"He is very honest, punctual, and works to improve his skills," Supply Technician Matthew Davis said. "He has a real caring spirit. He took me under his wing when I was new, made sure I had lunch, and even drove me home a couple of times when my car had broken down. He is an all-around good guy, and I will miss him if he ever leaves."
Davis is talking about Heavy Mobile Equipment Mechanic Leader Robert Woods. Woods is the working leaderman in the Tractor Shop, performing duties as a mechanic and overseeing all other mechanics in the Yards and Docks Unit. He's been doing so for a little more than 40 years now.
"I graduated from high school in 1975 after growing up on a plantation in Penjur, Arkansas, with 11 sisters and one brother," Woods said. "I did it all, from chopping cotton, picking cotton, to driving a tractor… I did it all."
Woods said he started work as a seasonal worker for the Memphis District Mat Sinking Unit in 1976 when he was just 19 years old. He worked in Revetment for 15 years.
"So, my service computation date (SCD) is adjusted for my seasonal time," he said. "I then went on to work on the Grading Unit and then to the Dredge Hurley where I even assisted the Huxtable as a pumping plant operator during the off-seasons. That was before moving to the plant section."
Woods has served in several positions while with the Memphis District, including deckhand, oiler, mechanic, and leaderman. He actually had 25 years with the district before becoming a permanent employee.
During his time as a seasonal employee, Woods put three children through college and then bought a house once hired on as a permanent employee.
He says he learned to be a man by working for the Corps.
"To be a man, you've got to work on the Mat Sinking Unit."
Deckhand Leaderman Jackie Dixon and Toolmaker Doc Fraction were his mentors when he started, and they are still here working for the Memphis District. His son, Royalle Woods, also works for the district as a pumping plant operator at the Huxtable Pumping Station.
"My job and family come first," he said. "I have maintained a spotless record, never getting in trouble or getting written up. I never liked being away from work or using leave. I always wanted to be at work."
His goal for a very long time has been to reach 40 years of service. Well, goal achieved.
Being with the Corps as long as he has, Woods knows quite a few people and enjoys working with everyone he meets. And the feeling is mutual.
Engineer Equipment Operator Leader Dennis Lewis said, "I have worked with Robert in Yards and Docks since 2012. I like working with him because he is a no-nonsense guy, easy to work for, and he tries his best to get you what you need to do your job."
"Robert Woods is a funny guy and very knowledgeable about the history of Ensley," Yards and Docks Chief Ricco Chalmers said. "Robert is known to commonly use his own catchphrases such as "you know how it is" and "this and that" and then will clap the back of his hand with the palm of the other for emphasis."
With all that said, it is clear Woods is happy to be working for the Corps and those working with him are glad he's here as well.
Congratulations again to Mr. Robert Woods, and many thanks for your dedicated service to the Memphis District, the Mississippi Valley Division, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.