As he grew into a ‘self-described’ academic nerd with athletic abilities at New Fairfield High School, where he played baseball, he discovered his true passion was for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM. He knew early on that he wanted to be an engineer. He also knew he wanted more. He wanted to be surrounded by an environment that was steeped in tradition and offered challenges that would demand more of him than academic rigor.
He soon found his calling and his journey led him to West Point, New York, where he graduated from the United States Military Academy and commissioned as an engineer officer in May 2003.
Years later, now a lieutenant colonel, Nahabedian continues his quest for challenges and traditions. The Army recently provided him an opportunity to assume command as the 90th commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District on July 18, 2023.
“It’s my honor and distinct privilege to become the commander of the Charleston District,” he said. “I am very excited about being a part of this world-class organization, which, like the Lowcountry, is steeped in tradition and shares a rich and diverse heritage.”No stranger to USACE, he served as the assistant operations officer at the Los Angeles District and the deputy program manager for the California and Arizona international border fence program in 2008 at the Los Angeles District’s Arizona/Nevada area office. Years later from 2018-2020, he also served as the commander of the 59th Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST-A) at the USACE Tulsa District and in Wiesbaden, Germany (HQ USAREUR-AF), developing critical projects across the span of eastern Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and the European Deterrence Initiative.
“As a young captain at the Los Angeles District, I always had an ambition to be a district commander and Charleston was always at the top of my list,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “We still can’t believe we are here, and my family couldn’t be more thrilled!”
Nahabedian, who most recently served with the 1st German-Netherlands Corps in Münster, Germany as a policy staff officer, assumed command from Lt. Col. Andrew Johannes during a ceremony officiated by Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner, commanding general, South Atlantic Division, USACE.
When speaking with Nahabedian, one senses a curiosity and humbleness about him that permeates, often with a side of laughter.
When asked about a hidden talent he might have, he did not hesitate. “I would say karaoke is one of my best talents, or at least I like to think so,” he said with a hefty laugh.
An interesting fact about his childhood is he grew up around the Yankees. His father even worked for the team. He remembers getting his first pack of baseball cards from the baseball legend himself, Yogi Berra, the baseball catcher that became a manager and coach. His father once took him to the announcing booth – where the baseball legend, turned announcer, Phil Rizzuto, gave him a cannoli, a traditional Sicilian pastry.
A devout family man, he learned early on from his parents what is important in life. He credits them for always being there for him, especially during his two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he faced many challenges. When speaking about his own family, his wife Lina and his two kids, there is a sense of gratefulness and responsibility.
His philosophy about his family mirrors his leadership style.
He says it’s important to focus and successfully accomplish the mission, but that the odds of success go up when you are taking care of your people along the way.
“Some of my best bosses were leaders who understood the significance of maintaining work/life balance,” he said, reflecting on some of the best examples of leadership he has had during his career.
One of Nahabedian's key priorities for the District will be to continue fostering close relationships with local communities, stakeholders, and industry partners. By actively engaging with these groups, he aims to continue to gain valuable insights, build strong alliances, and create a culture of transparency. Through proactive communication, he intends to ensure that the District's projects align with the needs and aspirations of the region, leaving a lasting, positive impact.
“I look forward to meeting and working with all our stakeholders, partners, friends and citizens alike, to help us solve the nation’s toughest engineering challenges and continue to make South Carolina a great place to live, work and play. Please know my door is always open to those we serve,” said Nahabedian. “I know I have my work cut out for me, but I am committed to the success of South Carolina and the well-being of its citizens and our Charleston District team.”
“As a history buff, I know the Lowcountry and this state have a long and glorious heritage and I look forward to learning and discovering more as my family and I continue to plant the seeds to create our own family traditions in this beautiful place now called home.”