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USACE Vicksburg District holds Blessing of the Fleet Ceremony, begins revetment season

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The Mat Sinking and mat barges prepared to depart. (Credit: United States Army Corps of Engineers)

VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District held a “Blessing of the Fleet” ceremony July 12 to commemorate the deployment of the district’s Mat Sinking Unit and the official start of revetment season.

The ceremony was held at the Vicksburg District Harbor and included blessings from USACE Chaplain Col. Geoff Baily, Rev. Sam Godfrey of Christ Episcopal Church and Rev. Trollars Moore of the River Operations Branch. Representatives of the Mississippi Valley Division were also in attendance. Mississippi Valley Division Commander Major General Diana Holland, District leadership, including Commander Col. Robert Hilliard and Chief of Operations Julie Vignes, spoke at the ceremony and emphasized the importance of the unit’s work.

USACE Chaplain Col. Geoff Baily speaking to the Mat Sinking Unit crew (Credit: United States Army Corps of Engineers)

The unit has embarked on “yet another challenging yet vital season dedicated to delivering safe and reliable navigation up and down the Mighty Mississippi,” said Hilliard. “To the crew members departing today, we owe you our thanks and our gratitude, especially during  these challenging times. I wish you continued safety, good health, and a successful season.”

Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard speaking to the Mat Sinking Unit crew. (Credit: United States Army Corps of Engineers)

The Mat Sinking Unit places hundreds of thousands of articulated concrete mats, also known as revetment, along the Mississippi River to protect flood control works, prevent riverbank erosion and provide navigable waterways for commercial transportation. The unit’s work spans the jurisdictions of the Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts and more than 1,500 river miles.

During last year’s revetment season, which lasted from late July to early March, the unit placed approximately 266,000 squares.

Unparalleled across the world, the Mat Sinking Unit is a feat of skilled labor and technological innovation. A mat sinking barge, a mat supply barge, quarter barges, spar barges, gantry cranes, bulldozers and motor vessels are among the equipment used by the unit to help maintain the Mississippi River’s stabilization and navigation. During revetment season, the unit acts as a floating city, providing lodging and dining for its nearly 300 crew members. This dedicated crew works 10-hour shifts and 12-consecutive-day work periods to execute the mission.

The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds nine major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline levees. The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

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