Lieutenant General Elvin R. Heiberg III
Even at the highest echelons of the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. (Ret) Elvin “Vald” Heiberg stood out among his peers for his combination of intellect and leadership. Sadly, Vald passed away last Friday, September 27. He had cancer.
Raised in a military family, Heiberg was a combat veteran and earned the Silver Star in Vietnam. He was the 46th Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) – the youngest to hold that title since 1838. Prior to being selected by the President to be Chief of Engineers, he commanded the Corps’ New Orleans District (1975-78), managed the Army’s Ballistic Missile Defense Program, directed the Corps’ Civil Works program (1979-82), and was the Deputy Chief of Engineers.
Vald was a “Charter Member” Senior Advisor at Dawson & Associates for the entire 15+ years since our founding and has been a tremendous asset to numerous clients, solving difficult problems in the public interest with great skill, kindness, and perseverance.
In spite of all Vald’s remarkable achievements, he remained profoundly humble, sharing credit for success with others even when it was rightfully his. During the coming days, there will be deserved tributes to Vald and his remarkable life and we will let others document his biography. Our preference is to provide a few perspectives relating to his many contributions during a remarkable and extraordinary career. Three examples stand out:
Vald’s leadership as a soldier in completing the Corps’ twenty plus year Saudi Arabia Construction Program in 1987 proved to be a game-changer for the First Gulf War when that infrastructure played an indispensable role in supporting the deployment for our troops and equipment during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Without having that infrastructure in place, the U.S. could have never supported the huge logistical requirements for the War.
Vald commanded the Corps and using his intellectual power as a policy maker and advocate, he implemented the landmark provisions of the 1986 Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) signed into law by President Reagan. This law changed the relationships between the Federal, state and local governments in delivering the nation’s water related infrastructure. It established new cost-sharing formulas for construction of harbors, inland waterway transportation, and flood control projects. Vald’s leadership helped the USACE adapt quickly and effectively to these new operations, overcoming considerable complexity in the process.
After the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980, as the Corps’ Director of Civil Works, and as an outstanding engineer, builder, and expert in disaster relief, Vald oversaw the USACE’s extensive and successful infrastructure efforts to restore the affected areas.
To read the Corps’ official notice about Vald’s passing, click here.
Our nation has lost a remarkable soldier, scholar, statesman, and builder and we will never forget a great friend, colleague and leader.
Robert K. Dawson Founder & CEO