After 20 years working for the US Military in Germany, Jason Dickerson finds that challenging yourself, confidence and always having a Plan B are crucial to success in life.
Dickerson received his Masters of Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Bachelors of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia. He has been a valuable asset for the United States Army Garrisons (USAGs) and now continues to support the Army mission as a contractor for Natural Resource Innovations GmbH.
His past positions within the USAGs Public Works Division (DPW) include: Chief of the Operations and Maintenance Division (OMD) at USAG Kaiserslautern; Sustainment Command Engineer for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA); and Landscape Architect and Master Planner at USAG Heidelberg.
Dickerson was responsible for the development and implementation of Master Plans and Area Development Plans, management of Real Property, and design of sustainable buildings and facilities. He constructed and lead landscape designs, construction documents, renderings and building models for numerous multi-million dollar projects.
Dickerson is now retired from the US Army Public Works Division but still works hand-in-hand with the Army Public Works division at Natural Resource Innovations (NRI). At NRI GmbH, Dickerson manages a variety of projects for the U.S. Army, providing direct supervision to the Army staff, advising them on all aspects of buildings, grounds, utilities and related infrastructure.
ONE ON ONE with DICKERSON
I heard that you were once one of the best track athletes in the United States at the University of Virginia. What event did you run and what was your experience like as a D1 athlete?
Not sure about one of the best athletes in the US, since sprinters were “a dime a dozen”, which I found out rather quickly. To give you an idea of what I mean, in my first year at UVA, I had run a personal best of 10.3 in 100 meters, which got me fourth place in a dual-meet with Auburn University. I had also clocked 20.88 for 200 meters, 46.3 out of the blocks and 45.8 relay for 400 meters. But compared nationally, that got you maybe into the quarterfinals at the NCAA Championships.
‘Son, there’s more to life than being Saturday’s All-American’.
Do you feel like running prepared you for success after college?
What did it teach me? There were a lot of guys out there as fast; if not faster than me. So dreams of being the “World’s Fastest Human”, quickly became a foregone conclusion. But seriously, it taught me that an athletic scholarship was a contract, to get one’s degree and focus on preparing for life. In addition, it taught me a lot about time management, dedication, and to budget and prioritize my energies and resources. As my father once said, ”Son, there’s more to life than being Saturday’s All-American”.
What made you decide to work for the US Army?
Purely an accident. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I came to Europe with the goal to work for one of the four German Architects that I had either studied under or served as a teaching assistant as a grad student at MIT. When no jobs were to be found and my German was “non-existent” at the time, I was told of opportunities with the local US Army in Heidelberg. Surprisingly, I thought it to be only a few years to quickly pay off my student loans but couldn’t beat the fact that for the first time in my life I was making real money and could afford to see things I could only read and dream about.
Life is about getting up because you will always face adversity at one time or another. When you leave home for college, you either go back to your protective nest or fly or see where you land.
What was the most challenging obstacle that you had to overcome in your career?
Confidence. You will always have someone who will second-guess, ridicule, question or depreciate your concepts and ideas. Learning to be open to criticism and to reflect; yet remain true to your original vision and end-state is both a challenge and a paramount. But how do you best achieve it in your life? A. Learning to get up again. Life is about getting up because you will always face adversity at one time or another. When you leave home for college, you either go back to your protective nest or fly or see where you land. Those that do well and become successful learn that the flight might get rocky and sometimes you feel like you’re falling. But learning to dust yourself off and keep on flying, that’s where the confidence factors in.
What was your proudest accomplishment while working for the US Army?
Following 9/11, Americans perhaps for the first time felt vulnerable, especially for folks like us living abroad. As a Master Planner, I came up with the concept to return the majority of the Military installations within the Heidelberg area. The idea was to swap undeveloped land in the vicinity of PHV and consolidate our operations under one footprint. The vision would have provided security, more effective sustainable design, generated millions of dollars/euros in construction and development, as well as provide gainful employment and career opportunities to the Host Nation. It would have transformed the Heidelberg Military Community into an enduring installation for years to come. Unfortunately, the concept never came to life.
What have you learned from working as Chief OMD, Master Planner, Architect and/or Engineer for the US Army for over 20 years?
Learning to be flexible and to always have a plan B, when plan A is not possible. You always have a back-up plan, just in case.
Once you make the decision to truly become an expat, then there is no turning back.
How long have you been living in Germany? And what are your favorite things about living and working in Germany?
On and off, approximately 25 years, in Heidelberg mostly. I’m embarrassed that my German is not better than it should be, but I’m working on it. Persistence is everything, right? The Q.O.L. (Quality of Life) is totally off the charts: travel, food, sights, people, culture, etc. You can’t beat it. Like my father once told me,
”It looks like my boy left the farm to see Paris and can’t quite come back to the farm”. Once you make the decision to truly become an expat, then there is no turning back. It’s all the more difficult to describe it to family and friends back home, because they don’t understand it. Especially when you realize that “you” changed and now you see the world differently.
What was your favorite trip that you have taken in Europe?
I would have to say Rome. So much history, antiquity, art and architecture from the 350 B.C. thru the 18th Century Renaissance. To see everything up close is beyond description. From the Coliseum to the Vatican, the Pantheon to the Sistine Chapel, and art from artists like DaVinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, Brunellischi, Titian, Bernini, Bramante, etc. So much to see and appreciate the artistic license, all in one city which is probably smaller than Frankfurt. It is truly amazing. Walking through a street or alley is like turning a page in history.
What is your favorite place/country/city that you have visited since your time living in Europe? And why?
Spain. I suppose Cervantes’ Don Quixote was always a childhood favorite. I think of great weather; awesome landscapes; great food and wine; beautiful flamenco guitar music; artists like Picasso, El Greco, Goya, Joan Miro`; architects like Gaudi, Calatrava, Rafael Maneo and Alvaro Siza Viera; and festivals and siestas that are a celebration of life and vitality. A land of dreams…Outside of Europe, India; the most life changing experience you will ever know.
Find more information about Jason and the NRI team on nri-site.com