Q&A Dec 6, 2022

Soldiering On: Q&A with Manager of Projects, Retired Brigadier General Pete Helmlinger

Putting people first is what keeps retired Brigadier General Pete Helmlinger driving projects and teams to success.

Q&A with Pete Helmlinger Jacobs Manager of Projects Retired Brigadier General

When the Army needs engineering expertise, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is there; when USACE needs an expert, they turn to decorated career soldiers like retired Brigadier General Pete Helmlinger. Before joining Jacobs, Pete served as Commander of the USACE Northwestern Division, South Pacific Division and two overseas Districts, as well as Chief of Staff for USACE Headquarters. His project and program management perspective helps Jacobs best serve the U.S. military at home and abroad. An avid history buff and veteran of multiple natural disaster recovery projects, we sat down with Pete to discuss his passion for projects, military service and love of the Pacific Northwest.

Let’s get started:

You retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Army after 33 years. What has been the biggest surprise about working for Jacobs?

The biggest and most pleasant surprise is the talent, dedication and helpfulness of the people at Jacobs. I worked with incredibly talented people throughout my government career, dedicated to public service and mission accomplishment. The people in Jacobs are every bit their equal — motivated to support the delivery of critical projects for our nation and committed to doing what’s right.

What makes you most passionate about your role? What excites you about what you do every day?

I’m passionate about caring for people, partnering and delivering the program. These were my priorities as a USACE District and Division Commander and they still are today. Jacobs has a positive team environment where people can grow and achieve their full potential, taking pride in our ability to delight clients and exceed their expectations. We meet our commitments to deliver innovative and quality projects on time and within budget.

Tell us about the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on. Can you share a story?

The 2017 Northern California Wildfires were a heartbreaking disaster, tragically killing dozens of people and displacing tens of thousands. As the USACE South Pacific Division Commander, I oversaw USACE emergency response efforts in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. The strength and resolve of the survivors were inspirational, as compassionate and selfless volunteers stepped up to assist. This effort included hundreds of volunteers from the Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles USACE Districts, as well as from across the Corps of Engineers. We planned and executed debris removal for 5,000 destroyed homes, safely moving ash, metal, concrete and other material to dozens of disposal and recycling sites. The camaraderie and motivation to rapidly assist others in need was unparalleled. Within six months, we completed the removal of 2.2M tons of debris — twice the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge — so survivors could rebuild.

Given your extensive experience with USACE, as a company, how can Jacobs best support their projects?

USACE has a large, capable and dedicated workforce but can’t grow fast enough to meet workload demands. Jacobs can best support USACE by providing engineering expertise on demand. It is important for us to listen to the military’s needs and concerns as we deliver projects and programs. With the depth and breadth of Jacobs’ 55,000-person workforce, we can bring responsive and innovative solutions.

“I’m excited about emerging technologies to help engineers solve problems more efficiently.”

Pete Helmlinger

Brigadier General Pete Helmlinger (ret.)

Jacobs Manager of Projects

What do you like best about living and working in the Pacific Northwest?

I’m a native of the Pacific Northwest and had the great fortune of being stationed in the western states of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii for about half of my 33-year Army career. I’ve served all over the country and the world, and every region has its strengths. In my opinion, the natural beauty, variety of micro-climates and casual, friendly attitude of people in the West are unmatched.

Where do you see the largest challenges for the West Coast of the U.S.?

Climate change is clearly the largest challenge facing the West Coast. It manifests in sea level rise, drought, wildfires, mudslides and flooding. Natural disasters like earthquakes in California and the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest are also challenges. All of these point to the need for resiliency in our planning and designs so that infrastructure will continue functioning and lives will not be lost.

You  volunteer with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). Why is this work so important to you?

I’ve been a member of SAME for more than 30 years and am the current Portland Post President. From my perspective, there is no better organization to develop leaders in architecture and engineering services and no better forum for industry leaders and government entities to collaborate to develop solutions to national security infrastructure challenges.

Tell us a little bit about what you like to do in your downtime.

I love running, hiking, travel and history. A perfect day for me would be hiking at a historic military battlefield or running around an engineering marvel. An officer in USACE once surprised me during a morning run in San Francisco, taking us to the first reinforced concrete bridge in the U.S. Who knew that it’s still in use at Golden Gate Park?

What excites you about the future of engineering?

I am excited about accomplishing the seemingly impossible through engineering. The rate of change of innovation is accelerating. When I started my career, I couldn’t have imagined net-zero power, water and waste management. There is also resilience to counter the impact of climate change, better forecasts of atmospheric rivers to prevent flood and drought and 3-D concrete printing. These capabilities and many others are here now. I’m excited about these and other emerging technologies to help engineers solve problems more efficiently.

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

Being part of a capable team with great people doing meaningful work worldwide.

About the interviewee

Pete Helmlinger

Brigadier General Pete Helmlinger (ret.) is a Manager of Projects at Jacobs supporting the western U.S. Before joining Jacobs, Pete enjoyed a distinguished 33-year Army career, serving as the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Afghanistan District, Europe District, South Pacific Division and Northwestern Division. He also served as the chief of staff for USACE Headquarters, delivering military construction and civil works programs worldwide. Pete holds two master’s degrees — in national resource strategy from the National Defense University and Civil and environmental engineering from Stanford University. He is a Professional Engineer in the state of Virginia and the current Portland Post President for the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME.) He is also a lifetime member of the Army Engineer Association and a former USACE Federal Engineer of the Year, bestowed by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Join #OurJacobs team

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