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Colonel Pabis assumes command of USACE New England District during ceremony at Faneuil Hall

Published July 28, 2023

Col. Justin Pabis assumed command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District from Col. John Atilano II during a change of command ceremony today at Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston.

Pabis has served in a variety of military assignments during a career that has spanned more than 23 years. His previous assignment before taking over the New England District was as Command Engineer for Joint Special Operations Command at the formerly named Fort Bragg, now known as Fort Liberty, in North Carolina.

Atilano relinquished command of a district he led since July 8, 2020, and will move on to his new assignment as the Defense Coordinating Officer for Region 1 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Col. John Lloyd, commander of USACE’s North Atlantic Division, served as the presiding officer for the ceremony and took the time to praise the outgoing commander.

“John, I know moving on from this assignment is bittersweet for you,” he said. “You’ve often remarked commanding this district has been the best job of your career, and I also know from talking with your team how much impact you have made in your time here. You’ve worked diligently to build meaningful relationships with the people here, and that speaks volumes of your character as a leader.”

Lloyd also welcomed Pabis as the District Engineer and commander who will lead a new chapter for the district.

“Justin, you’re inheriting a world-class team undertaking vital projects on behalf of the American people,” he remarked. “I am continually impressed by the New England District team. The stellar work they accomplish here maintains USACE’s sterling reputation and befits the district that is the birthplace of the Corps. I am confident you will serve this district well and work with this amazing group of professionals to continue building upon this district’s long and storied history.”

Pabis has served in the North Atlantic Division before as the Deputy Area Engineer for the New York District and he is no stranger to New England, having grown up in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

“I’m so glad to be returning to Massachusetts to command the New England District,” he said. “It is both a privilege and honor for me to be here today. I am humbled to have been selected for this assignment and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Pabis holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York. He also earned a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri in Rolla, Missouri, and a Master of Science in National Strategy from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Pabis is a Professional Engineer, licensed in Missouri since 2007, and is an instructor-rated skydiver.

The new district commander’s previous assignments include serving as Battalion Commander for the 169th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Operational Engineer, U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; Chief of Staff for the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command Special Operations Advisory Group at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan; Group Engineer, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Brigade Design Engineer, 130th Engineer Brigade at Schofield Barracks In Hawaii; Company Commander, 82nd Engineer Support Company in Ramadi, Iraq; Plans Officer, 29th Engineer Topographic Battalion at Fort Shafter, Hawaii; and Battalion Civil Engineer, 84th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) in Balad, Iraq.

Atilano came to the New England District in July 2020 after serving as the Deputy Division Commander for the North Atlantic Division, based in New York City. As commander of the district, he led a staff of close to 500 military and civilian professionals in managing USACE civil works responsibilities in a 66,000-square-mile region encompassing the six New England states east of the Lake Champlain drainage basin. The district also operates and maintains 31 dams, three hurricane barriers and the Cape Cod Canal.

Atilano said he’s extremely proud of all the work the district accomplished during his three years as commander where every day presented new challenges for the district team to overcome, including the recent flooding in several New England states.

“Just three weeks ago, we fought the largest flood flight during my tenure where our dams in the Upper Connecticut River Basin held back 61 billion gallons of water,” he said. “The lives and property we saved is all because of our fantastic park rangers, engineers, emergency management team, and everyone who volunteered during the crisis.”

Atilano closed out his comments by thanking all the federal, state and local partners he and his USACE team worked with on many projects during the last three years.

“Every successful agency has strong partners to lean on,” he said. “Our federal partners have been amazing to collaborate with to complete our numerous and diverse projects. Our work at the state level has also led to positive outcomes, and I cannot forget our partners on the local level who worked tirelessly with us to help resolve the issues of the day. Thank you to all of you. It has been an honor and a pleasure working beside you these past three years.”

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Bryan Purtell

Release no. 23-025