We’ve all heard the phrase or some variation of it: following in another’s footsteps. Well a son literally followed in his father’s footsteps earlier in April when he received orders to the Memphis District.
“My father (Maj. William Burruss) was the deputy commander in 2003 to 2004,” Cpt. Alex Burruss, Memphis District Operations Officer said. “I called him for advice the evening after I received word that the Army was deploying me to Memphis. The first thing he did was list out people who might still be here; Jim Pogue’s and Steve Barry’s names came up… not trying to age anyone. He told me that USACE is full of professionals and that I should try to enjoy the opportunity and learn as much as possible.”
Cpt. Burruss was supposed to move to Ft. Hood, Texas, but due to the Coronavirus situation, Army priorities quickly shifted and the captain found himself moving to Tennessee instead.
“I was excited, but also a little frustrated,” he explained. “However, I saw Lt. Gen. Semonite discussing the Alternate Care Site mission on the news and knew that we were -are- living in a unique time in history and that it would take a national-level effort to beat COVID-19.”
Cpt. Burruss said he was eager to support the fight, especially considering the frightful COVID-19 model predictions. He said he had initial concerns about arriving late and finding a value added role but knew he could offer experiences from serving in a battalion operations shop.
“Whatever was going to happen, I planned to hit the ground running,” he added.
The captain’s primary duty was to manage the flow of information related to Memphis District's COVID-19 response, which one can imagine was quite the responsibility.
“When I first got here, it was like trying to drink water from a fire hose,” Cpt. Burruss explained. “In order to be value added to the team, I knew I needed to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. One of the first things I noticed is that the Memphis District is full of great employees.”
The feeling is quite mutual as those he’s worked with here had nothing but great things to say about him and his work ethic.
“It was extremely refreshing to have an eager, young officer supporting the District's COVID-19 Response,” Memphis District Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Molica said. “Cpt. Burruss immediately joined the team ready to assist in any way. He is extremely proactive and applied a lot of his military skills and knowledge to synchronize our efforts and deliver a quality product to the State of Tennessee and City of Memphis.”
Construction Chief Jim Wolff worked with the captain almost every day while constructing the Alternate Care Facility here, and to say that Wolff will miss him is probably an understatement.
“Yeah I'll miss him!” Wolff exclaimed. “He helped generate and track some of the reporting to higher headquarters, so I didn't have to. He took many tours of VIP's and visitors through the site. He stepped in on quality check inspections, served as Protocol Officer for Colonels, Generals, and Dignitaries visits. I’ve never been so happy to see someone! He helped keep me sane. I can see him as becoming a fine USACE commander one day.”
Sounds like Cpt. Burruss may not be too far away from following in his father’s actual footsteps after all. According to Public Affairs Chief Jim Pogue, who had the opportunity to work with and for Maj. William Burruss, then Deputy Commander of the Memphis District back in 2003 to 2004, both are alike in that they are hardworking and quick with a smile.
“I recall Maj. Burruss as being very even-handed and easy to get along with,” Pogue said. “Cpt. Burruss is hard working just like his dad. Maj. Burruss was one of the first people from the Memphis District to deploy to the Middle East in response to what was then called the Global War on Terrorism. He represented the District and USACE proudly during that time.”
Cpt. Burruss has only been here for about two months, but he said the time spent here has been exhilarating and a very educational experience learning about emergency construction management.
“The project team has a ton of expertise and experience,” Burruss said. “Col. Miller and Lt. Col. Molica have taken the time to develop me as an Army Officer even with the COVID-19 mission requirements on top of routine operations. The whole team has been very dedicated and diligent working towards mission accomplishment. It has truly been a privilege to be part of the Memphis District team.”
He’s said many times that he’s learned a lot since being here, but if asked to make a short list of what he learned the most about, he said it would include FEMA, disaster response, undefinitized contract actions, general and emergency construction, construction management, and USACE.
“I hope to learn more about Memphis District’s routine operations and Civil Works program before I leave,” Burruss continued. “Memphis District is a great organization, staffed by competent and professional people. I would be very blessed if afforded the opportunity to work here again later in my career.”