Centralia woman gives back

August 26, 2019

I’ve done hundreds of interviews over my many years in media, but none so impressive as the one I did on Friday, August 16 with a young lady that reached the highest ranking achievement as a civilian while serving with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ms. Tambour Eller is the daughter of Linda Nichols and stepdaughter of Larry Nichols of Centralia.

Ms. Eller was born and raised in Centralia. While very young, she got involved with the Head Start program which she credits for her desire to achieve and give back. She stressed that the federal program of Head Start is largely known for investing in children and developing their lives. Being grateful for Head Start’s contribution in her own life motivated her to give back by setting up scholarships for young people.

Fast forwarding 27 years during her career, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has afforded her the opportunity to achieve one of her goals, to travel the world, and secondly to give back! From rebuilding lives after national disasters to two tours of duty in Iraq, her career has come full circle and her contributions have helped in a thousand ways, making thousands of lives better.

On her first tour of duty ten years ago she tackled large construction projects by heading up the building (in war-torn areas) of infrastructure, which included houses, hospitals, schools, training facilities for their military, oil refineries, and power grids. Her second tour of duty was to oversee the $500 million stabilization of the Mosul Dam and the project task force. After Ms. Eller was deployed as the project executive, which entailed not just the stabilization and rebuilding of the dam, but also negotiating on behalf of the project with the Iraqi government. She found herself the only woman at the table with men that were not used to negotiating with women. She also had to train the team that would keep the dam functional for many years to come.

With all that said, after a lengthy conversation, looking at her achievements, and understanding what motivates her, I’m proud to say this young woman’s leadership and dedication to the U.S. Corps of Engineers and to humanity, and to local, national, and international missions is unmatched and commendable, and I’m not alone.

Recently Ms. Tambour L. Eller was presented the pinnacle award of all our national awards: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant General John W. Morris Civilian of the Year Award. This award recognizes the USACE employee who individually has brought prestige to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

So from a Head Start program, to rebuilding lives when they have been devastated by natural disasters such as the Northern California wildfires, to the Mosul Dam for the betterment of the Iraqi people, she’s seen the best and the worst, but has accepted each challenge humbly.

This is just the start of a long relationship, and the first in a series following this amazing Centralia native with an end goal of setting up scholarships for young people.

Ms. Tambour L. Eller, thank you. Southern Illinois is proud of you!