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HRC leaders reach out to Fort Bliss NCOs at town hall

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By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Is it true that assignment officers at U.S. Army Human Resources Command save the great jobs for their friends? Or, that assignment officers sit on the promotion boards?

HRC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson has heard many of the fallacies about HRC and urges Soldiers to reject the myths.

“A lot of [the negativity] is [because of a] lack of education,” Jefferson said before a town hall for senior noncommissioned officers in December at Fort Bliss, Texas. “What we try to do is inform the field of what we are doing and why we do it …

Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson of U.S. Army Human Resources Command (right), with Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (left) and Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army, take on talent management during the third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson of U.S. Army Human Resources Command (right), with Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (left) and Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army, take on talent management during the third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

If a Soldier doesn’t get a promotion or assignment he or she wants, “it’s not because the assignment manager doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to send you to those locations,” he said. “It’s because you have to meet certain criteria. The way we dispel those myths is to talk Soldiers through it and educate the leaders. The leaders can help us to educate the Soldier on how the assignment process works.”

Jefferson and Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC commander, visited Fort Bliss on Dec. 14 to reach out to both noncommissioned and commissioned service members. For Jefferson and Seamands, the advantages of doing these HRC road shows are twofold.

“There’s a benefit for us at HRC because we get to come out here and listen to the Soldiers in the field, to find out what’s on their minds and how we can make things better for them and their organizations,” Jefferson said. “The other part is for us to show transparency. We inform the Soldiers of what’s going on and what kinds of changes are taking place within their career management fields. That way, they are aware of what’s taking place and how it affects them and their families.”

As the Army downsizes, Jefferson said talent management is not just HRC’s responsibility.

U.S. Army Human Resources Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson (right), with Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC Commander, discusses professional development with noncommissioned officers Dec. 14 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Jefferson says road shows are part of HRC’s efforts to show transparency. (Photo by Mehgan Portillo, NCO Journal)
U.S. Army Human Resources Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson (right), with Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC commander, discusses professional development with noncommissioned officers Dec. 14 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Jefferson says road shows are part of HRC’s efforts to show transparency. (Photo by Meghan Portillo, NCO Journal)

“We [at HRC] identify the Soldiers that need to move to these different positions in our Army, but once we place Soldiers on assignment, then the unit has the responsibility in managing that talent,” Jefferson said. “The leaders on the ground ensure that Soldiers get to the right schools they need in order to develop the talent and go forward.”

He also recently spoke about the issue during Army Training and Doctrine Command’s third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Many questions and complaints heard during HRC’s road shows are linked to recent revisions in Army policy.

“It’s just the fear of change,” Jefferson said. “When we decided to make the change to a new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, a lot of people were in an uproar about it. But now that we have been doing this NCOER for almost 12 months, not a lot of people are arguing about it. Now, it’s just learning how to write those evaluations. Same thing with STEP,” the Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy for promotion.

Jefferson often offers his assistance to Soldiers at the road shows. If, for example, a Soldier has an issue with his or her assignment and is not connecting with the assignment officer to discuss it, Jefferson will take the Soldier’s information and meet with the assignment officer in an effort to get both parties in touch. Also, if Soldiers continue to take issue with a certain policy or question its relevance, they may count on Jefferson to take up the debate with the deputy chief of staff, G-1.

“If it’s something we think we should look at, we’ll take that back to the Army G-1 and say, ‘We have got this feedback from the Soldiers out in the field. Maybe we could look at this policy, and see if it’s still relevant or if we need to adjust it,’” Jefferson said.

As for those NCOs looking for advice on how to get ahead in the Army, Jefferson said it’s all about self-improvement.

“The way you do that is by going to military schools, by taking the hard jobs and developing yourself and making sure that you are technically and tactically proficient in your career management field,” he said. “Also, reach out to your mentors and find out what else you need to be doing. But the most important thing to prepare yourself for promotion, regardless of what job you are in, is do the best you can and ensure that your evaluation says exactly how you did in that position. Along with going to the schools, that’s the major way to develop ourselves.”

The command sergeant major said he has grown a lot in his 18 months on the job and learns something new every day, especially in his interactions with Soldiers.

“I want to make an impact on the Soldiers and families because that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Our job is to ensure that Soldiers and our families are taken care of, and I am very passionate about that. There are going to be some Soldiers saying, ‘It’s just HRC again,’ but there is another Soldier out here who I am going to have an impact on ─ something that I am going to say today is going to impact him and his family, or I am going to be able to assist them with something and they are going to put that trust back in HRC and think, ‘Well, maybe they are not the bad guys.’”

Jefferson often leaves NCOs with the same bit of advice ─ develop a passion for what they do, and success will come.

“If you are passionate about something, you are going to be successful in doing that,” he said. “Remain competent and relevant. If you are a leader, all these changes affect all of our Soldiers and their families. You have to know what’s going on in our Army today in order for you to be an effective leader.”

RDECOM’s NCOs use expertise to assist in Army product development

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCOJournal

It wasn’t the detailed overview of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command or even the staff ride to John F. Kennedy Space Center that particularly motivated the noncommissioned officers. It was the valuable connections made for future project collaborations that would prove the most gratifying during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center.

Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of RDECOM, urged the 54 NCOs who attended to capitalize on their shared link to RDECOM and make those connections at the training sessions.

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Simulation and Training Technology Center, which is named after Smith. Hardwick is the senior enlisted advisor for Army Research Laboratory’s Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Simulation and Training Technology Center, which is named after Smith. Hardwick is the senior enlisted advisor for Army Research Laboratory’s Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“Start thinking, ‘How do I better work with others out there to leverage the product that we are building in design, so that way we can give the benefit to the Soldiers in the Army?’” Snyder said. “Because that’s what it’s about. It’s about the Soldiers; it’s not about us. It’s about the unit, it’s about the Soldier in the field and the product that we provide them, and the best product that we can give them.”

Exercising skills

The 54 NCOs are part of RDECOM’s vast enterprise and are assigned to either Headquarters, Army Research Laboratory or the six research, development and engineering centers — Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center or AMRDEC; Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center or ARDEC; Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center or CERDEC; Edgewood Chemical Biological Center or ECBC, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center or NSRDEC; and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center or TARDEC.

The NCOs provide military expertise throughout RDECOM. They work closely with a large civilian workforce of scientists and engineers to develop products and technologies.

Neuropsychologist Hector Gonzalez of Army Research Laboratory advises Sgt. 1st Class Laritza Hamby on how to use the Construction Equipment Virtual Trainer research equipment in October during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Neuropsychologist Hector Gonzalez of Army Research Laboratory advises Sgt. 1st Class Laritza Hamby on how to use the Construction Equipment Virtual Trainer research equipment in October during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“Why you are here is to provide user-level input to our scientists and engineers so they can develop the best product they can develop, to get to our Soldiers the first time,” Snyder told the NCOs during the training sessions. “We cannot afford to keep providing a product quickly, that we have to continue to go back and to modernize and revamp. We just can’t afford it.”

Because most of the NCOs come from the operational side of the Army to RDECOM, working with civilians may prove to be a little tricky in the beginning.

“Sometimes our civilians are a little bit intimidated by a Soldier coming into the process because they are not used to working with a Soldier,” Snyder told the NCOs. “You have to show them the benefit that you can be to them in that process. The rank you wear does not matter. They can’t associate rank with anything. What they can associate with though is your technical expertise, and until you show them the technical expertise you provide, you will not gain that trust and they will not come to you seeking that advice.”

Organizational roles

NCOs at the training sessions were eager to ask Snyder, who assumed his position in March, about his job at RDECOM.

“Sergeant Major, how long did it take you to get comfortable in your position, coming out of an operational brigade sergeant major position?” asked Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Zito, senior NCO advisor to AMRDEC.

Science and technology manager Bill Pike, right, shows NCOs simple entry and exit wounds used for medical simulation training in October at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Science and technology manager Bill Pike, right, shows NCOs simple entry and exit wounds used for medical simulation training in October at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“I am more comfortable than when I first took the seat because I try to embed myself in the process,” Snyder said. “I ask questions. There are plenty of things out there that I do not know yet. That just makes me want to know and ask more questions. I need all of you to do the same thing. The folks in this room know a lot more about how that piece of equipment is going to be utilized in the field than our scientists and engineers do.”

All of the information helped put NCOs at ease, especially in helping them to figure out their organizational roles.

“That RDECOM brief was pretty amazing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyler D. Hardy, Satellite Communications Terminal chief, Space and Terrestrial Communications Division, CERDEC. “I have been here for about three years. I wish I had heard it two years ago. That would have helped immensely, because RDECOM is so complex. That helped me understand where we fit in to the grand scheme of things. I’m getting ready to leave RDECOM, and it will help me brief the new NCOs who are coming in. Now, I have a better understanding.”

On display

A group of ARL scientists and engineers treated NCOs to technology demonstrations, which included the virtual 3D platform Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment using virtual puppeteering, as well as technological advances in tactical combat casualty care using medical simulation.

Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, urges NCOs to make professional connections during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions. More than 50 NCOs attended the event in October in the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, urges NCOs to make professional connections during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions. More than 50 NCOs attended the event in October in the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

NCOs from ARL, AMRDEC, ARDEC, CERDEC, ECBC, NSRDEC and TARDEC presented outlines of their organizations to give other training participants a better understanding of what each contributes to RDECOM.

The NCOs also heard a variety of topics discussed, including guidance on professional development, the updated noncommissioned officer evaluation report and the Army’s new Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy.

“I thought the professional development piece was very helpful,” Zito said. “I thought that was really interesting [advice] to further my career and longevity in the military. It was very helpful on what to look for within myself and how to help Soldiers when I get back into the fight and be more productive as a leader.”

Snyder also told the NCOs about the effort to put the word out on RDECOM within the operational Army.

“I’ve been working with Army Training and Doctrine Command to get a block of instruction about RDECOM into the Basic Leaders Course,” Snyder said. “We’re trying to embed a block of training, not just about RDECOM but Army Materiel Command in general, because AMC is misunderstood. We’re trying to embed it in BLC so that our young leaders, who are the ones who are going to find the problems in equipment, have reachback capability to us.”

For Sgt. Maj. Todd Galindo, RDECOM G3, operations sergeant major, the NCOPDS training sessions offered a valuable opportunity to keep all NCOs up to date. Galindo is a new addition to the organization.

“Being a part of RDECOM really completes everything for me and what I’ve done on the operational side of the house,” Galindo said. “It’s a shame that I didn’t know this before, but now that I do I want to share it with everybody else. I know a lot of folks out in the force and hopefully I can make my rounds to explain what RDECOM does. That way, Soldiers can come in and be a part of it.”