The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District officially launched its new, $25.5 million Bank Grading Unit (BGU), “Grader 1”, with a May 2nd christening ceremony, held at a boat ramp located in the heart of downtown Memphis, Tennessee.
Event attendees included Mississippi Valley Division Commander Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, Memphis District leadership including District Commander Col. Brian Sawser and Deputy District Commander Lt. Col. Robert Green, honored guest and district retiree, Mr. Carl Hammitte, Sr., the new Bank Grading Unit project team and partners, as well as several members of the Memphis District's employee and retiree community.
Vessel christenings are considered an important part of nautical culture, with many of the associated customs having been practiced for centuries now. While variations do exist, the overall purpose of the christening remains to request sacred protection for the vessel and her crew as they navigate the vast waterways of the world.
Breaking champagne (or wine) on the boat's bow is traditionally done to bestow good luck upon both the vessel and her crew, however, if it fails to break, it’s considered a bad omen, leaving the vessel and crew cursed with bad luck.
Despite the risks associated, champagne-breaking is the focal point of the ceremony, and the one to perform such an act is always considered a person of high regard. And so, the man honored and carefully selected, and honored to christen Grader 1 that day, was USACE retiree, Mr. Carl Hammitte, Sr.
Hammitte filled Memphis District roles of Rivers and Harbors construction and maintenance foreman, as well as bank grading unit operator, holding that role from 2013 up until his retirement in 2019.
While Hammitte had an accomplished and fulfilling career with years of leaders commending him for his exceptional work ethic, character, and leadership, he never would’ve guessed his post-retirement life would’ve included something as extraordinary as this.
And just like everything else he accomplished throughout his career, he executed the task with precision and ease, champagne splashing and a glass shattering over the units bucket as though he’d been practicing for years.
It was with that break that District Commander, Col. Sawser, gave the order to officially, “Place her in service to the Memphis District, the Mississippi Valley Division, and the inland waterways of all the United States of America.”
In addition to the christening, the event also highlighted the importance of the new grader, being that the bank grading unit is an essential part of the revetment work USACE does along the Mississippi River.
Revetment operations primarily prepare riverbanks for the placement of articulated concrete mattress (ACM), from the Mississippi River water's edge out to the toe of the riverbank slope.
Completing revetment operations on a yearly basis ultimately supports riverbank stabilization and protection, navigation channel alignment support, and a front line of defense for levees along the river.
Even with these offered benefits, revetment is most fruitful only if operations are successfully executed. With equipment as old as the district’s vintage BGU, a 1949 dragline model, oftentimes the most significant season outcome was the number of times the BGU engine failed and caused delays in revetment.
Now, with Grader 1 christened and ready for service, not only will revetment operations benefit, but so too will other important projects and mission initiatives.
For additional information regarding the bank grading unit, revetment operations, the channel improvement program, and more, please visit the USACE Memphis District Website.