“Have The Courage To March To A Different Tune”: Life As A Civil Engineer In The Army And In The Community

Ralph Locurcio


BG(R) Ralph Locurcio grew up in an Italian-American family in East Orange, New Jersey. He originally wanted to become an architect, but instead entered the United States Military Academy with the distinguished Class of 1965. He selected Engineer for his branch, and after Airborne and Ranger school, he was stationed in Germany with the 23rd Engineer Battalion in the 3rd Armored Division, where his job consisted of mining the border as a deterrent to the Soviets. In 1968, he deployed to Vietnam as the S3 (Operations Officer) for the 20th Engineer Brigade, later commanding B Company in the 92nd Engineer Battalion. He was in charge of building projects, including bunkers, roads, warehouses, pre-fabricated structures, and a tank range. He had 100 Vietnamese carpenters and builders working for him. Often, his crew built projects during the day, only to have them destroyed at night by the Viet Cong. Returning from Vietnam, he was assigned as an Assistant Professor of Military Science at Notre Dame. After earning an advanced degree at Purdue, he completed a variety of post engineer and Army Corps of Engineer assignments. Three of his most interesting projects included purchasing a dredge while serving as the District Engineer in Philadelphia, leading reconstruction in Charleston after Hurricane Hugo, and commanding the Kuwait Emergency Recovery Office in 1991 after the Gulf War. After retiring from the Army, he became a professor of Civil Engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, attending West Point, and the importance of maintaining a sense of humor. He describes various engineering projects around the world, from the Cold War border of Germany, to Viet-Cong infested areas of Vietnam. He discusses various projects working for the Army Corps of Engineers, and the challenges of having over a dozen bosses. He explains creative methods of problem-solving in large contracted projects and the recovery process in Kuwait. He makes a case for including contracting classes in civil engineering education, and talks about his experiences as a college professor after retiring from the military. Finally, he reflects upon what West Point means to him.


name Ralph Locurcio
institution USMA
graduation year 1965
service Engineer
unit 23rd Engineer Battalion; 20th Engineer Brigade; B Co, 92nd Engineer Battalion
specialty Civil Engineer
service dates 1965 1994