Far East District on-boards new employees during COVID-19

Far East District
Published June 2, 2020
Far East District on-boards new employees during COVID-19

Alana Munoz Acevedo, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District project manager, works at her desk, Camp Humphreys, South Korea, May 28. Munoz Acevedo joined the district during COVID-19.

Far East District on-boards new employees during COVID-19

Richard Byrd (left), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Far East District (FED) deputy district engineer, swears in Austin Estopinal, a district project manager, with the Oath of Office, Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Apr. 13.

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Far East District (FED) has on-boarded a few new employees during COVID-19. As this pandemic has changed the way operations occur globally, most of their transition to the district is unique due to the virus.

The Programs and Project Management Division Air Force Branch welcomed project managers Alana Munoz Acevedo and Austin Estopinal.

Munoz Acevedo is not only an engineer, she has been the spouse of a service member for the past six years. She has previously worked in the private and government sector before relocating from Texas to South Korea with her family.

“My last position, I worked for the Directorate of Public Works in Fort Hood, Texas, as a lead designer in the Engineering Design Branch,” said Munoz Acevedo. “Prior to that I worked with a construction company called Del Valle Group as a productivity engineer.”

As this is her second Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move, Munoz Acevedo stated that she continuously works to update her resume every four months. She went on to state that as a civil engineer, it is important to provide accurate details on her roles and responsibilities of her positions and projects in order to be a marketable professional before the process starts for her to find another job.

“The process to be in a government competitive position usually takes a long time, therefore, I try to look and apply for positions as soon as I know our next location,” said Munoz Acevedo. “I first heard about the FED by doing my research looking for a position here in South Korea. Since I was a recent graduate, it has been a goal of mine to work overseas and for the corps. The PCS move motivated me to go and achieve my goals that I had since I was a young engineer.”

Munoz Acevedo stated that the move to South Korea during COVID-19 wasn’t difficult, and thanks to her current team they helped provide her a smooth transition.

“For me the transition was smooth even as a new employee since I worked for the government before,” said Munoz Acevedo. “But this transition wouldn’t have been smooth if it wasn’t for the incredible team that I have; my supervisor Jennifer Moore and my coworkers Brian Quiroga and William Daniels helped me through the process. Jennifer and Brian were in constant communication with me and CPAC to get me set up as soon as possible.”

As COVID-19 was at its peak when she arrived, many district employees were teleworking during her arrival period. Munoz Acevedo stated that Moore worked to get her set up with her CAC [Common Access Card] and a work computer.

“Brian, William and I started doing WebEx meetings and they started explaining what my position entitled,” said Munoz Acevedo. “They checked with me constantly during the crisis to see if I needed anything. They demonstrated that they genuinely care and support me as new employee. For me that’s truly team work.”

According to Munoz Acevedo, working with the district has been an amazing experience thus far. She also thinks that USACE is a great organization, and she is looking at ways to improve while working with USACE. She has also set a few personal goals to help her be more effective while with the district.

“As an engineer I would like positions that will allow me to be able to grow as leader and expert in my field,” said Munoz Acevedo.  “As for certifications I would like to take the Leadership Development Course and the Project Manager Certification. I think both certifications are important and key for my professional development and leadership. I want to become a well-rounded project manager by providing great customer service, leadership, and solutions to my stakeholders in an efficient and timely manner. Also, I’d like to learn Korean as my 4th language in order to communicate effectively with my Korean coworkers and customers.”

Austin Estopinal was sworn into government service Apr. 13, at the district headquarters. Estopinal stated that beginning his public sector career during a global pandemic has undoubtedly been a unique experience.

“I’m thankful for my sponsor and colleague, Chris Carson, who supported my onboarding weeks before my actual start date and helped walk me through my first few weeks on the job,” said Estopinal. “Probably the coolest thing to happen in my onboarding process during COVID was getting sworn in by Mr. Rich Byrd, the Deputy District Engineer, in front of the American, Korean, and Army Corps flags at the FED office. As I understand it, new government employees starting at Camp Humphreys are usually sworn in at the CPAC office; however, because of the COVID restrictions on my start date, the CPAC was closed. Special accommodations were made for me and another FED employee starting on the same day. It was definitely a memorable experience for me and a great way to start my government service career.”

Estopinal, who is also the spouse of an active duty soldier, worked as an engineer in the private sector for more than nine years prior to arriving in South Korea.

“I worked in the private sector delivering engineering, procurement, and construction projects in the energy, chemicals, and residential high-rise industries,” said Estopinal. “Most recently, I worked in Houston, Texas in business development where I managed the preparation and delivery of technical and commercial bid proposals for global refining and petrochemical projects.”

Estopinal was first introduced to the FED through his friend, John Lee, who works with the district and is also a military spouse. Lee was able to mentor and guide him to be introduced to people and resources which led to him becoming a member of FED.

“This informal networking was probably the biggest factor that contributed to finding my current job at the FED," said Estopinal. "After asking him for some advice about working here, he passed along my resume which made its way onto the desk of my then future boss. He also reached out to Ms. Penny Ferguson, a WMO liaison, and she suggested that I attend the job fair in January 2020. There I was able to more formally meet with her and other FED representatives. Everyone that I met at the job fair's FED booth was extremely friendly and helpful. Each person provided me with new information that helped me to navigate the hiring process. Ms. Kimberly Turnage and Ms. Penny Ferguson answered my questions and helped me with my next steps in the process."


At the job fair, Estopinal also met Stephanie Nishimori, who is a human resources representative with the Army Civilian Human Resources who specifically helps spouses find employment and navigate the system.

“She provided me with more general insights into the hiring process within the government sector. I continued to ask questions of everyone that I met along the way and they were always very willing to help,” said Estopinal.

Estopinal stated that his work in the private sector and his experience directly applies to his role in the FED and he feels that he has a lot to contribute to the team.

“My experience starting a new career at the FED has been amazing. Everyone I have met, regardless of their position or level, has been extremely welcoming and taken the time to see that I am getting settled,” said Estopinal. “Working with team-oriented people makes all the difference in the world, and the daily interactions with my colleagues and managers assure me that I made the right decision to accept my position with the FED.”