Administrative professionals at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District provide support by carrying out foundational tasks, allowing technical experts the ability to focus solely on completing specialized projects and programs. Referred to as ‘admins’, these professionals are integral to successfully achieving the USACE mission to deliver vital engineering solutions to the nation.
Admins are encouraged to develop their skills further through working with the district’s Training Office to explore opportunities for professional development. One opportunity that is highly encouraged is to obtain a Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE).
PACE is a certification program offered by the American Society of Administrative Professionals, and formally recognized by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. To obtain the certificate, students must complete an online course and pass a final exam within one year of enrolling.
Currently, Omaha District has six admins with their PACE certification: Erica Blanton, Kristina Lamb, Julie Standard, Riza Fattore, Jennifer Rykhus, and Gessika Boudreau.
Erica Blanton, an administrative assistant in the Executive Office, has been working with USACE since January 2022. She holds a master’s degree in administration with a minor in communication studies, a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in creative writing, and an associate degree in broadcast journalism. Prior to joining the district, Blanton served five years active duty as an U.S. Air Force broadcast journalist.
“It’s important to remind admins to get as much training where they are at and work on beefing up their resume so they can take care of themselves,” Blanton said. “Since our job is taking care of everyone else’s stuff, it’s difficult to remember that we need to take time to work on ours as well,” Blanton said.
An admin’s responsibilities range from in-processing and out-processing staff, assisting in travel orders, time keeping, record keeping and correspondence, or even holding a government purchase card; all of which are imperative to the Omaha District’s organizational and mission success. Skills obtained from the PACE program build a valuable toolkit of tips and tricks that create efficiencies in an admin’s responsibilities.
Photo Caption: Erica Blanton, an administrative assistant in the executive office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, poses with her PACE certificate. PACE is a certification program specifically for administrative professionals to further develop and demonstrate mastery in the profession’s relevant skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sarah Rich)
Julie Standard is an administrative assistant for the resource management office. She has a degree in computer information systems, is the wife of military veteran and has been working with the Omaha District since February 2022. Standard learned about PACE through a colleague and decided to earn her certification to broaden her knowledge and skills.
“You don't get to go work at a lot of places that have just oodles of training where you can just say ‘oh I'm interested in this,’” Standard said.
Standard explained that obtaining her PACE certificate provided her with a better understanding of the best business practices and bolstered her proficiency in administrative functions such as time efficiency and prioritization. Through the course, she felt that she learned to perceive challenges as opportunities and became inspired to look for more ways she can improve.
Standard provides administrative support to the chief of resource management and the entire resource management team. Standard must communicate openly, stay organized, and consistently meet deadlines — she genuinely embraces her role.
“I know it’s not for everyone, but I genuinely enjoy both the challenges and rewards that come with my job,” Standard said. “It gives me great satisfaction and pride when I see the way my efforts bring success to my supervisor and the team.”
Photo Caption: Julie Standard, an administrative assistant in the Resource Management Office at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, obtained her PACE certification. PACE is a certification program specifically for administrative professionals to further develop and demonstrate mastery in the profession’s relevant skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sam Weldin)
Administrative Officer Jennifer Rykhus works in both the Rocky Mountain Area and Denver Area Offices and has been with Omaha District for over 13 years. She has two bachelor’s degrees in business administration and accounting as well as a master’s degree in procurement and contract management.
Her hard work and commitment to excellence was recognized when she was named the 2018 Contracting Operation Support Personnel of the Year; and again in 2021 when Rykhus received the distinguished Norma I. Kolbe Award, which recognizes support staff who demonstrate superior qualities.
Rykhus retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of active-duty service. This experience, paired with living near four active military bases, has impacted how she views her work today.
“I have seen firsthand what Omaha District has done to improve the installation through military construction projects,” Rykhus said. “Being a part of that now gives me pride in what I do every day, knowing we are giving back to the active-duty Airmen and Soldiers.”
Rykhus completed her PACE certification in July 2022 to challenge herself and grow personally and professionally. She highly recommends all admins consider obtaining a PACE certification to gain useful skills to accomplish daily tasks more efficiently.
“Every day that I’m able to help someone solve a problem or provide them information that is going to make a difference to them is a great day,” Rykhus said. “Even if that means I’m spending hours researching the issue while they are able to focus on their daily tasks, knowing it made a difference and is appreciated is what matters most.”
Photo Caption: Jennifer Rykhus, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District administrative officer in both the Rocky Mountain Area and Denver Area Offices, obtained her PACE certification. PACE is a certification program specifically for administrative professionals to further develop and demonstrate mastery in the profession’s relevant skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sam Weldin)
Gessika Boudreau works at the Omaha District’s Denver Area Office as an administrative support assistant for the Construction Division and those at the Buckley Space Force Base Resident Office. She began working at USACE since in the summer of 2022. Prior to joining the District, she was honorably discharged after eight years of service in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserves where she specialized in weather forecasting. She also worked at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in the prosthetics department.
Working outside of the District’s headquarters office, admins in field offices collaborate remotely. “I really adore them [admins in other field offices], we all work together in the area we have,” Boudreau said. “We meet once a week and we just challenge each other."
Boudreau learned about PACE through Jennifer Rykhus. “Our administrative officers set a high standard of professionalism that inspire me to meet and maintain with them,” Boudreau said, “Our team’s success encourages me to recognize and reach my own potential. I want to be my best to support them.” Now, Boudreau encourages every USACE administrative assistant to consider PACE.
Boudreau explained that during the PACE courses she had an epiphany, “I look at everything and I'm like, I get it. It made me recognize like, wait a second- these small things I do are more than just important. They really matter. They're valuable, I'm valuable, and what I can offer is valuable.”
With a fresh perspective, Boudreau eagerly continued studying so she could continue to apply what she learned to her day-to-day duties. The course contributed to her positive outlook when it comes to her future with USACE.
“I want to be here for a long time,” Boudreau said. “I want to train other people on how to how to do this, but also to love it. There's good and bad everywhere, but in this position, if somebody wants it to be good, it can be great. We can always develop ourselves; we can always improve.”
Photo Caption: Gessika Boudreau, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District administrative support assistant for the Construction Division at Omaha District’s Denver Area Office, obtained her PACE certification. PACE is a certification program specifically for administrative professionals to further develop and demonstrate mastery in the profession’s relevant skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sam Weldin)
Training opportunities exist for administrative professionals in every step of their career and development. New admins, or those not ready for PACE, have the opportunity become a Certified Administrative Assistant. Earning a CAA shows that individuals have studied and mastered the necessary skills to be a recognized professional in the field of Administrative Assistants.
Admin professionals with a combination of education and work experience can also become a Certified Administrative Professional. Admins can also benefit from obtaining credentials through Microsoft, which offers over 150 credentialling topics relative to the role, such as Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
The annual Admin Summit event allows all admins to meet at the Omaha District headquarters where they can network, discuss the latest information on admin related tasks and gain valuable tools in stress management and confidence. Admins working outside of the Omaha office can use the summit to meet key personnel and peers they might work with remotely.
Admins are also encouraged to consider participating in the district’s year-long Leadership Development Program, where each year one seat is set aside for administrative professionals specifically. The program focuses on participant’s awareness and development of their personal leadership skills and strengths. Participants learn more about regional business practices, network with district and division, receive mentorship from district leadership, and attend graduate-level university courses on leadership and management topics.
Photo Caption: Administrative professionals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District pose for a group photo. Administrators provide support to every staff member across the USACE enterprise. Their support allows technical staff can focus on specialized projects and programs that achieve USACE’s mission to deliver vital engineering solutions to the Nation. (U.S. Army photo by Sam Weldin)
All employees can discuss opportunities and planning for personal and professional growth with their supervisors, designated training coordinator, or the Training Office.
Additional information can be found at the following links:
Careers at Omaha District