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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Robert Crear now anchoring Mississippi River Commission

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Robert Crear speaks with New Madrid resident Rebecca Sharp.
NEW MADRID - Growing up in Vicksburg, Miss., the Mississippi River was part of Robert Crear's life. Today, the river is his responsibility.

Crear, a U.S. Army brigadier general, commanding general for the Mississippi Valley Division and president-designee of the Mississippi River Commission, is using his new position to hear from those, like him, whose lives are impacted by the river.

Already he and commission members heard from the public at meetings in LaCrosse, Wis.; Dubuque, Iowa; and Alton, Ill. On Monday they were in New Madrid (see related story) with plans to hold hearings next in Memphis, Greenville, Miss., and Houma, La.

"We are their voice," said Crear about the people who address the hearings. "We are committed to helping people find solutions and they can rest assured their comments will be acted upon. We will answer every testimony and use this information as we do our review of key projects. We will write a report that goes on to the Secretary of the Army, and the administration. We are their voice to Washington, D.C., where things get acted upon."

The newest member of the Mississippi River Commission, named to his post June 23, Crear said the stops on the low-water tour have shown him how diverse the Mississippi River is.

The concerns at the northern stops typically were recreational use and environmental impact. As the commission heard from the public in Illinois, the testimony turned to navigational concerns as well as the environment and at New Madrid, flood control was central to the testimony presented.

As commander, Crear oversees the six districts which are responsible for the river's entirety. The districts are headquartered in St. Paul, Minn.; Rock Island, Ill.; St. Louis; Memphis; Crear's hometown of Vicksburg; and New Orleans.

As he has met those working in the various districts, Crear said he is developing a regional business approach to operating the Mississippi Valley Division.

"We have some mighty good people," he said. "What ever problem we face, we must put the best and brightest on that problem, no matter what district it is."

Also he said he would like to see the Corps do more collaborative projects with state agencies or governments.

Now in its 125th year, the Mississippi River Commission is interested in more than just navigational and flood protection, Crear emphasized. "We would like to increase the economy of an area through use of the waterways. That is why we are seeking public involvement. The public has a stake in what the government does, but first the government has to hear what they want."

Also he praised those serving on the commission, including R.D. James, a long-time commission member from New Madrid. Crear described all the commission members as committed to helping local communities and citizens solve problems they face due to the Mississippi River.

While his background began at the Mississippi River, Crear's career has taken him across the nation and around the world.

He served as chief staff at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and was commander of the U.S. Army Engineer District at Vicksburg. Most recently he was commander for the Corps' Southwestern Division at Dallas, Texas.

During 2003, Crear headed a task force in Iraq charged with restoring production for the country's oil industry. The mission included extinguishing oil fires, restoring infrastructure and overseeing production, export capability and internal distribution. He received a Bronze Star for his efforts to get Iraq's oil industry back up and running.

Now he said he and his family are pleased to be "anchored" in their hometown.

But he still worries about those serving overseas, not only as soldiers but the Corps' many civilian employees scattered in some 91 countries around the world.

"We must remember to pray for our servicemen and our civilian employees," he said. "They are trying to make a difference wherever they are."