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Nashville District class culminates Leadership Development Program > U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters > Story Article View

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 10, 2020) – Sixteen employees with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District graduated today from the first level of the district’s Leadership Development Program during a ceremony at the Scarritt Bennett Center.

Lt. Col. Sonny B. Avichal, Nashville District commander, praised the graduates for their accomplishment, dedication and commitment to excellence to enrich themselves and the district.

Avichal thanked the group for moving forward with instruction during the period of COVID-19 and said personal growth is extremely important, and is a continual challenge for everyone.

“Different is okay,” said Avichal.  “You might be in a position that you may have to deal with a change like this and what you’re going to do is come back and think about this experience and you’ll move forward. You have proven that you have the potential. But now there is a change in that mental model of what you define as success.”

The commander told all the graduates that when they endeavor on a project or even have an encounter with an individual, “it’s not about you anymore.”

He told them it’s now time for them as leaders to help coworkers and subordinates to perform at a high level and to help them to rise and shine.

During the leadership course, classes were organized into six, two-day training sessions between March 19 and Sept. 9. Much of the training was halted due to COVID-19 and later resumed virtually.   Crystal Tingle and Mary Lewis, Nashville District’s administrators for the program, led sessions designed to give participants a broader understanding of the agency as a whole. To accomplish this the students also met with leaders from each division and attended sessions covering the overall mission and day-to-day operations of various offices.

Tingle said due to COVID -19 many of the class’s planned visits to Corps of Engineers projects, including the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project in Chattanooga, Tenn., and other training outings had to be canceled.  However, the group did visit the Center Hill Rehabilitation Project in Lancaster, Tenn.

“We did get to visit Center Hill Dam and it was great,” Tingle said.   “We used Zoom and Web Ex to include everyone in the class sessions which included exercises focused on public speaking skills and interview techniques.”

Dr. Michael Evans of Evans and Associates, Inc., a leadership consultantwith many years of experience with Corps of Engineers’ LDP groups, worked with the class to enhance professional and leadership skills.  Some of the topics he covered included emotional intelligence, mentoring, situational leadership, conflict resolution and time management. He said the curriculum has made the students more attuned leaders.

“COVID-19 caused some delays but this group pressed forward and really challenged themselves,” said Evans in his opening statements.    “It is always a great opportunity for me to interact with them and to learn from them in this process too,” Evans said.

Evans said he taught the class that in regard to leadership the most important thing is to be self-aware, to remain calm and not to take on the emotions of others.

Tingle said during the course, students had to read books on various leadership topics, participate in team building exercises, and had to make presentations about themselves, their jobs and the organization.

During the graduation ceremony, each student spoke one by one about what he or she took away from the course of instruction, including technical and personal goals for the future.

Peyton Abernathy, a civil engineer in the design branch of engineering and construction, said she joined the Corps of Engineers to learn new technology, learn new things, and meet new people that work in the Corps.  She said subjects like emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, other people’s values and personal development will help her become a great leader and supervisor.

“This has been a great experience and I got the opportunity to meet other people from around different projects that I usually would have not gotten to know on a personal level,” Abernathy said this class and information will help me in the future.”

Shane Brady, a park ranger at Lake Barkley, thanked the district, classmates and leaders for making the class happen.  He said there was difficulties with COVID-19 but it still happened and he gained a lot from the course.

“When I applied for the LDP class, I thought it would great to meet some other folks from around the district, but after the first class, it became so much more than that and I appreciate the opportunity to attend,” said Brady.  

Matt Landreth, a lock and dam equipment mechanic from Watts Bar lock, thanked his instructors and particularly Dr. Evans for making him uncomfortable.  He also noted how he was challenged and benefitted from not owning others emotions, and learning to look in the mirror

Tingle said the graduation formally recognizes the students’ accomplishment and culminates the part-time, multi-faceted individual development program designed to systematically develop basic leadership skills of Nashville District employees.

Students are eligible for continuing education units and professional development units for completing the program.

The graduates were Sondra Abanoto; Peyton S. Abernathy; Johanna Anderson; Michelle Anderson; Shane Brady; Daniel Clark; Michael Crowley; Matthew Davis; Timothy Dodson; Cody Flatt; Vincent Harriman; Justin Hill; Bobby Jackson; Matthew Landreth; Jordan Mcintyre; and Robert Turner. 

(For news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District go to the district’s website at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

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