Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) , Maryland -- March 2017. When new Commanding General Gus Perna took over the U.S. Army Materiel Command, he took pause for about 90 days to assess the command, its direction and its strategic priorities. Last month he announced those priorities as Strategic Readiness, the Future Force and Soldiers and People.

CECOM, under the direction of the Integrated Logistics Support Center (ILSC) has actually been working the 'future force' issue for five years now. How can that be?

Five years ago, when the organization moved here to APG from Fort Monmouth, New jersey, ILSC Associate Director of Resources, Pam Delaine, conducted an assessment and recognized as they completed the transition, the BRAC move was leaving the organization with many young

supervisors. "The BRAC move resulted in a lot of our experienced personnel to choose retirement," Delaine said. "The ILSC Leadership Team was faced with quickly developing a mentoring program for supervisors now in charge but with less than 2 years of managerial experience."

That led to the birth of what is now known as the ILSC Mentoring Program, a program this year that will celebrate its fifth year and count among its graduates 91 trained mentors and 282 mentees.
Delaine, who has championed the program since its inception, credits the success of the formal mentoring program to forward-focused mentors and mentees alike. The start of the program came in humble beginnings: 13 GS-14-level supervisors in a class determined to chart and produce a repetitive process with senior leader support to establish a method for identifying long-term

professional development needs in the work force, that provides growth and encourages networking across the ILSC and allows the workforce access to leaders across the Center.

"What is the saying, 'necessity is the mother of invention,'" Delaine said. "This was true. We quickly could see that our new supervisors did not have the benefit of a transitional supervisory relationship due to the BRAC process and retirements at Fort Monmouth. We embarked on a 360-degree assessment to establish a feel, a knowledge base, from which we could focus our concentration."

If BRAC wasn't enough of a work force inhibitor, then came the additional negative work force effects of furloughs, hiring freezes and sequestration.

After the success of the program was evaluated, the mentorship program was established and opened to the entire ILSC workforce in 2013. This availability was afforded to top level supervisors, for those seeking to be mentors as well as mentees, and due to its success, became mandatory for the Pathway interns within ILSC. The federal workplace can be a daunting enough experience to navigate without someone identified to help you along the way. Cross-training and direct interaction is a requirement for growth of the organization. It is not a program that is easily managed because it requires a level of control and supervisor support to make it work.

"The program is about developing not only a relationship between a mentor and a mentee for the organization," Delaine said, "but we are finding it leads to relationships that are established over a lifetime and become a key component to life itself. In essence, it's a 'learn-as-you-go' kind of set-up but you are developing a network for life.

"Over these five years, I have witnessed situations that show me the program provides the workforce access to its leaders and aligns personnel to the whole idea of just what the organization is about, its goals and objectives, and key missions that play an important role and shows how you are an integral part of it all -- even if it's a small part," Delaine said.

The benefits of program participation are not confined to just a mission, however. The program has shown that it allows the individual to be more familiar with the workforce and more familiar with the various areas where most work comes. In this way, an organization gets broken down easier, and team morale gets a much-needed boost through collective understanding. It then becomes a talent management process, one where leaders, because of their support and actual participation, become accessible to the workforce, increasing the 'one team, one fight' concept.

As noted, the program's numbers speak to its success but Delaine said she has now been asked to transition the program from an ILSC-specific program to one that crosses the entire CECOM spectrum. The ILSC program will remain under Delaine's leadership and will be managed by Kristi Lopez, a Management and Program Analyst and recent MBA graduate with a focus in Project Management.

"From where I sit, I can easily see that the leadership skills acquired in this program are quickly and easily aligned with Army values," Lopez said. "You can easily see how Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage are in play here. But what the program also teaches you is so much more than just a job. It teaches life skills and interaction that are somewhat hard to come by in today's work environment.

"I can't wait to see how this plays out across all of CECOM and the benefits the command gets as the future force develops into and over that horizon."

The ILSC has scheduled mentorship training in the next few weeks and then will host a network mentoring celebration to mark the five-year anniversary of the ILSC milestone in September while watching how the program migrates to CECOM in general. The program is seen as one element in a long-term strategic plan that fosters a climate and culture of dignity and respect.
For more information, contact Kristi Lopez at 443-861-5851.