Amidst stories of gloom and doom amongst federal employees and active duty as budget uncertainty racks the Nation, one soldier's career is only getting better.

Specialist (SPC) Erik Lowe had only one month under his belt at the Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) when he was promoted to Sergeant (SGT) this February.

Depot Commander, Colonel (COL) Christopher B. Carlile, highlighted the distinction of SGT Lowe's promotion as a non-commissioned officer (NCO): "With the rank comes the pay, but the pay isn't what this is about. It's about the fact that you are an NCO now. We expect you to be a leader and we expect you to set an example for the others around you and to do the right thing."

"The NCO is the backbone of the Army," Curtis Titus said. Titus serves as a division chief for CCAD's Administrative Support. "Becoming Sergeant is basically the first step in the leadership chain."

SGT Lowe is a part of Personnel Force Innovation (PFI), an Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) initiative to obtain and place service members on active duty tours with Department of Defense (DoD) agencies for one to three years.

CCAD uses PFIs to augment personnel shortages when it is not feasible to use Department of the Army (DA) civilians or contractors. PFIs come trained and certified in their craft and are of immediate impact to the division in which they serve. In turn, CCAD provides these soldiers with employment and an environment to stay proficient in the skills that they learned thru the military.

CCAD's IT Service Desk lost several team members when recent guidance directed all of DoD to release their temporary and term employees. This came shortly after being hit with an across-the-board hiring freeze.

"We anticipated the possibility of being short-staffed due to the current status," said Zeke Rivas, Chief of IT's Customer Support Branch. "When we saw the opportunity to gain more staff, especially military personnel, we pursued [it]."

Since joining the Service Desk, SGT Lowe has kept the Service Desk rolling by managing cellular phones and printers for CCAD's workforce of nearly 5,000. "He's working tickets, making calls, resolving issues and requests coming from the floor," said his division chief.

SGT Lowe's apparent skills weren't learned in a day. In the military, he's known as a 25 Bravo (Information Technology Specialist). He spent five years in Hawaii as an IT tech and a Unit Public Affairs Representative (UPAR) Family Group Readiness (FRG) liaison at Fort Shafter. He then served five months in North Carolina as an IT tech with Fort Bragg Military Police.

As a mainly civilian maintenance depot, CCAD is a change of pace for the soldier. "It's a different environment," SGT Lowe admitted. Switching from a military-heavy workforce to one that is primarily civilian has its challenges but SGT Lowe is prepared to make the transition.

"I've worked hard to get here and I look forward to moving on and progressing in my military career."

CCAD currently employs four PFIs. "Just like new hires, PFIs are on hold for now," said Israel Talamantez, an Administrative Officer at CCAD. Despite the hold, Talamantez still sees a bright future for PFIs at the depot. He said that, once the hiring freeze is lifted, he expects CCAD to recruit more active duty soldiers to the maintenance depot.

The Army has honored SGT Lowe for his level of service, and CCAD is already strengthening its better, faster, and cost-wise culture with the presence of the PFI soldier.

Addressing the audience after his pinning, Lowe said, "I will uphold the standards and be a true leader as an NCO."

SGT Lowe is steadfast to continue giving support wherever his next tour may take him.


Daphne Martin contributed to this story.

Page last updated Tue March 26th, 2013 at 00:00