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Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, a Bellows Falls native and head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, retired from active duty on Sept. 10 after 41 years of service.

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Bellows Falls native retires from Army

Lt. Gen.Todd Semonite, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, plans to return to Vermont after 41 years of service

Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), retired on Sept. 10 after 41 years of service.

According to a news release, the Bellows Falls native was originally scheduled to retire on May 19; however, President Donald J. Trump extended his tenure until Congress could confirm his successor, Major General Scott Spellmon.

This year, Semonite and the Army Corps of Engineers answered FEMA’s call to simultaneously build 36 alternate-care facilities across the United States, providing more than 15,000 new hospital bed spaces to ensure health-care facilities would not be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Semonite’s leadership, USACE shared plans and expertise with state and local partners to provide another 16,000 hospital spaces to aid the fight against COVID-19.

As the chief of engineers, an Army staff principal, he was responsible for more than 90,000 military personnel and advised the secretary of the Army and other principal officials on matters related to general engineering, combat and geospatial engineering, construction, real property, public infrastructure, and natural resources science and management.

As the USACE commanding general, he was responsible for nearly 36,000 civilian employees and 800 military personnel who deliver a $66 billion portfolio that includes construction support, project management, science, and engineering expertise in more than 110 countries around the world.

Vermont roots

His late parents, Jeanne Farr Semonite (of Westminster) and William “Bill” Semonite (former Bellows Falls “Citizen of the Year”) met while attending the University of Vermont. Todd T. Semonite was born in 1957 and grew up a Vermonter, graduating from Belllows Union High School in 1975.

He went on to earn his Army commission after graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1979. Like his parents, Semonite attended the University of Vermont, where he earned a master’s degree in civil engineering. Today, he is a registered professional engineer in Vermont.

Starting in 2016, he served as the 54th chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The news release credits him with “revolutioniz[ing] USACE by cutting red tape, empowering competent leaders and working closely with elected officials and private industry to improve civil infrastructure, the environment and permitting processes.”

He led recovery efforts after five major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael).

Among his other assignments during his 41-year career, he established and served as the first director of the Army Talent Management Task Force. He volunteered to be commanding general for Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, responsible for the building of the Afghan Army and Police through management of a $13 billion budget to support a 352,000 individual force.

He commanded the USACE South Atlantic Division, where he implemented a balanced approach to regionalization and defined metrics for “good to great.” He commanded the USACE North Atlantic Division from 2006 to 2009 and served as deputy commanding general of USACE, coordinating a comprehensive response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

His numerous awards include the 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers Outstanding Projects and Leaders award for leadership in construction.

Semonite and his wife, Connie, plan to spend much of their time in retirement enjoying the family home in Bellows Falls and visiting their four adult children and eight grandchildren.

With any additional spare time, he plans to take up some woodworking projects at the homestead.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #579 (Wednesday, September 16, 2020). This story appeared on page A1.

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