By Kari Hawkins, AMCOM July 7, 2015
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- When it comes to the nation's "citizen Soldiers," the skills and capabilities developed during the work week in a civilian career can turn into a substantial benefit for the Army on the weekends.
Such has been the case for Col. Patricia A. Mance, who's secretarial, acquisition, and management skills developed in her 37-year Department of Defense civilian career were the same skills that she used in her Army Reserve assignments during a nearly 41-year military career. And, in both arenas, her leadership and organizational skills and capabilities led to increasing responsibilities and promotions.
"The work I did in my civilian career was the same type of work I did for the Reserves," Mance said. "I enjoyed the responsibilities and opportunities of each career, and both allowed me to support Soldiers."
Mance retired from the Aviation and Missile Command in 2010 as a lead contract specialist/contracting officer. On June 30, she retired from the Reserves, following her third deployment and her assignment as the assistant division acquisition officer and deputy officer-in-charge of the Central Region Team, physically located in Huntsville, under the auspices of the Army Reserve Sustainment Command, headquartered in Birmingham.
"For two-thirds of my life, I have served as a Soldier," Mance said. "I have continued to serve for over four decades because I am not only proud to serve my country, but have always felt an ultimate responsibility for my fellow Soldiers."
At the end of both of her careers, Mance enjoyed the opportunities to make a difference in managing some of the Army's most significant contracts.
While a DoD Army civilian, she was the procuring contracting officer for the Saudi Arabian Government in support of the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command's Maintenance Support Services, working to maintain the Saudi's fleet of AH-64 Apaches, UH-60Q Desert Hawks, UH-60L MEDEVACs and 406 Combat Scout Helicopters.
In her last assignment with the Army Reserve Sustainment Command, Mance supervised a team that provided trained and ready Reserve Soldiers in support of the Army Materiel Command, Defense Contract Management Agency, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, Defense Logistics Agency, and Army Contracting Command worldwide mission requirements. Her primary role was to provide contract support for the Space and Missile Defense Command, and the Army Contracting Command-Redstone.
"As a citizen Soldier, you basically carry two jobs," Mance said."It requires total dedication, good organizational skills and time management. You're juggling a lot. Most importantly, though, you've got to have the love and support of your family."
All those years ago, Mance, who started her civilian government career right out of high school as a GS-3, clerk-stenographer, with the Army Aviation Systems Command in St. Louis, Mo., decided to join the Army Reserves as a private first class as an administrative specialist, MOS 71L, with the 307th Civil Affairs Group. It was 1974 and the Army was recruiting women to enlist in its Women's Army Corps.
"I had civilian acquired skills that I could put to work in the Reserves," she said.
"Basically, all I had to do was type. My basic training was two weeks at Fort McClellan, (Ala.), where we were taught drill and ceremony, the Army rank structure, and about the Army in general. When I reported for duty during the weekend drill, I typed. The promotions came with only a minimum time in grade, so I advanced to sergeant first class fairly quickly."
She liked the opportunity the Army provided to do a little traveling, and serving as a Reservist allowed her to use her secretarial skills in two different careers. In many ways, the two careers complimented each other.
But, there were also challenges. In 1979, while she was taking on responsibilities as a procurement clerk in her civilian job, Mance was involuntarily transferred to the 485th Military Intelligence Detachment to allow for advancement of another Soldier into the administrative position she vacated. While there, she trained in military intelligence as an interrogator.
"In my civilian career, I was moving up through the acquisition field. I earned every promotion, going from GS-5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, and 13. I had to compete for every promotion I received," she said.
"And, with the 485th, I was doing everything that the male Soldiers were doing. I was in the field, living in tents, participating in physical fitness, etc. It was like I was one of the guys at a time when a female in the Army Reserves was very rare."
She met 1st Lt. Steve Mance, who would eventually become her husband several years later, when he interviewed her as she came into the 485th. The two became DoD civilian co-workers when Steve was hired in 1984. As they got to know each other better, they became friends and later started dating. They married in 1987.
Later, Mance took on other responsibilities, including becoming a contract supervisor for the Reserves in 1988 when she joined the 455th Transportation Detachment, responsible for supervising the loading and off-loading of ships. Because of her marriage to a fellow Reserve Soldier, Mance was quickly transferred out of the unit to the 458th Transportation Detachment in Belleville, IL. She decided the transfer was a good time to apply for a direct commission.
"I received a direct commission in May 1988 based on my civilian background and because I was in contracting with my Reserve unit," she recalled.
In 1990, Mance attended the 17-week Transportation Officer Basic Course, Ft. Eustis, Va.
"I was almost 35 years of age attending OBC with other Soldiers in their mid-20s. I was one out of a class of 50 students consisting of ROTC and OCS Soldiers, with me being the only direct-commissioned. I graduated at the top of my class as the distinguished honor graduate," Mance said.
"And, I was able to do all that while working full-time, serving in the Reserves, and being a mom and wife. I credit my success at OBC to being prior enlisted because that gave me the discipline that I needed to finish on top. Plus, I was always a good student."
Because of the transfer to the 458th, then 2nd Lt. Mance soon became one of many women to deploy to a combat zone. When Operation Desert Storm launched, the 458th mobilized to Dhahran and King Khalid Military Center, Saudi Arabia, and King Fahd Airport, Kuwait City, Kuwait. "We landed at King Khalid Military Center under Scud attack," she recalled.
Mance had to leave her husband, then a major, and their three daughters behind to serve with her unit.
"I had served in the Reserves from 1974 to 1991 -- 17 years -- basically in administrative support. Now, with a week's notice, I'm in the thick of things. And, on top of it all, I left Steve at home with three daughters, ages 12, 14, and one going on 17. I don't know who had the worse job -- me sitting in the desert or him at home with three teenage daughters," she said.
Mance's unit was an Air Terminal Movement Control Team, charged with in-processing and out-processing units sent to Kuwait to protect its borders, such as the 11th ACR, 8th ID, and the 3rd ID. They were one of the first Reserve units to arrive in theater in February 1991 and the last to leave and redeploy through Ft. Campbell, Ky., in November 1991. They provided support services throughout Operations Desert Storm, Desert Farewell and Positive Force.
"We trained for six days at Fort Campbell. They got us in theater as fast as they could. They needed us right away to in-process units. They brought units in for three months at a time, so we were always busy," she said.
"The worst time was toward the end because we were kept in theater the entire time. When I'd talk to my family, my youngest daughter would ask 'When are you going to come home and be my mommy again?' It became really difficult towards the end."
When she returned from the deployment, Mance took advantage of a law that allowed all Illinois residents who were Desert Storm veterans to attend college on a four-year scholarship. She graduated magna cum laude with a business degree from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL, in 1997.
After Desert Storm, Mance was transferred back to the 455th Transportation Detachment, now a first lieutenant, and her husband was transferred to the Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Mance served as a purchasing/contracting officer with the 455th, a job she continued even after she and her husband moved to Huntsville in 1997 when the Army Aviation Systems Command was merged with the Missile Command to become the Aviation and Missile Command.
"I did the same job as a purchasing/contracting officer in my civilian life. So, it all just kind of fell into place," she said. "My contract supervision unit consisted of four officers and eight enlisted personnel. Basically, I kept getting promoted in the same unit through the rank of major."
For 10 years, Mance traveled from Huntsville to St. Louis once a month for Reserve duty. The trips also allowed her to visit her relatives on a constant basis.
Those trips were interrupted in 2003 when both Mance and her husband were mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom within three days of each other -- Steve Mance with the 412th Engineer Command to Heidelberg, Germany, and Mance as a contingency contracting officer with the 455th to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
"In 2003, I was still a member of a contract supervision team in the Reserves and in my civilian career I was a Level III certified Contracting Officer. During this deployment, I was a member of a contracting cell in Kuwait responsible for heavy lift contracts. Anything moving into or out of theater, I was the contracting officer for it," Mance said.
"As a Reservist, I was appointed as a contingency contracting officer for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command-Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting, with a $50 million warrant which, for a Reservist, was unheard of. I was able to sign contracts for the Army and I trained and oversaw Field Ordering officers who used cash on the local economy to buy things they needed for their unit. This was the way we had to conduct business because we didn't have the supply chain set up yet."
When she returned, Mance resumed her once-a-month trips to St. Louis for Reserve duty. Those came to an end in March 2008 when Mance helped to stand up the Reserve's Deployment Support Command in Birmingham. She was assigned to serve as the command's chief of the Mobility Information System Training Division and later was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December 2008.
"We trained all of our down trace units in either port operations or container operations," she said.
Then, in September 2011, after retiring from her civilian career in 2010, Mance was once again mobilized for deployment, this time as the director of Logistics for the Area Support Group-Kuwait, Camp Arifjan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
"All of a sudden I'm a logistician in charge of 50 Soldiers and civilians during the drawdown out of Iraq, considered the largest draw down of military forces since World War II. As the DOL, I maintained Government contractual oversight and diligence of 75 logistics contracts valued over $175 million in support of seven base camps in Kuwait as well as the evolving $2.2 billion K-BOSSS (Kuwait-Base, Operations and Security Support Services) contract with its 6,200 contractor workforce," she said.
"I knew contracting and my logistician officers knew logistics. As a team, it worked out great. It was a good arrangement to be Director of Logistics and possess my contracting background."
Mance will be joining her husband in retirement. Steve Mance retired in 2004 as a Reserve lieutenant colonel with nearly 37 years of service. As a civilian, he retired in 2010 as an engineering psychologist from the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Command.
"It's all worth it to me to know that I've served my country, and I've done my best in that service," Mance said. "It's been a great job, both as a civilian and as a Reservist. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and am proud to have served my country. I can't measure how much self-satisfaction I have gleaned from, not only being a Soldier, but helping other Soldiers."
Her last official duty as a Reserve colonel was to attend the 2015 Reserve Component Acquisition Summit in Atlanta in late June. Many of her team members also attended the Summit, and a retirement ceremony for Mance was conducted at the event. Mance was presented a shadow box depicting her entire career and three deployments. An excerpt of the citation reads, "In recognition of your invaluable leadership and support to your Soldiers and to express our sincere appreciation for your dedicated service through 40+ years. You will always be remembered for your courage to do what's right."
The citation meant a lot to Mance, as did her perfect 300 score on her last Army Physical Fitness Test.
"When I joined the Reserves, I was thinking 'I like to travel. You need a typist. Okay, here I am.' Now, three deployments and almost 41 years later, I'm saying goodbye to a career that has given me so much more than I ever expected," she said.