MOBILE, Ala. – What do you say about a man who has spent more than half of his life serving his country? What honors or gifts do you give to a man who has already given so much in return, and is responsible for numerous innovations and programs in his chosen field of expertise?
Those are the questions the Mobile District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are left to answer after William (Wynne) Fuller, one of the most respected and longest serving leaders in the District, announced his retirement after 51 years of service — 42 of those years in the Mobile District, including the last 26 years as its Chief of the Operations Division.
His career speaks of service, sacrifice and dedication fulfilling his commitment to making USACE and the Mobile District successful succeed in its missions.
Echoing the feelings of the District workforce, Col. Sebastien P. Joly, Mobile District Commander, said Fuller is someone who is going to be greatly missed.
“Wynne epitomizes service to the nation and the tremendous value and contribution to our Nation’s prosperity, preservation of natural resources, and meaningful interactions with our natural environment for our citizens,” said Joly. “For more than four decades, Wynne has been personally involved and directly responsible for the manner in which the Army Corps of Engineers performs its Operations Mission here in the southeast and he will be sorely missed.”
Fuller was first commissioned into the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970, beginning a 30-year career, serving on active duty until 1975 and retiring as a Colonel in 2001.
He joined Mobile District as a Structural Engineer in 1979. In 1985 he became Chief of the Emergency Management Division, and in 1996 took on his current role as Chief of the Operations Division.
Fuller said one thing that has motivated him to a life and career of service was the unique opportunity to be able to help individuals and their communities.
“I have had a very rewarding career, gratifying,” Fuller said. “Gratifying in that you have a strong sense of contributing to our Nation by helping to create economic opportunity for the businesses that provide jobs for thousands. The opportunity to lead and shape our response to natural disasters and national contingency activities has also been very rewarding. Most of all, I appreciate the relationships I have enjoyed by virtue of my career, both within the Corps and with folks in other state and federal agencies, and especially in industry, the manufacturers, shippers, operators and associations that use our ports and waterways.”
One person who has been a first-hand witness to the innovative side of Fuller’s service is Pete Taylor.
Taylor, Deputy for Programs and Project Management for Mobile District and a former District Commander, said Fuller has contributed much, not just to Mobile District, but to the entire Army Corps of Engineers.
“There are few who have contributed as much to USACE mission accomplishment over the past five decades as has Wynne Fuller,” Taylor said. “Wynne was the visionary leader with the foresight to recognize how emerging technologies could improve the Corps’ delivery of services to the Nation and Army. Wynne led the Corps largest and most diverse Operations Division for more than 20 years with absolute distinction and grace. Through his leadership, Mobile District provided outstanding support to inland and coastal navigation, hydropower, and recreation stakeholders across a four-state region, greatly and positively impacting our economy, quality of life, and environment.”
Thomas Smith, who is the Chief of Operations and Regulatory Division at USACE Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said he made an interesting discovery when he was named to his position.
“Shortly after starting as the head of the lead of the operations community of practice for USACE in 2017, I tried to understand why so many tools, techniques, and procedures in use throughout USACE originated in Mobile District. I quickly learned the primary reason was the vision and inspiration of one leader, Wynne Fuller. Wynne will be missed and long remembered within Mobile District and throughout USACE.”
Fuller was also instrumental in building the relationships between Mobile District and many of its partners, most notably the Alabama State Port Authority at the Port of Mobile.
Judith Adams, Vice President, Internal and External Affairs for the Alabama State Port Authority said Fuller has been outstanding to work with during her years with the Port.
“Wynne was named Chief of Operations, shortly after my arrival at the Port Authority,” Adams said. “It’s been my pleasure and privilege to work with him ever since. In reflecting back over the years, I cannot think of a single instance where Wynne failed to educate, speak candidly, tackle the challenges, or deliver on commitments to either the Port Authority or our industry. I think it fair to say, we all hold a deep respect for his contributions toward bettering the civil works program across Alabama.”
With a view toward the next generation of USACE professionals, Fuller had advice for those who are considering making USACE a career base or who may already be serving in USACE and are looking to grow their careers in new directions.
“While there are opportunities for careers that perhaps pay more, there are few careers that can provide the variety of very interesting, challenging work,” Fuller said. “Go for a career where you can find joy in your work and co-workers. The Corps is a big organization, if you find yourself in a job or situation that you don’t enjoy, keep your eye out for other opportunities within the organization. The chances of finding something that you will truly enjoy is quite high. Be open to new experiences and opportunities to develop as a leader and to demonstrate those skills.”
John Ferguson, Chief of Operations and Regulatory Division for the South Atlantic Division, has a unique perspective on Fuller’s retirement. Ferguson said Fuller was his first supervisor in USACE when he began working as Co-Op student in 1994 and says he would not be where he is today without the mentoring, guidance, and leadership Fuller provided.
“Wynne Fuller’s contributions to the South Atlantic Division and USACE is truly immeasurable,” Ferguson said. “Under his leadership and guidance, he established a culture of innovation that led to the development of critical enterprise and regional technologies and solutions that have touched nearly every aspect of the USACE and SAD Operations program. Having worked with Mr. Fuller for over 25 years, one of his greatest attributes that I have tried to emulate in my career is his dedication to the development and support of the people that he leads.”
With the page turning on his USACE career toward a new chapter, Fuller said he plans to spend more time with his family during retirement and also plans to actively advocate for USACE’s navigation projects.
“My wife, Katherine, and I have spent more time together this past year than any of the other 47 years of our marriage,” Fuller said. “We really want to spend some time visiting Europe when travel restrictions are lifted. I look forward to spending time with my grandchildren Liam, Gavin and Katie. With retirement the restrictions we enjoy as federal employees will be lifted somewhat allowing me to have more of a voice with our political leadership in addressing the needs of our projects to ensure the continued reliability of our navigation systems.”
The reputation and respect Fuller graced Mobile District and USACE with is perhaps best summarized by Taylor.
“As for his legacy, Wynne leaves USACE a more capable organization, an organization the nation can confidently count on to deliver every time,” Taylor said. “His legacy is also the team he developed over the years – his superb Operations staff and those he’s mentored across USACE. In summary, I can think of no finer example than Wynne Fuller for someone who’s lived and demonstrated Army values – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage – throughout his entire career.”
Wynne Fuller – leader, gentleman, and comrade in arms -- will be greatly missed. He leaves Mobile District with legendary ‘big shoes’ to fill, but his undaunted commitment to the District and its future has already assured he has prepared a new generation to follow in his footsteps.