Bonding and collaborating during face-to-face meetings proves beneficial
March 5, 2014
In light of today's economy and fewer opportunities to meet face-to-face with colleagues from outlying areas, leaders from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Human Research and Engineering Directorate had a rare opportunity to host a two-day branch chief/field element chief meeting at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Feb. 11--12.
The meeting brought together chiefs from Fort Knox, Ky.; Warren, Mich.; Orlando, Fla.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Huntsville, Ala.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Rucker, Ala.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; as well as, New Jersey and APG.
Dr. Laurel Allender, director of HRED, welcomed the guests at a town hall meeting where they had the opportunity to hear firsthand what is going on at ARL and within the directorate. It also gave them the opportunity to meet and greet many of the researchers they had only met via email or phone conversations.
In addition to the meetings, introductions and small break out group discussions, they toured the Soldier Performance and Equipment Advanced Research (SPEAR), M-Range, Tactical Environment Simulation Facility (TESF), Cognitive Assessment and Simulation Engineering Laboratory (CASEL), Environment for Auditory Research Engineering Laboratory (EAR), System Assessment and Usability Lab (SAUL) and the Translational Neuroscience MIND Lab.
"This was a useful meeting for exchanging information and developing closer working relationships among the various field elements. I think the opportunity for people to tell a little about what is important in their lives outside of work was key in setting an atmosphere that encouraged the development of friendships, cooperation and potentially collaborations," said Dr. Alan Davison, chief, Maneuver and Mobility Branch, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Davison's sentiments were echoed throughout the group.
"It was an important visit with some great discussion on the mission of our unique HRED field elements," said Rhoda Wilson, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Field Element, APG (Edgewood area).
Another comment from the local area came from the Fort Belvoir field element.
"The meeting provided a rare opportunity for field element representatives to meet in person, get acquainted/reacquainted, share our common problems and propose resolutions, meet our management, support and other people in the headquarters, and learn about the great work and facilities within HRED. The meeting was informative, enjoyable and beneficial for all involved," said John Reinhart, HRED field element, Fort Belvoir, Va.
The meetings also provided benefits for those new to the chief's position.
"I recently was named the chief of the CECOM [U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command] field element and this was the first field element chief's meeting in which I participated. Having worked for ARL for several years, I knew all the branch chiefs and many of the field element chiefs. Although I knew the general work that the other offices performed, I did not know the systems that they supported or the issues that confront them. As it turns out, we have much in common. I discovered this after I responded to Dr. Pam's [Dr. Pamela Savage-Knepshield] request for a 'fun fact' as part of introducing myself," said Chris Paulillo, chief, HRED CECOM field element. "I told the story of my second assignment working for HRED years ago where I was sent to APG from New Jersey to work with John Lockett. John was developing a prototype of an improved radio design. Twenty-one years later, I find myself doing the same thing for the new generation software- programmable radios.
"During a breakout meeting, Josh, from the Picatinny field element, asked me about the rapid prototyping tool that I mentioned in my fun fact. It is an outdated tool, but there are newer and more powerful tools on the market today. I learned that a few field elements could make good use of the tool and as a result, Dr. Pam is looking into acquiring one!"
Those who traveled from further away also found the meeting's advantages.
"I found the meeting to be incredibly valuable. As a one-person field element, it's easy to feel a little isolated from the rest of HRED and this gathering allowed for face-to-face info sharing and set the stage for future collaboration and coordination," said Diane Ungvarsky, research psychologist, HRED's field element in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The tours provided an opportunity to see some of the research in action.
"I had seen some of the tour stops over the years, but had only been to the CASEL recently. It was great to learn what's new in the EAR, at the M-Range and in some of the other facilities I was familiar with. It was my first time to see the programs in the SAUL -- especially MEGA--SA, in which I had a hand in developing. The MIND lab was the coolest -- not only the interesting work they are doing but the enthusiasm of the young, smart scientists there," continued Ungvarsky.
But the benefits didn't stop there.
"I had the opportunity to put faces to names I see in emails and documents -- both at some of the other field elements and at APG. I had at least four people say to me 'You're Diane -- I get your emails, thanks!' I have an email distribution list that I send doctrine and other Army document updates, 'What we're talking about at Leavenworth notices and other information and articles. It began as an intra-branch thing and then kept expanding; it now reaches about 50 colleagues," said Ungvarsky.
The weather did factor in during the visit.
"The meeting was well run and presented a really good opportunity to get questions answered, especially in the small group discussions. Additionally, meeting people face-to-face whose names I knew but had never met was very valuable. It will make the resource of interacting with the other field elements much easier," said Carole Kortenhaus, chief, Orlando field element. "And, I'm sorry I didn't take the tour due to leaving earlier because of impending snow."
Ungvarsky's flight back to Kansas was delayed and she was happy to catch a flight home on Friday.
"My flight was delayed 90 minutes, causing me to miss my connecting flight; subsequently my new connecting flight was also delayed. By the time I arrived home at 11:55 p.m. Friday night, I had spent 14 hours either in an airport or in the air. But, I did get to give my husband a kiss just before Valentine's Day was over!" said Ungvarsky.
All in all the meeting was a total success and everyone who attended found it valuable.
"It was a great couple of days having our field element and branch chiefs from 18 different locations across the country in one location," said Dr. Pamela Savage-Knepshield, chief of HRED's Human Factors Integration Division. "Our time together was extremely valuable, including the time that we spent forging new relationships, exploring collaborative opportunities, identifying division-wide concerns that we can direct our energies toward, and quite simply, just getting to know each other."
ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
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