp Humphreys her aim is to make the transition as easy as possible for those choosing to move.
“Having changed duty stations so many times myself I know it is tough,” said Schlosser. “I’m asking some people who have never moved once in their lives to leave so whatever I can do to alleviate some of that stress is my goal.”
Schlosser, who said she expects to learn from the vast experience of many District employees, did bestow one piece of advice to the Far East District team.
“Do the best job, in every job, and you’ll be successful.”