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Getting to Know the Omaha District: Chuck McWilliams

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District
Published June 20, 2019
Lt. Col. Chuck McWilliams
Chemical Officer

Lt. Col. Chuck McWilliams Chemical Officer

Getting to Know the Omaha District: Chuck McWilliams

With more 700,000 square miles within its area of responsibility, the Omaha District’s 1,200+ employees bring very unique skillsets and experiences to the District’s broad mission set. Positions within the District range from a variety of disciplines, from engineers to real estate experts, to contract specialists, meteorologists, photographers—just to name a few.

District employee ages range from low 20s into the mid-to-late 70s. Some of our teammates have experienced some of the best and worse the Midwest has to offer, while others were only toddlers when 9-11 happened. Some have only been with the District for a few weeks, while others have dedicated more than 40 years of their life to the District.

All have a story and through this forum, we will begin highlighting some of them so the reader better understand the broad range of diversity we have within the Omaha District.

EMPLOYEE: Chuck McWilliams

POSITION: Meteorologist

Once known as a television meteorologist for KETV in Omaha, Chuck McWilliams currently works as a meteorologist for the Omaha District. He followed a unique path to the Corps and appreciates his Corps employment.

“Working for the Corps has really impressed me,” said McWilliams. “The versatility of the workforce when responding to disasters, locally and across the country, is beyond expectations.”

Chuck’s meteorological work in the District emphasizes probable-maximum precipitation studies. The purpose of the studies is to analyze extreme weather events that can then be used in hydrological models. The models can then be used to help predict the probable maximum floods upriver from dams and other projects along the Missouri River and across the United States.

McWilliams was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and later moved to Florida following his high school graduation. After completing a stint as a Navy enlisted sailor, he enrolled in Florida State University and earned his undergraduate degree in meteorology.

Upon graduation from Florida State, McWilliams desired to continue his education with an emphasis in environmental issues so he moved north to Georgia to attend Georgia Tech. While there, he earned a Master’s degree in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

After the completion of his Master’s degree, Chuck was hired by the state of Georgia to perform air-pollution meteorology work in Atlanta. Chuck enjoyed his position but had a growing desire to try on-air broadcast meteorology. He reached out to a news station a few hours away and applied for a weekend position. The media outlet was hiring and offered him the opportunity.

For more than six months, Chuck worked during the week for the state of Georgia and then would pack up and drive two hours down the road to Macon in order to provide the weekend weather forecasts. He eventually had enough experience to begin applying for full-time meteorologist positions across the country.

Nebraska was one of the many geographic markets in which McWilliams applied.  Omaha news station, KETV, eventually offered him a position.  He soon uprooted his family and moved to the Midwest. His expectations initially were to remain in Nebraska for a short period of time and then move to a larger broadcast market but his family had other ideas.

“My family fell in love with Nebraska,” said Chuck. “It is especially a great place to raise a family.”

Shortly after relocating with his family to Nebraska, the events of September 11th, 2001 occurred, which motivated Chuck to return to the service. He commissioned into the Army Chemical Corps in the Nebraska Army National Guard while continuing his daily work with KETV. After extended training, his unit deployed to Iraq where as a platoon leader, he was responsible for providing convoy security for those required to leave the relative safety of established military bases.

Upon returning from Iraq in December 2007, McWilliams also returned to KETV as a meteorologist. He continued in the position until near the end 2010 when he accepted an outreach position for the Missouri River Recovery Program with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District.

Within six months starting in the District, major flooding occurred across much of the Upper Missouri River Basin. The District had an immediate need for a meteorologist and Chuck was in the right position to fill the need. He was hired to provide basic weather forecasting but soon shifted emphasis to some national studies, as previously mentioned.

At the time of this story, Chuck is continuing to serve in the Nebraska Army National Guard as a Chemical Officer. He was promoted to Lt. Col. 2019 and assumed command of the 126th Chemical Battalion. His battalion is located in the greater Omaha area and also oversees the Nebraska CERFP (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, which is one of less than 20 such units located across the nation standing ready to respond to requests for homeland defense and support. Within the past few months, a unit within the 126th Chemical Battalion completed a 4-week rotation at the National Training Center in Death Valley, California where it trained on real-world scenarios alongside the active component army.

McWilliams is married with three children and plans on remaining with the Corps and Nebraska Army National Guard until retirement, if possible.

In addition to work for the Omaha District, McWilliams has deployed to New Jersey in 2012 in support of Hurricane Sandy recovery as well as to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017 as part of the Temporary Roofing team following the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.