RDECOM senior NCO discusses command's renewed focus
July 30, 2012
- "It is jaw-dropping the things we do at RDECOM."
- "It is important that each of us know what each other are doing at each location. We can make ourselves more efficient, cut down on duplications and work together."
- "You have a partner when it comes to technology or gaps within your capabilities in battle."
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Command Sgt. Maj. Lebert Beharie, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's senior noncommissioned officer, gave an interview to RDECOM public affairs July 19.
RDECOM Noncommissioned Officer of the Year winner Staff Sgt. Markus Whisman won the Army Materiel Command NCO of the Year honor July 18. What were the highlights from the AMC competition?
"We are very proud of our NCO, Staff Sgt. Markus Whisman, the winner of the AMC competition. It is a grueling process to win.
I was one of the board members during the competition. I saw some of what the NCOs and Soldiers had to go through. The board process is a lot of questions. We did a rapid-fire questioning technique, which limits the amount of time you have to think about a question. You have to be very well studied to answer those questions.
There are six members on the board, the president [of the board] and five two-star level command sergeants major asking questions. We would ask two questions each, and it goes to the next person. There is a very limited amount of time to think and collect your thoughts. If you didn't know the answer, you weren't going to fair too well.
Then you have all the physical competitive areas, [including] Army Physical Fitness Test and road march. It's a grueling process. If you come out the winner, it is absolutely a feather in your cap. You ought to be proud of yourself. We are absolutely proud of our winner. He will represent AMC at the Army's competition. We wish him the best and hope he does very well."
What are the most significant things you have learned about RDECOM during your four months as the command sergeant major?
"This command is an enormous force-multiplier for the Army with regard to science and technology in support of the Warfighter.
I had an opportunity last week to visit the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center in Huntsville, Ala. They are one of our larger [research, development and engineering centers] based on portfolio and area. Just at Huntsville, they occupy about 180 buildings.
They support lifecycle management of our aircraft at Corpus Christi, Texas, and other places. In addition, we have members from within AMRDEC working at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs supporting the Missile Defense Agency. You name it, we are supporting it.
I have learned a tremendous amount of what we do here. It is jaw-dropping the things we do at RDECOM."
Where have you traveled recently, and what has been your message about RDECOM to the Soldiers and Army civilians you have met?
"It's a team effort. We are so diverse in our disbursement across the United States and places abroad. It is important that each of us know what each other are doing at each location. We can make ourselves more efficient, cut down on duplications and work together.
That is one of the lines of effort that [RDECOM Director Dale] Ormond has directed the staff to work on. Who has a center of excellence for a technology? Understand that if you are not the subject matter expert, there are subject matter experts within RDECOM. It's OK to reach across RDECs to talk with the folks who have the best product and the most cost-effective to finding the answer. It requires communication."
What do they tell you about their needs from RDECOM?
"They don't understand that the technology comes from RDECOM. The faces they see are the [program managers] and [program executive offices] or industry. When I was in the field, industry came to me to sell and pitch their technology. They know those faces and understand what they bring to the table.
RDECOM doesn't toot its own horn. We develop technology. We work on existing technology to make it better. We give them to the PMs and PEOs. They, in turn, give it to the Warfighter. As I go out and talk, they don't know about RDECOM, which provides over 90 percent of the equipment, food and clothing.
We have to do a better job of communicating that to our Army. One of Mr. Ormond's lines of effort is strategic communications. As I talk to Soldiers and commands, that is my message to them. I tell them what we do, how we do it and how we can do partner with them to increase their capability and lessen their frustration [with technology].
There are many times that I was frustrated with technology in the field. [I didn't have an outlet for answers] other than the [Operational Needs Statement and Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement] process. That is an arduous process. It takes awhile to get answers. Sometimes you need answers now. I didn't know I could call someone.
I want to fix that for the Army so they understand what we do as RDECOM. You have a partner when it comes to technology or gaps within your capabilities in battle."
What is important for the RDECOM workforce to know from your conversations with Soldiers preparing for deployment or returning from theater?
"Once we have told [Soldiers] who RDECOM is and show them our products that we produce for them, they recognize those products and then realize what we do. [I want to let] our scientists and engineers know they are making a difference. They are making a difference in the lives of Soldiers. They are changing the way we fight battles based on the technology they have produced."
How can enlisted Soldiers help RDECOM's scientists and engineers provide better equipment and technology to the Army?
"Feedback. We have several outreach programs, [including] Soldier Greatest Inventions. It might not be technologically sound or have the best engineering. A Soldier might solve his own problem; they will cut metal and weld it together to make things work better for themselves.
Getting this feedback and giving that feedback to our scientists is essential. Our scientists will take those ideas and put the engineering and scientific knowledge behind it to give them the product they are looking for."