Earl Chow’s career as a civil engineer has come full circle.
As a student at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento, he once attended a presentation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District. Intrigued by their mission and projects, Chow decided to pursue a career in civil engineering.
Now, he’s the resident engineer for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Stockton project, where USACE is building a brand-new medical complex for Central Valley veterans.
“There’s a lot of veterans who fought hard to get this clinic here, and it’s satisfying to watch it come together,” said Chow.
“Today our job is to build a medical center; tomorrow it may be a civil works project to reduce flood risk or a hangar to house fighter jets that defend our nation,” he added. “That’s the nature of what we do at USACE.”
As a Navy veteran himself, Chow understands the value of this work. He was an active duty Civil Engineer Officer for 10 years, and worked on military construction projects all over the globe. Chow deployed with a naval mobile construction battalion to Iraq and Spain, and coordinated projects for the Navy and Marine Corps while stationed in Guam, California, and Djibouti.
“In my career, I’ve worked airfield, waterfront, training ranges, schools, commissaries, gyms, and hospitals,” said Chow. “This includes both planning and execution.”
While in the Navy, Chow worked closely with USACE as a customer and partner, foreshadowing his eventual move to the Sacramento District in 2018.
In the course of his duties with the VA Stockton project, one of Chow’s most significant challenges is working with the project contractor to ensure adequate staffing.
“Much of this project has taken place during the pandemic, and in the summers of 2020 and 2021 we had to deal with heavy wildfire smoke,” he said. “While the safety of our staff and contractors is our most important concern, we also wanted to move the project forward with minimal delays.”
The Stockton clinic has been under construction since November 2019. Currently, contractors are installing drywall, internal framing, and piping between the clinic and a supporting utilities building. The project is scheduled for completion in 2023.
Throughout his many accomplishments, Chow maintains that his greatest achievement is mentoring his employees.
“I’m most proud when I see my people promote and excel,” he said.
Befitting a construction engineer, Chow says much of his free time is spent working on his house and various do-it-yourself projects. He also volunteers his time to repair equipment for his daughter’s marching band.
And he’s had enough traveling, for a while. “After adventuring around the world with the Navy, it’s good to be serving my country near home and family,” said Chow.