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Enthusiastic New Orleanians cheered today at the news that retired head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive an engineering award. Retired Lt. Gen. Carl Strock was in charge of the Corps when Hurricane Katrina struck the city, and he is being recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers for “improving quality of life worldwide.” Wilma Johnson, a former Gentilly resident now living in Dallas, said she couldn’t be happier for Strock.

“Next to President Bush, I can’t think of anyone who deserves more applause for his actions when Katrina caused the water to jump over the levees,” Johnson said. “Sure, I spent a week up on my roof, but I knew that somewhere in Washington D.C., General Strock was thinking about me.”

Strock’s courageous actions didn’t end with the draining of New Orleans. Before retiring from the Army a little less than a year following Hurricane Katrina , the lieutenant general bravely assigned the Corps to investigate itself for the levee failures.

Confident that his engineers would stop at nothing to blame themselves for the levee failures, Strock nevertheless wanted to make certain there would be no perceived conflict of interest. In November 2005, he paid the American Society of Civil Engineers to head up an external review panel to monitor the Corps investigation. The Corps was so pleased with ASCE’s work that they gave them awards before the panel issued its final report. And ASCE returned the favor in November of last year by giving Strock an ethics and leadership award for “his dedication to learning the truth about why the hurricane protection system in New Orleans failed during Hurricane Katrina, and his commitment to sharing all lessons learned with the profession, industry and public.”

Prior to Strock’s assignment as the head of the Corps, he served in Iraq, directing much of the rebuilding efforts. During his six months in Iraq, Strock not only managed to renovate the entire country , known now as “the gem of the Middle East,” but also buoy locals’ spirit with suggestions like, “We're going to ask people to turn up to the buildings even if they don't exist.”

Strock has continued his humanitarian efforts in retirement and now works for the Bechtel Corp. in a Houston-based division that builds oil, gas and chemical facilities. When Johnson was informed that Strock was also now a Texan, she could barely control her excitement.

“He is, and he’s in charge of oil, gas and chemical facilities?” Johnson asked. “So, how close is Dallas to Houston?”

Strock will receive his award next month at a black-tie gala later in Washington. No word yet when Michael Brown, former head of FEMA, might be given a humanitarian award from ASCE.

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