Colonel Michael D. Helton assumed duties as the Commander and District Engineer of Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on July 21, 2020. He oversees a workforce of 1,500 federal employees serving residents of Oregon and southwestern Washington.
Portland District has one of the nation’s most comprehensive and diversified civil works programs, which encompasses most of Oregon and southwestern Washington. Portland District operates three locks and hydropower dams along the Columbia River, manages 13 dams in the Willamette Valley for flood risk management, and manages two dam projects in the Rogue River Valley. The district is responsible for maintaining Oregon’s coastal rivers for navigation and leading the nation in hydropower generation, while ensuring equal attention to environmental protection and restoration, fish and wildlife enhancement, and recreation. Portland District also oversees the Corps’ Hydroelectric Design Center, a National Center of Expertise.
Col. Helton started his career at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he served as a mechanized sapper platoon leader, Sapper Company XO, HHC XO, and assistant brigade engineer with the 70th Engineer Battalion. Following a transfer to the 20th Engineer Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas, he served as Battalion S4 (logistics officer) during a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. From there, Col. Helton played a key role in the reactivation of the 7th Engineer Battalion at Fort Drum, New York, where he also served as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander.
After his command, Col. Helton joined Gulf Region North, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), as Provincial Reconstruction Team Engineer for Diyala Province, Iraq. Upon redeployment, he joined Baltimore District, USACE, as operations officer for the Spring Valley Formerly Used Defense Site, chief of program development for the D.C. Integrated Program Office, and deputy district commander for Support. Following completion of Command General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to serve as S3 (operations officer) and XO for the 94th Engineer Battalion. He also served as S3 of the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during the brigade’s Defense CBRN Response Force mission.
Following a deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served as the Ministry of Interior (MoI) branch chief for Combined Joint - Engineer, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, Col. Helton took over as 1st Engineer Brigade deputy commanding officer. Next, he commanded the 35th Engineer Battalion from 2016 to 2018 and attended the U.S. Army War College from 2018 to 2019, where he earned a master’s degree in Strategic Studies. Prior to assuming command at Portland District, Col. Helton served as Program Integration Branch chief for the Office of the Chief of Engineers.
Col. Helton received his U.S. Army commission in 1998 from the United States Military Academy. He holds a Master of Science in Engineering Management from Missouri S&T, and a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. His military education includes the Engineer Officer Basic Course, Engineer Captain’s Career Course, Combined Arms Services Staff School, Mechanized Leader Course, Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army War College, and Air Assault School. Col. Helton is also a certified Project Management Professional.