Tag Archives: Training With Industry

NCO overcomes fear, lands ‘dream gig’ at NFL

By MASTER SGT. GARY QUALLS JR.
NCO Journal

Most Soldiers don’t imagine they will be in a dream job, working in a big-time environment, planning and setting up exciting events, bumping into famous personalities, enjoying every minute of the journey along the way.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson knows that feeling. He is living that seemingly distant dream — in an internship with the National Football League at NFL Headquarters in New York.

“To actually be here, it is almost like a dream,” Richardson said of his high-profile temporary position. “I’ll be walking down the hall and see one of my childhood heroes.”

Training With Industry

Richardson wasn’t going to apply for the internship, thinking he would never be selected, but Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, then the U. S. Army Pacific Public Affairs sergeant major, encouraged him to apply. Now his place of duty is NFL Headquarters through the Army’s Training With Industry program.

The TWI program offers selected NCOs and officers the chance to don civilian attire for a year and work in private industry, observing industry practices, communication tactics and work flow. NCOs who participate in the program say the year not only helps them gain knowledge they will need when they eventually retire from the Army, but also helps them learn tactics that can help the Army. After their year in private industry, NCOs who participate in the TWI program serve in utilization assignments in the Army, using and sharing the knowledge they gained.

Living the dream

NFL headquarters is definitely the “big time,” said Richardson, who works in the NFL’s communication department writing news releases and media advisories, promoting events through social media platforms and ensuring NFL executives have talking points for various public occasions.

“You know what you’re capable of, but so does everyone else there,” he said, adding that many of his coworkers were NFL players for “years and years.”

NFL headquarters is a bustling work environment where crises arise occasionally, and the pressure mounts.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson stands with Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush during the Pro Football League Hall of Fame Game in August in Canton, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)
Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson stands with Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush during the Pro Football League Hall of Fame Game in August in Canton, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)

“It’s not national security or life and limb, but you’re involved in projects that entail millions of dollars,” Richardson said.

The closest to NFL greatness Richardson thought he would get was collecting grass stains on his clothing while calling out the names of NFL legends. He said walking into the NFL headquarters for the first time left him speechless. He said there were few feelings greater than walking in the same footsteps as some of his boyhood idols.

“It’s not the building, decor or people that will leave you breathless,” he said. “It’s that single, personal thought of ‘you’ve made it.’”

The sports-laden and inspiring facilities at the NFL headquarters made an impression. Richardson recalled walking into a part of the building where Super Bowl rings were displayed. He marveled at the long line of history, tradition and the amount of sweat that it took to earn each one.

“That’s a lot of greatness in this spot,” he said, as he described the display case. “Each diamond resembled some Sunday-night lights from some game that millions watched and dreamed to be a part of. And just think about it, I’m here now — where millions want to be, and at the end of my year, I will be a part of the NFL’s coveted history.”

NFL experiences

Richardson has had some uncommon experiences outside of the headquarters as well, such as meeting and talking with NFL stars. On one occasion, he worked at a free concert the NFL sponsored for fans, and Steve Atwater, who earned eight Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowl rings during his NFL playing days, called out, “C’mon over!” to Richardson. They talked for quite a while.

“He’s a real laid back guy,” Richardson said of Atwater.

The Michigan City, Indiana, native also met and took a photo with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — Payton Manning. Manning led Richardson’s favorite team, the Indianapolis Colts, to a Super Bowl Championship.

In addition, Roman Oben — who played in the NFL for 12 years, including on a Super Bowl championship team, and is now the league’s director of Youth and High School Football — often pulls Richardson aside and talks to him.

Most NFL players and former players are approachable, Richardson said.

Changed perspective

The internship has changed Richardson’s perspective on the league from that of a fan to that of an employee who can see all the moving parts of the grand production. For example, Richardson said, there’s a lot more to working a game than merely watching it, such as ensuring the clubs are following league policies and standards, assessing extracurricular activities both in and out of the stadium, providing feedback on stadium traffic and ease of entering and exiting, and even evaluating the concession stands and staff.

“There’s a lot more than glamour and lights when it comes to football,” he said.

Although the corporate world seems far distant from military life, there are some similarities, Richardson said.

For example, being at the right place at the right time is important in both fields. However, corporate employees’ day-to-day schedules are largely their own, as long as they get their projects completed, but they are expected to be on time for meetings, he said.

“In the Army, though, on time is late. Some of the corporate guys show up at the exact time of the meeting,” he noted.

As far as the players in the NFL, they often don’t admit it when they get injured, just as rugged troops from line units will “soldier on,” despite being hurt.

Richardson also noted that NFL rookies and Army privates are treated similarly.

“Both rookies and privates come straight out of high school or college and join a larger organization that helps them prepare,” he said. “The league helps rookies with managing finances, staying out of trouble, health and safety, dealing with the media, planning for their future and just through the whole transition. Army leaders help privates in many of the same areas.”

Lessons Learned

Richardson admitted to making a rookie mistake at NFL headquarters. He wore a pullover with the logo of his beloved Indianapolis Colts to work one day. He was quickly and emphatically told to change his shirt.

“You have to be very neutral here,” he explained.

Richardson has also noticed some differences between corporate America and the Army.

“Here, they operate by ‘big boy rules,’” he said. “They won’t follow behind you, whereas the Army is more directed. You don’t need permission to take off here.”

Another difference is that the work load is spread out more in the corporate world.

“You’re not in anything alone,” he explained. “Projects are really broken down into teams. You rarely do something from beginning to end on your own. In the Army, though, you take on so much sometimes you are overwhelmed.”

Finally, Richardson acknowledged the difference he sees in camaraderie and teamwork between corporate life and the Army.

“Our department is a little better, but a lot of times in the corporate world they don’t have time to get to know each other,” he said. “They don’t have the same kind of camaraderie as we do in the Army.”

NFL’s perspective

The internship through the TWI program has proved to be a valuable experience in which Richardson has learned a great deal, while contributing to the betterment of the NFL.

“He brings a new perspective, based on his Army experience, to the team,” said his supervisor at NFL Headquarters, Community Relations Manager Melissa Schiller.

“He is very on top of everything he’s given, and he has a great deal of discipline,” she said. “He’s very diligent and very adaptable in a job that’s a new experience for him — and different every day.”

Richardson helps the team at NFL Headquarters in building a better relationship with the military, often asking if the military can be invited to events sponsored by the NFL, Schiller said.

“This is a great experience for us as well as for Kyle,” Schiller said.

Maj. Earl Brown, who also participates in the program as an active-duty Soldier, agreed with Schiller’s assessment of Richardson.

“He’s not only willing to jump in with everyone else on projects, learn and continue to fight, but he seeks out projects,” he said.

Brown, who looks at Richardson as his “battle buddy,” says he and Richardson speak a “different language” than their co-workers at NFL Headquarters.

“We can look at each other, and we know what’s going on,” he said.

Brown pointed out that, “what we bring to the table is a sense of duty,” citing how the leadership at NFL Headquarters didn’t have to worry about Richardson reporting for duty at 4 a.m. for his media team responsibilities associated with the NFL season kickoff in Denver.

He said he and Richardson conduct “backward planning” to the “SP” (start point) on media team projects, and he agreed with Richardson that oftentimes the corporate world doesn’t enjoy the tight-knit quality of the Army.

“We communicate,” Brown said. “We’re definitely a ‘fire team.’”

Family perspective          

When asked to compare the NFL experience with Army life, Richardson’s wife, Nancy Richardson, a former NCO herself, quipped, “The TDYs are shorter!”

On a more serious note, Nancy Richardson said another big difference between Army and corporate life is there is really no tie-in to families from the business world.

“At NFL headquarters, there are a lot of single players and employees, and family activities are the last thing they want to be involved with,” she said.

However, Nancy Richardson and other military spouses have tried to start some corporate involvement with families and are hoping those efforts bear fruit soon.

“Sometimes corporate America doesn’t expect NCOs to be that intelligent, so when someone like Kyle shows what he can do, the corporate employees really appreciate seeing that,” she said. “This temporary transition back into civilian life gives him an idea, not just of the work load, but how to look sharp in business attire, how to present himself in meetings, as well as how to network in the corporate world,” adding that it’s reassuring for him to see he can make it in that environment.

“It gives us that spark of hope,” she said.

It also gives him an opportunity to highlight the need to support Soldiers, she said.

Nancy Richardson said her husband was fortunate because he had a good leader in Trent who steered him to the opportunity, but she pointed to a need for wider exposure by the Army of the TWI program.

“We need this program to really help our troops for the future,” she said. “There are incentives for hiring veterans, but not for bringing active-duty Soldiers into these valuable programs.”

Some think TWI leads directly to Soldiers transitioning into civilian life after their training is complete, but — as a former Transition Assistance/Soldier for Life counselor — Kyle Richardson said that is not true. For instance, Richardson’s training with the NFL entailed a commitment of three additional years to the Army.

To Soldiers thinking about applying for a temporary position with the NFL or another industry, Richardson said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ll never know if you can make it until you try.”

“I know that, with this experience, if I were to do something after the military, I would be successful,” he said. “It gives you extra experience and extra knowledge. It’s a resume builder. And they’re not going to allow you to fail.”

Richardson added his Army experience and knowledge has helped his present duty with the NFL.

“I’ve applied what the Army has taught me and, with the skills I’ve learned, it has really set me up for success,” he said. “Now, I don’t fear trying new experiences.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with, from left, Sean Estrada, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman; Jaime Martinez, security officer and Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, Training With Industry Military Fellow as they watch Marquil Guice, a recruiter assigned to the United States Military Academy, play a game of Madden 17 against David Romero, a future Soldier, during the first Pro vs. GI Joes video game competition at the National Football League's Headquarters building, Nov. 2. The event kicked off the NFL’s annual Salute-to-Service campaign that recognizes and honor the servicemen and women around the world. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with, from left, Sean Estrada, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman; Jaime Martinez, security officer and Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, Training With Industry Military Fellow as they watch Marquil Guice, a recruiter assigned to the United States Military Academy, play a game of Madden 17 against David Romero, a future Soldier, during the first Pro vs. GI Joes video game competition at the National Football League’s Headquarters building, Nov. 2. The event kicked off the NFL’s annual Salute-to-Service campaign that recognizes and honor the servicemen and women around the world. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)

NCO hopes his experience in industry can help Army contracting

Related stories

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Dennis is an NCO in the 51C (contracting) military occupational specialty. As such, he helps the Army buy services and supplies from private industry.

“We get contracts and we go out and procure those contracts in the civilian market,” Dennis said. “They place bids on the contracts, and we either award to the lowest offer, or, if we’re looking for specific other things, then we award to another company.”

So when Dennis submitted his packet to participate it the Training With Industry program, he wanted to see the other side of that equation, learning how private industry goes about putting in contract bids and doing business with the Army. He was pleased to be placed with Microsoft in Reston, Virginia, where he is working with the company’s federal sales business.

Almost immediately, Dennis was surprised that, even at a huge corporation like Microsoft, with hundreds of people working on federal contracting, there are still knowledge gaps and confusion on how some things work in Army contracting.

“I would think, at a major corporation like Microsoft, they would almost 100 percent understand the contracting processes of the government,” he said. “They know the big picture, but you do still see that there are gaps where they don’t understand some of our processes. Because I know Microsoft is like that, that tells me there’s probably an even larger gap with the smaller vendors the Army works with.”

Dennis said he is hoping he can use the knowledge he is gaining during his year at Microsoft to help the Army reduce those knowledge gaps when he returns to the Army for his utilization assignment. He hopes to explain to other contracting NCOs what vendors might need help in understanding.

“Getting to see this side of things at Microsoft, I’m looking at how I can take what I learn and bring it back to a contracting team, battalion or brigade,” Dennis said. “I want to use the knowledge from here to better the next unit I am in, or improve the processes. I think a lot of what we learn here can transfer back to a contracting unit.

“We get so wrapped up in getting the process completed,” he said. “As NCOs, we have other things to do besides contracts. We have the Army mission. We have training we have to do. I think focusing a little bit more on vendor education would help make our jobs a lot easier in the long run. It would help whoever we’re doing business with, as well. I see that there are a lot of conflicts and headaches between the two.”

To help the vendors at Microsoft understand more about the Army contracting process, Dennis helped put together a training session about Army acquisitions.

“We had a bunch of people around here interested in taking that training so they could better understand the acquisition processes,” Dennis said. “I got a lot of good feedback from that. A lot of people might know the bigger picture, but not the small details of why stuff takes so long in contracts and acquisitions. I get a lot of questions, and as I keep getting questions, I just keep building up those slides to incorporate the questions.”

Pat Brady, business manager in the federal department at Microsoft and Dennis’ supervisor, said Dennis’ NCO professionalism has helped him stand out at Microsoft.

“Because he comes from that procurement background, he has that analytical skill,” Brady said. “He leverages his interpersonal skills to establish the rapport with the stakeholders that he’s dealing with. He goes through the methodology of trying to think through some of the problems and issues they are dealing with. And he’s very results focused. He looks at what he is trying to drive to, then achieves that. I’ve gotten tremendous feedback as I’ve had him work with people.”

Dennis is one of the first two NCOs to join the TWI program at Microsoft. He said it has been a great experience that he hopes continues.

“I think this is a good opportunity for NCOs,” he said. “Something like this doesn’t come very often. I think it’s good for anyone who wants to get a vision of how the corporate world works. I think this program is good for the military, as well. We can bridge a lot of the gaps between contract specialists knocking out contracts and the vendors who are winning the contracts.”

Time at Lockheed Martin encourages NCO to update civilian education plan

Related stories

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

As the Training With Industry program rapidly begins adding NCO participation at workplaces that have only accepted officers in the past, there are many firsts. Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Ireland had the privilege to be the first NCO to work a yearlong stint at Lockheed Martin.

Ireland, serving his Army utilization assignment as a training developer for 94M (radar repairer) at U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, said he had to put away some of his NCO tendencies while at Lockheed Martin.

“Being the first NCO in the program, I was paving the way,” Ireland said. “I was confused when I got there at first. As NCOs, we’re used to putting hands on equipment and doing stuff like that. As I talked to proponent while I was there, they advised me that it was more about observing business practices and how they work their day-to-day operations. So I took that and ran with it and tried to see how their leadership advised their employees. We also got to see how the acquisition corps worked with Lockheed Martin, so we saw how the defense industry works together with the Army.”

Getting a good, long look at private industry meant a lot to Ireland’s future. Seeing how things work at Lockheed Martin caused him to take a second look at the education he needs before he retires from the Army and enters the civilian workforce.

“Seeing what I saw at Lockheed Martin actually made me decide to change my degree path,” Ireland said. “I changed my degree path to project management. It seemed like everybody who was there in a high position was a program or project manager. So I took it upon myself to re-evaluate where my civilian education was taking me.”

After years of “adapt and overcome” in the Army, Ireland was fascinated by the civilian-world process of dealing with problems that crop up during a mission.

“In the civilian world, they stop and look at things when something goes wrong,” he said. “Whereas, in the military we don’t stop. We find a workaround right there and we complete the mission.”

While serving his Army utilization assignment as a training developer for 94M (radar repairer) at U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Ireland keeps his family visible at his desk. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
While serving his Army utilization assignment as a training developer for 94M (radar repairer) at U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Ireland keeps his family visible at his desk. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

The Training With Industry program is considered a broadening assignment, and Ireland definitely felt like he learned ways of solving problems that will make him a better NCO.

“I was able to see the different sides of the military that I was not privy to before, like working with the acquisition corps and seeing how they interact with Lockheed Martin to get the product to the end user,” he said. “I think that helped build me as an NCO to have a broader understanding of how things work throughout the Army.”

Geraldine Hargrow, team lead for 94-series course development at the Combined Arms Support Command, said the broadening assignment at TWI has helped Ireland in his Army job.

“I believe TWI helped him in being able to deal with all the external agencies we deal with in this job,” Hargrow said. “He has to work with high-ranking people, some military, and a lot of civilians, and it helped him be prepared for that. He’s an outstanding NCO. He’s very meticulous in everything that he does. Whenever he’s assigned a task, he goes above and beyond. He’s a really good researcher, something you don’t find too often today. I thought that was very impressive.”

Hargrow, who made the transition to civilian work after serving in the Army, echoed the advice of many who have made the jump.

“You have to remember that you can’t just tell somebody they have to do something,” she said. “You have to negotiate. You have to get them to do the task, but also understand why they are doing the task so there are no questions. In the military, you are told to do a task and you don’t really question it, if you are a good NCO. You don’t question it; you go and get it done. You have to learn how to talk to people. By Sgt. Ireland being in the TWI program, it has helped him adjust to working around a lot of civilians.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Masters, a training developer for 948D (electronic missile systems maintenance warrant officer), worked along with Ireland at Lockheed Martin as part of the TWI program. Masters said it was a great experience to have an NCO join him in the program.

“I think it was great that they incorporated NCOs into the program,” Masters said. “It provided him the ability to see how supervisors work in industry. Sgt. Ireland was everywhere — from working with the production managers down to the floor supervisors. He got to see everything and got a better understanding of how the Army and industry work together.

“He was already a phenomenal NCO going into that year at TWI,” Masters said. “But from that year we spent together, we both grew in our professional development. It absolutely should set him up for success. Sgt. Ireland was a great ambassador of the NCO Corps.”

Controlling the seaport: NCO makes most of her time Training With Industry

Related stories

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Tonia Montgomery moves confidently around the seaport of Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Virginia. Everyone seems to know her, and as she shows a visitor around she is constantly stopped by people needing something done. She answers every question, fixes every problem, smoothly moving on to the next crisis.

Watching her — calm, confident and competent as chaos reigns around her — it would be hard to guess that she doesn’t really “belong” at the port; that, in fact, she was “Sgt. Montgomery” six months ago. As part of the Army’s Training With Industry program, Sgt. 1st Class Tonia Montgomery is working for a year as an operations assistant manager for Virginia International Terminals at the Gateway.

Soldiers in the TWI program can sometimes have a hard time making an impact in the industry to which they are assigned. The assignment is only for a year, and a large place like the Gateway can be hard to find your way around. So how did Montgomery become such an essential part of operations so quickly, emerging as a trusted employee when it’s not even her true job?

“I guess caring,” Montgomery says. “You have to have the right personality to come in here and want to do it and get it done right. That’s really all it is — wanting to know how it works and being able to go out and do it. Then, being confident enough to go do it on your own. Making sure your bosses know you are confident enough to do it on your own. You learn more and more each day, then, suddenly, here I am today. Now, I can answer most questions.”

In the Army, Montgomery is an 88H (cargo specialist) and does a lot of the same work at the Virginia port. She works mainly on the land-side operations at the port, making sure drivers and their trucks have as smooth a path as possible as they drop off and pick up loads.

“As an operations assistant manager, we take care of any issues between the in-bound gate and their outbound point,” Montgomery said. “That could be anything: Bad scans at their portal; they are sitting in their lane and haven’t been serviced in an hour; they have a damaged box, or it wasn’t placed on properly. We keep it calm down there and keep it moving.

“I like to make chaos into smooth,” she said. “I like to be aware of everything that’s going on so that I know exactly what move I can make before I make it. I enjoy doing it. I want to make the military look good, and I want to keep the program alive because I think it’s an excellent program.”

Michael Shepard White, an operations assistant manager for Virginia International Terminals and Montgomery’s supervisor, said Montgomery’s zest for the job helped her quickly integrate into the port culture.

“Sgt. Montgomery is very awesome,” White said. “She gets in there and she not only learns what we’re doing, she takes an active part in everything we’re doing. Everything I can do, she can do. I’m very proud of that.”

Montgomery’s experience in the Army, where NCOs are required to look at the overall operation, has helped her as well, White said.

“One of the things I noticed from Sgt. Montgomery is that she sees the big picture,” White said. “She understands what has to take place. When there is a truck coming in, and that truck is going to have problems at the gate, or at the row, or whatever the problem may be stopping that truck from getting through the gate and back out on the road, she is on top of it.

“Sometimes in industry, folks don’t have to look that far ahead because that next step isn’t theirs,” White said. “Somebody else has another piece of the pie, so you’re just mainly concerned about your egg. In the military, you have to be concerned about the total pie because you could be part of any step at any time. If Soldiers take that knowledge and bring it into the civilian world, they’ll do very well in the civilian world.”

White participated in the Training With Industry program as well. When he was an Army officer, he spent a year at UPS. But he admits Montgomery has taken her role in the program a step further than he did.

“You could do a lot at UPS, but you couldn’t do a lot of hands-on stuff,” White said. “But she’s taken the initiative to say, ‘OK, this needs to happen, and this needs to happen. I can do this part, and I can do this part.’ If she can’t do that part, she’ll ask questions and go from there. So that’s great.”

Asking questions, lots of questions, is a large part of what has helped Montgomery at the Gateway, she said.

“I’m in a position where I can ask anybody any question and I won’t sound dumb asking it because I’m not here. I don’t know the daily realm of things,” Montgomery said. “So, it helps me see a better picture. I ask so many questions. I asked a lot about the managers: ‘Where did they come from? Did they come from a different port?’ It gave me a lot of ideas about what I might want to do and what my master’s degree should be in one day.”

Watching how the port operations work and asking questions has helped Montgomery as she begins to look down the road at her future after the Army.

“I am at 21 years in the military, so I have to think about my future and about whether I want to stay in the transportation field,” Montgomery said. “I’m still young, and I still have a little bit of growth I have to get done. I just have to decide what I want to do, and this program helps because it shows me everything about how a port works. I think it’s a great experience, especially if I try to come back to the port industry. I think I’ve learned a lot from here.”

That knowledge will help the Army, too, when Montgomery serves her utilization assignment back at an Army unit after working at Virginia International Gateway.

“I believe it will help during real-world exercises when we, as leaders, have to facilitate a commercial port,” she said. “Knowing how a port works in a commercial environment will help. Knowing what all you need to actually ship something out of here will help. I think learning that aspect of it will definitely be helpful for the military side.”

That desire to help the Army while also planning for her future is what has made Montgomery a good NCO, and made her an important part of work at the port.

“I have a drive to know because one day I will have to retire from the military,” she said. “Everyone has to. That day will come, and I want to be prepared.”

Training With Industry gives NCOs insight into civilian workforce

Related stories

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Despite constantly improving NCO education and leadership training, there is still one thing the Army can’t completely prepare Soldiers for: life after the Army. Into that gap steps the Training With Industry program.

The TWI program offers selected NCOs and officers the chance to take off their uniforms for a year and work in private industry, observing industry practices, communication tactics and work flow. NCOs who participate in the program say the year not only helps them gain knowledge they’ll need when they eventually retire from the Army, but they learn tactics that can help the Army as well. After their year in private industry, each NCO who participates in the TWI program serves in a mandatory utilization assignment back in the Army, using and sharing the knowledge they gained.

Though officers have been participating in the TWI program for many years, it is only recently that NCOs were allowed to join. Lt. Col. Joel LeFlore, the 51A (program management) proponent officer and the TWI program manager for the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, said officers in the acquisition corps have been participating in the program for more than 20 years. “This was our first year having NCOs in the program, so we’re excited about their addition,” he said.

The efforts of Master Sgt. Eric Sears, the 51C (contracting) proponent sergeant major, were an important part of getting acquisition NCOs into the TWI program. Sears said he had seen the benefits of the program to Soldiers and the Army, so he was eager to get NCOs to participate.

“We’re starting to get further along in what we do as Soldiers, but what can we do to broaden our NCOs, to develop them as leaders?” Sears said. “One of the first areas I looked at was, what opportunities are out there in the Army that NCOs can tie into? What we do in acquisition directly relates to what our industry counterparts do. There are things as acquisition NCOs that we can offer industry and then we can take lessons from industry to bring back to the Army.

“So I really wanted to explore, in cooperation with our command and Human Resources Command, the possibility of establishing the TWI program,” Sears said. “The entire process took 12 to 18 months to get established from when we first asked to do it.”

What NCOs learn

When Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Ireland, who is serving his utilization assignment as a training developer for 94M (radar repairer) at U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, first learned of the TWI program, it wasn’t available for NCOs. But as soon as he saw an e-mail stating that NCOs could apply, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I thought the way Army 2020 is going, we as sustainers need to make ourselves more marketable to the Army. Do more with less,” Ireland said. “I thought the TWI program was a good way to make me a more multifaceted logistician, getting to see all the parts that we as NCOs don’t normally get to see.”

Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Ireland is serving his Army utilization assignment after spending a year working at Lockheed Martin as part of the Training With Industry program.
Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Ireland is serving his Army utilization assignment after spending a year working at Lockheed Martin as part of the Training With Industry program.

Ireland’s year in private industry was spent at Lockheed Martin. Among other civilian-world culture shocks was learning he needed to slow down his hard-charging NCO persona.

“Everything in the defense industry, because of the limitations they are held to by contract, everything is so slow it seems like,” Ireland said. “I’m used to waking up, hitting the ground in the morning, hard-charging it all through the day. But at Lockheed Martin, it’s a take-your-time process, which I can understand because they are building missiles. I can see why they take their time, but it was a hard process to just slow down.

“With that slow movement of how things worked in the defense industry, I think it helped calm me down a little bit as an NCO,” Ireland said. “It helped me to be able to take a step back and look at a situation before reacting. That builds a better leader, so I think that helped me out.”

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Dennis, a 51C (contracting) NCO who is spending a year working at Microsoft in Reston, Virginia, also noticed the slower pace of private industry.

“It does seem a little bit more relaxed as far as, for instance, I expect after a first sergeant telling me, ‘Do this,’ I’m going to get it done in the next 30 minutes,” Dennis said. “I see there is definitely a difference in attitude in this industry. Of course they expect work to be done. Microsoft wouldn’t exist if work wasn’t completed. But it’s definitely not as strict or as structured as military culture.”

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Dennis is spending a year working at Microsoft in Reston, Virginia, as part of the Army's Training With Industry program.
Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Dennis is spending a year working at Microsoft in Reston, Virginia, as part of the Army’s Training With Industry program.

If there is one thing each Soldier involved in the Training With Industry program learns early on it’s that civilian workers can’t be ordered to do something. They have to be persuaded. What that means is that NCOs have to brush up on their interpersonal skills. After years of receiving and giving orders in the Army, and watching those orders get immediately carried out, it takes some adjustment dealing with civilian workers who don’t have any qualms about saying, “No.”

“Sometimes we get excited as NCOs, and we handle things in a different way than the civilian sector handles things,” Ireland said. “I would watch the supervisors (at Lockheed Martin) speak to their employees, and the way they spoke to them, I would say, ‘Man, that would not happen in the Army.’ They would ask me, ‘Well, how would you handle it in the Army.’ I’d tell them, ‘There is no other answer. The way I told you is the way we are going to do it. Go do it!’ They would say, ‘Well, we can’t do that here. If we told them that way, they would go to human resources, and we’d have a complaint filed against us.’ That surprised me. I’ve been in the Army for 15 years, and that’s the way I know how to do things.

“So, interpersonal and communication skills are key,” Ireland said. “They are key in the Army as well, but it’s definitely a big factor in the civilian world.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Masters, a training developer for 948D (electronic missile systems maintenance warrant officer), worked along with Ireland at Lockheed Martin as part of the TWI program. Masters said that while he and Ireland were there, he was surprised to witness employees and supervisors going through training on how to understand and communicate with younger, millennial-generation workers. That level of care toward someone’s feelings is not something your typical Army drill sergeant is worried about.

“We would talk to some floor supervisors who were prior service, and they would say it’s a different world when you get out of the Army,” Masters said. “In the Army, you tell somebody to do something and you expect them to do it without questions asked. Civilian world is a little bit different. Understanding interpersonal skills is a key role in the civilian environment. Being able to understand different generations. In the Army, we base leadership a lot off rank. I’m going to tell you to do something because that’s the rank I have. But that’s the very bottom level of leadership. In the civilian world, they really want to focus on — people perform because they want to perform.”

Sgt. 1st Class Tonia Montgomery is spending a year working as an operations assistant manager at Virginia International Terminals at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Virginia, as part of the Army's Training With Industry program. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Tonia Montgomery is spending a year working as an operations assistant manager at Virginia International Terminals at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Virginia, as part of the Army’s Training With Industry program. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

If dealing with civilian workers sounds difficult in an office environment, imagine what it’s like at a busy seaport, with sometimes-angry truck drivers thrown in the mix. That’s the environment Sgt. 1st Class Tonia Montgomery is in while she spends a year working as an operations assistant manager at Virginia International Terminals at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Virginia. Montgomery didn’t hesitate when asked about what was hardest to adjust to in the civilian world.

“Being told no by a subordinate,” she said. “That’s hard without knowing what to say back. You have to smile it off and be as friendly as possible. Interpersonal skills are the No. 1 thing you need here because you’re dealing with well-paid professionals at the top level all the way to a new person who was just hired for labor, or a not-so-polite truck driver. It’s very multifaceted here.

“They can speak way more freely than in the military,” Montgomery said. “They can get away with talking to you outside of what the norm would be. We have Army values and discipline. In the military, values mean a lot. I respect you, and you respect me back. It doesn’t always happen that way in civilian industry.”

How the Army benefits

Allowing Soldiers to spend a year seeing how things work in private industry brings benefits back to the Army, allowing the Army to improve on some of its processes, Sears said.

“Industry tends to be a little more forward thinking in how they adapt to changes,” Sears said. “The Army is a very structured environment. So, by being able to go out into industry, it really allows us to see some of the cutting-edge changes of how they are doing procurement actions. It allows us to look at these and say, ‘We know this works for industry, how can we implement some of these changes back into the Army in how we do procurement?’”

Sgt. 1st Class Wilbert J. Torressierra is serving his Army utilization assignment after spending a year working for Virginia International Terminals as part of the Training With Industry program.
Sgt. 1st Class Wilbert J. Torressierra is serving his Army utilization assignment after spending a year working for Virginia International Terminals as part of the Training With Industry program.

Sgt. 1st Class Wilbert J. Torressierra worked in the Virginia International Terminals position before Montgomery. Torressierra is serving his utilization assignment as operations NCO in-charge/ordering officer, 597th Transportation Brigade, Fort Eustis, Virginia. Torressierra said he learned a lot during his year that made him more useful to the Army.

“The Army recently assigned us as being the bookers of cargo moving around the world,” Torressierra said. “That’s even more related to what I did at the port. I learned how to move cargo throughout ports, and now I’m learning how it is booked through all these carriers taking our cargo everywhere in the world. I learned a lot of stuff that could help me when I retire, as well as knowledge that I am bringing back into the Army. It helped me both ways.”

The knowledge NCOs gain during their time in private industry is multiplied when they return to the Army, Sears said.

“The knowledge that Soldiers gain as part of TWI doesn’t just rest with those NCOs,” Sears said. “Word of what is going on in best practices gets shared. The learning spreads. The biggest goal of this program is to utilize them and bring knowledge back. It’s not just to set NCOs up for success years after they graduate from the program.”

Dennis said working with Microsoft has shown him that there is a knowledge and communication gap between Army contracting officers and private industry. It’s something he hopes he can help with later.

“Back in the Army, I think I’ll be able to help people understand why vendors are thinking the way they are, or why a vendor might be having an issue with a process, or why it’s taking a vendor 90 days to produce on a contract,” Dennis said. “I think the knowledge I bring from here, any unit that I go to next, I will be able to train up that unit to focus a little bit more on vendor education.”

How industry benefits

Though the TWI program has clear benefits to Soldiers and to the Army, it wouldn’t work if there weren’t also benefits for private industry, Sears said.

“It’s not a one-way street, where we are just pawning off an NCO,” Sears said. “When we sat down with both companies (the acquisition corps works with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services), that’s one of the things they asked, ‘What will these NCOs bring to our organization?’ Fundamentally, there needs to be a benefit on both sides.”

What NCOs bring to industry is a hard-working professional who can offer new perspectives on how to get things done, Dennis said.

“A corporation that is willing to open up positions to NCOs, they are expecting some type of leader, some type of self-motivated individual coming into the position,” he said.

In addition to that added perspective, the program allows the businesses to get a good look at potential future employees, said Christopher Sipe, the rail manager at Virginia International Gateway.

“For us, it’s much like an internship program,” Sipe said. “We have internships for college students; but this is also an internship, just for folks who have a lot of experience. You don’t get that experience with college students, but you do with military folks. So it gives us an entire year to evaluate someone, and if that person does show interest in being here, we can hire them down the line. We just hired a person who was a Training With Industry NCO about three years ago.”

Lessons learned

Those who have gone through the TWI program, or mentored Soldiers who have, offer some advice that is useful both to future NCOs going through the program and NCOs near retirement who need to get ready for the civilian workforce.

Sipe said one often overlooked aspect of getting and keeping jobs in the civilian world is networking.

“The big thing to remember in private industry is you really need to make contacts,” Sipe said. “You need to be able to network effectively because in private industry there is no guarantee of promotion, there is no guarantee that you’ll get hired. Not to say there is in the Army, but it’s a lot different in the civilian world. Hopefully that’s the purpose of this program, especially as we’re getting mostly NCOs near the end of their careers. This is a fantastic opportunity for them to network. Some use it effectively, and some do not. There are people we remember and people we don’t. Introduce yourself and make sure you get a lot of exposure to every department so they know who you are.”

Dennis said he would advise future participants to take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new.

“I would tell them to try to learn as much as possible,” Dennis said. “They should immerse themselves into the organization and try to learn as much as they can from it. Understand how they can help the organization, but get as much as possible back. I’m trying to bring things back to the Army. How can I impact the next unit that I’m going to? There’s a lot of knowledge to learn here at Microsoft.”

Pat Brady, business manager in the federal department at Microsoft, has worked with many TWI participants, and she tells them it’s important not to be a wallflower. It can be easy for some to fade into the background and not get all they can out of the opportunity.

“The thing that I always stress when they come in is don’t be timid, don’t be shy, just jump right in,” she said. “Because it’s like drinking from the firehose at Microsoft. You just don’t get a chance to have somebody hand-hold you through this process. You have to get out there, meet as many people as you can, try to get in front of key decision-makers and managers to learn all you can about the business. When I took over the program in the beginning, that’s the only thing that I saw, so I stress that.”

Industry, the Army and Soldiers all get something important out of the Training With Industry program, Sears said. But, in the end, it’s NCOs who really benefit.

“The program gives Soldiers exposure, and they start to get a heads up on what industry looks for, how to interact with industry,” Sears said. “They can start seeing that other side. Our two Soldiers who are in the TWI right now, they are 14-plus years in the Army; it’s what they have spent the majority of their life doing. It can be a tough transition going from an enlisted Soldier to immediately out into the corporate workforce. By participating in the TWI program, they are going to come back, they are going to give back to the Army for the remainder of their career. But then they are already going to have that exposure and that knowledge on how to interact with corporate leadership to help give them a step up.”

 

How to get into the TWI program

The Training With Industry program is available to NCOs in a growing number of MOSs, including ordnance, public affairs and quartermaster. The Milper message giving application details will go out in September, with a deadline to apply in January.

For more information on the program, including eligibility requirements and contact information, visit, www.hrc.army.mil/EPMD/NCOs%20Broadening%20Program