Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne (left), commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District stands with his family in front of the Order of the Palmetto award.
Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District, has made a living out of being prepared. He's carefully dissected budgets, reducing costs by millions and shortening major projects by years and he's served in the military for 20 years.
But, the district got him this time.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley presented the Order of the Palmetto to Chamberlayne Monday morning at the Maritime Center. And he never saw it coming.
Haley and Col. Donald Jackson, Jr., commander of the Corps' South Atlantic Division, Chamberlayne and others took a boat tour of the Charleston Harbor to give Haley a first-hand account of the harbor deepening project. They stepped off the boat, walked to the Maritime Center reception room, saw his wife and two children sitting in the front row of several lines of chairs and then Chamberlayne realized this wasn't part of his itinerary.
“I thought we were just showing you the harbor,” he said to Haley after the governor unveiled the award and spoke highly of the commander. “I certainly don't deserve this, but all the employees at the district do. The entire team works so hard for not only the state of South Carolina but for the entire country.”
The Order of the Palmetto is considered the highest civilian honor in the state and has never been presented to military personnel like Chamberlayne before, according to a Charleston District spokesperson. It was first awarded in 1971 and recognizes a person's lifetime contributions to South Carolina.
Haley praised Chamberlayne for saving $5 million on the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Feasibility Study. The project was originally estimated to cost $18-20 million but current estimates place that figure to less than $13 million. Also, the total project time was reduced from an estimated five to eight years to less than four. He has also signed numerous regulatory permits that have benefited the state economy.
“This was a very easy decision,” Haley said. “Very rarely do you get somebody that cares so much.”
City of Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. was also at the ceremony and spoke highly of Chamberlayne's work ethic. “Of all the people who have served us – and they're all extraordinary – no one has been quite like Col. Chamberlayne,” Riley said.
Chamberlayne, a Mount Pleasant resident, assumed command of the district July 8, 2011. Districts go through a change in command every two years. Lt. Col. John T. Litz will become the new leader later this summer and Chamberlayne will be promoted to duties at the Pentagon.