Story by Leon Roberts on 06/28/2019NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 28, 2019) Lt. Col. Sonny B. Avichal took command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District today during a change of command ceremony at the Tennessee National Guard Armory. He becomes the 66th commander of the "twin rivers" district, commonly referred to as the jewel of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.
Avichal comes to the Nashville District from the New England District in Concord, Mass., where he served as deputy commander. As commander of the Nashville District, he assumes responsibility for managing the water resources development and navigable waterways operations for the Cumberland and Tennessee River basins covering 59,000 square miles, with 42 field offices touching seven states and a work force of over 750 employees.
"I just want to thank you for the warm welcome. I look forward to working with and getting to know all of you as we continue to Deliver the Program' throughout this amazing district," Avichal said.
Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division commander, officiated the change of command and said Avichal comes to the Nashville District with the skills and experience for the job at hand.
"I know you are looking forward to working with the great professional workforce here at the Nashville District and being part of such a rich tradition," Toy said. "I know you will enjoy working on projects that are engineering marvels and helping the community with flood risk mitigation, hydropower, recreation, and regulatory issues."
Toy said the Nashville District can feel confident in getting an outstanding new commander and a wonderful Army family.
The new commander expressed his appreciation to Toy for the kind welcome, and to past amazing mentors and commanders who led him to the point he reached today. He also thanked his wife Urvi for her motivation and inspiration, and his kids for being flexible and adaptable.
Avichal's parents, Bimal and Jyoti Avichal, and in-laws, Harish and Kalpana Patel, attended the ceremony. The commander lauded their examples of leadership, strength and perseverance.
"You immigrated to the United States at a time when there were not many Indian immigrants, and achieved the American dream," Avichal said. "You had immense courage and overcame so many challenges. Our family has prospered because of your many sacrifices. The very opportunity and responsibilities I accept today is only made possible because of you and I love you for it."
Avichal received his U.S. Army commission in 2002 and has served in leadership and staff positions in Iraq, South Korea and multiple locations in the United States during his Army career. During his previous assignment with the New England District, he deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico in support of Hurricane Maria Recovery efforts, and to Erbil, Iraq where he served as deputy commander of the Mosul Dam Task Force.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with three oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), Iraq Campaign Medal (with three campaign stars), Korea Defense Service Medal, Ranger Tab and Parachutist Badge. He is a recipient of the Army Engineer Association's Bronze De Fleury Medal.
Avichal holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy and a Master of Arts Degree from Webster University. He is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Virginia.
Toy lauded the outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, and noted how the lieutenant colonel had mentioned that his opportunity to command provided him the privilege of listening to, learning from and leading great teams through challenging times in the pursuit of worthy causes.
"Cullen has done an excellent job. His experience, leadership and his high standards, his push to get the best from his staff, contributed to the great success that the Nashville District has enjoyed," Toy said.
The general added that there are many important projects and issues that Jones led during his time as commander, including focusing on emergency readiness and establishing a robust Workforce Readiness Program focused on "Taking Care of People."
During his command, Jones managed the Center Hill Rehabilitation Project, Kentucky Lock Addition Project, Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project, and recently led flood risk reduction efforts at the district's 10 multipurpose projects in the Cumberland River Basin during the wettest winter in recorded history of Tennessee. The combined efforts of the district under his leadership prevented flood damage to the tune of $1.72 billion.
Jones thanked the executive office, contracting, support staff and operations, real estate, construction and engineering, and regulatory divisions in saying farewell to the district he commanded since July 2017.
"The Nashville Team you are excellence personified. You have met every challenge, mission, and task with vigor, savvy, and style. You are truly The Jewel' of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. It's not that I am partial, I am just completely biased," Jones said.
He added that relinquishing command is the completion of a dream come true.
"As a young boy, the Corps' great accomplishments inspired me to join the Engineer Regiment, and over the last two years I have been inspired daily by our great works and people while I have commanded this amazing and storied district!" he said. "It has been my honor to give my all as I have listened, learned, and led as part of this amazing team."
Jones also thanked his wife Sharon for her love, support and resiliency through his tenure as commander, and also gave credit to his children for their support. He is now slated to attend the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pa.
For more news and information visit the district's website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.