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Posted 3/20/2016

Release no. 16-021


By Maj. Michael S. Lohrenz

USACE Far East District

 

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea - Most ordinary 73-year-old men might be perfectly content to tinker around with a favorite hobby, play golf or simply enjoy retirement.

A few rare men are anything but ordinary.

In 1964, one man was drafted into the Army, spent five years in Vietnam and retired from the service 26 years later, only to then begin a second career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers simply because someone suggested it.

Simon Sauceda is a quality assurance representative for the Pyeongtaek Resident Office of the Far East District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has served the Army in one way or another for the last 55 years and is driven to do what’s right and tell the truth, no matter the consequences or situation. His dedication to the Far East District's mission has earned him a reputation.

 “Simon’s military background gives him a dedication to tackle his assigned tasks until completion, no matter the adversity,” said Steve Kim, resident engineer for the Pyeongtaek resident office.  Kim said Sauceda has a sense of humor, especially when giving presents: “You have to open at least five boxes to finally see the gift.” 

Greg Reiff is the Humphreys area engineer and used to supervise Sauceda.

Sauceda always brought three things to any team he was on: “strict enforcement of all construction standards, pride of ownership in his projects, and saying what no one else is willing to say,” Reiff said.

In 1964, Sauceda was driving tractors and truck as a seasonal worker in California when he received his draft notice for the Army. He went to the Army and agreed to join as a combat engineer on one condition: that he could go to Germany. The recruiter said that Germany was only available for those who signed up for an additional year above the two required of draftees, so he agreed to serve an extra year. Upon arriving in country and talking to other soldiers, he learned drafted soldiers in Germany were only serving two years, but he took it in stride, he said.

Sauceda said that it was an era where being ethical and doing the right thing wasn’t always easy. He said that telling the truth was a standard he lived by, regardless of consequences. He wound up in the battalion commander’s office several times for misunderstandings about how he took care of his soldiers by doing what’s right.

One such time was at Camp Carroll, when he was a company first sergeant. He supervised 50 Korean soldiers and a full company of U.S. Soldiers. Upon finding out that the Korean Sergeant Major had slapped a Korean soldier, Sauceda promptly fired him. While slapping Korean soldiers was not uncommon at the time in the Republic of Korea Army, Sauceda thought it was unacceptable. As a result, he had to explain his actions to the garrison commander, who agreed that Saucedo did the right thing.

“Those Korean soldiers thought I walked on water after that!” Sauceda said. 

Sauceda didn’t want to leave Korea. A chance run-in with a former commander led Sauceda to apply for a job with the Far East District. His honesty and integrity would become valued assets over the years he spent as a quality assurance inspector with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Safety on construction sites is Sauceda’s top concern. He’s been known to shut down job sites for not following proper procedures, even when he’s off-duty. Though his bosses would often get complaints about his actions, Sauceda was usually right.

On one occasion, Reiff sent Sauceda to Kunsan Air Base to inspect the basketball court in a new gymnasium. Sauceda was having challenges with a basketball floor he was working on and wanted to see what made the other floor better. Reiff told Sauceda to bring along a co-worker, Brian Williams, who was a basketball player and could assist with evaluating and comparing the floors. Sauceda and Williams agreed to leave at 7 a.m.

“Simon, ever mission-focused, left promptly at 7 a.m. without Brian,” Reiff said. Williams showed up at five past seven but Sauceda was already gone.

“To Simon, he was following strict mission directions. To me, he missed half the mission by leaving the basketball player behind,” Reiff said.

Sauceda has taken those lessons learned in the Army and brought them to the Far East District.  His strict attention to detail and focus on safety are all about protecting the Corps of Engineers and his supervisors.  “I have to say something if it isn’t right,” said Sauceda.  

After twenty years, Sauceda said he loves the people he works with in the Pyeongtaek resident office; that’s what keeps him going. He also enjoys constructing and delivering buildings to help Soldiers live a better life while they’re here in Korea.

Sauceda said when he retires, it will be in Korea since this is now his home.

“It’s safe here and people are respectful of others,” he said.