Security assistance workers buy into training program
November 28, 2012
Having a trained and ready work force is a priority for the Army Materiel Command and its subordinate U.S. Army Security Assistance Command. As AMC's lead for security assistance, USASAC is also responsible for ensuring its trained and ready work force includes its Security Assistance Enterprise members who support security assistance programs and Foreign Military Sales.
One initiative championed by Maj. Gen. Del Turner, USASAC's commander, is to "train the enterprise," and includes a Developmental Assignment Program. The program is designed to let employees from other SAE organizations (which includes the various USASAC location offices, the AMC life cycle management commands' Security Assistance Management Directorates, and the Program Executive Offices) rotate junior-level personnel through 60-90 day assignments to learn what their counterparts do and need in their jobs.
The program is currently in a "beta test" stage, with formal implementation scheduled for 2013. Two employees who participated in the most recent beta phase came from different organizations within the SAE but shared similar experiences.
Jessica Rasich, a USASAC country program manager for the PACOM/SOUTHCOM Directorate, and Tamika Hamilton, a TACOM Security Assistance Management Directorate logistics management specialist, each served 30 days working different jobs at different locations. Rasich worked at USASAC's New Cumberland, Pa., office serving as a central case manager for the country of Colombia and other SOUTHCOM countries, while Hamilton worked as a CPM in USASAC's PACOM/SOUTHCOM Directorate.
"The program is really beneficial -- you truly gain an appreciation of what everyone else does," Rasich said. "It was great to see the process full-circle and to understand how what we do affects the process."
As a CPM, Rasich works with SOUTHCOM countries Colombia and Costa Rica from the pre-Letter of Request stage, until the formal agreement, or Letter of Offer and Acceptance, is made between the U.S. and its international partner for a FMS case. In her developmental assignment, Rasich worked the implementation side of the FMS case, which involves everything from requisitioning, transportation and reconciliation to case closure for Colombia.
"It was good to see their frustration with us (CPMs)," Rasich joked, "to fully understand how much goes into what we ask them for on a daily basis."
Rasich kept a daily journal of her 30-day training as documentation and reference.
"Every day is different," she noted. She also learned what and why certain information is needed. "The (implementation work) that is performed at New Cumberland is very metric-based. I didn't realize that CCMs only had 10 days to complete requisitions," Rasich said.
Seeing the implementation portion of the cases also gave her an appreciation for the teamwork involved.
"As a CPM, you work more independently, but as a CCM, you are constantly working with and relying on your team," Rasich said. Rasich credits the two supply technicians and two supply specialists with much of the team's success at executing cases, and is especially grateful for her CCM mentor.
"I was very lucky to be working with one of the most experienced CCMs, Deana Paul. She had vast experience with all responsibilities of CCMs."
Rasich said transportation is probably one of the biggest challenges, especially when a country frequently changes freight forwarders.
"I was lucky to get to do some transportation training while I was in my assignment. While it was probably pretty basic for the personnel at New Cumberland, it was perfect for a newcomer like me," Rasich said. "I think sometimes it helped having me there. For example, an amendment was in the works that I already knew all about because I worked it as the CPM, so I was able to share my information with the team."
As part of the second phase beta test, Rasich and her mentor, Paul, were in agreement about what she learned.
"The amount of time/research involved in providing answers to questions from country, commands, and the CPMs," Paul said about the most important lessons learned by Rasich. "I think the number of systems we use was also eye opening."
Rasich's recommendations for improving the program included adding more structure, and considering shorter-term assignments.
"While the 30-day assignment is optimum, it may not always be feasible because of issues such as backfilling your job while you are gone."
While Rasich and Hamilton were coming from different organizations and positions, their experiences and assessment of the program were very similar.
"I learned about the daily activities of a CPM, but it really was about the relationships and communication -- I saw the bigger picture," Hamilton said. The bigger picture Hamilton refers to is being part of the SAE. "It really helped put down some misconceptions, too," she added.
Hamilton, who worked as a CPM for Japan, the Philippines, and even Mexico, also learned that there were more similarities than differences in how she conducts her job as a case writer for the TACOM SAMD and as a CPM for USASAC's PACOM Directorate.
"There is a package for everything, and collecting and writing the info is the same thing I have to do as a case manager."
Hamilton also credits her mentor at USASAC, CPM Shawn Drake, with providing overall guidance.
"I had continuity with Shawn, and then I also got to work with other CPMs for specific cases issues, such as diversions," she said. Drake, like Rasich, characterized the DAP as a two-way learning process.
"I've learned a lot from her. We're sharing ideas of how other LCMCs work. I've gained a lot of insight on the case writing process," he said.
Like Rasich, Hamilton also recommends more structure continue to be added to the program. "It would be great to have a daily checklist," Hamilton added.
Rasich and Hamilton also agree that the program benefits the countries they are working by enhancing their understanding of the entire FMS process.
"You have your little piece, but by working someone else's job, you appreciate their priorities and their requests," Hamilton said.