By Ms. Adriane ElliotSeptember 16, 2016
Without growth and progress, achievement and success have little meaning. One U.S. Army Security Assistance Command employee believes that firmly, and has a fierce focus on his professional development.
"A large part of managing my career has always been to openly seek new challenges and increased responsibilities," USASAC Country Program Manager Curtis Thomas said. "And my mentor has always challenged me to stretch my capabilities and learn continuously."
Thomas recently completed a six-month assignment at the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation, the Army's lead for security assistance, international armaments cooperation and export policy.
During his DASA DE&C tenure, Thomas said he gained a greater appreciation for the broader security assistance mission, shifting his emphasis from operations to policy.
"The exposure to representatives from across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of State and international community provided a new way to showcase the USASAC motto of 'Strength in Cooperation' using trust plus teamwork," he said. "I made it a point to bring the perspectives of the Army team into these multilateral groups, and ultimately work out an enterprise-wide solution."
It was this culture of support that drove the education at DASA DE&C.
"I really learned how to exercise care and concern for everyone's perspective. I looked not just at the short-term impacts of an act or decision, but what the impacts would be decades from now, and how it would affect every element of the enterprise," Thomas said.
During his rotation Thomas also drew on his experience with AMCOM's Security Assistance Management Directorate, where he served as an international program manager to Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Japan. He gained his initial foundation in security assistance at the SAMD and was exposed to the elements of the project management office.
"I started out managing one aspect of a program, then six, followed by the entire financial, LOA development, contracting and closure aspects of a major defense platform," he said.
Years later at USASAC, he would familiarize himself with the entire country portfolio beginning with air defense, then adding the signal, TOW weapon system, border guard, and aviation programs, followed by managing two-thirds of the fourth largest FMS program in the Army -- Egypt -- and ultimately becoming a country program manager for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the enterprise's largest FMS partner.
By the time Thomas was board selected for the rotational assignment at DASA DE&C, he was more than ready to serve as a policy and procedures specialist, participating in the creation of initiatives and policies that have direct effect on the execution of the security assistance mission and associated challenges.
"In representing the Army at OSD-led meetings, we were able to collaborate on solutions that directly support the teams I work with every single day," he said. "I learned how policy decisions are carefully weighed and how to evaluate the primary, secondary and tertiary impacts of an action."
He said the increased ability to evaluate a course of action from a long-term perspective will only enhance his career, and he highly recommends the RAP to colleagues.
"The purpose of the rotational assignment program is to enhance the competencies of the Army's security assistance workforce by providing personnel opportunities to perform duties in areas beyond their current expertise," he explained, "and in organizations other than their current assignment.
"It is a great way to gain perspective and experience in an area you aren't familiar with. There are so many great opportunities. My advice is to try something you know little to nothing about; you'll be amazed at how much you'll grow."