By Mrs. Donna Klapakis (SDDC)August 14, 2018
The 13th edition of the Surface Warrior Spotlight shines brightly on the Aloha state, focused on Mr. Carlos Tibbetts, the chief of terminal management from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's (SDDC) 599th Transportation Brigade.
Tibbetts hails from the Boston area. He grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts and graduated from Brookline High School in 1964 and Northeastern University in Boston in 1969 as a distinguished military graduate (DMG).
After ROTC Summer Camp, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Transportation Corps by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. William Westmoreland. He served on active duty until joining the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) at Boston Army Base in 1975.
Tibbetts retired from the USAR in 1997 and in 2001 was designated a Distinguished Member of the U.S. Army Transportation Regiment.
Now it's time to bring Carlos into the Spotlight.
Q: When did you join SDDC?
A: In 1976, I joined a Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) Reserve unit -- the 1173rd Transportation Terminal Unit in Boston -- and was there until 1988 (four years of which was Active Guard and Reserve). I was then reassigned to the 143rd Transportation Command in Orlando, Florida from 1988-93.
In 1999, I was hired to work at Headquarters, MTMC Command Operations Center, responsible for all training in MTMC worldwide as well as training the HQ MTMC crisis action team (CAT) made up of HQ MTMC staff and USAR personnel. In that capacity, I established the quarterly training brief program - now the semi-annual training brief - and wrote MTMC Regulation 350-4 that governed individual and collective training within MTMC worldwide. I also managed the Joint Universal Lessons Learned System program for the command and interfaced with U.S Transportation Command.
Q: What was your favorite assignment while you were in the Army?
A: I became dual-hatted as commander of the 49th Public Information Detachment and command information officer for XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, one week before the Captain Jeffrey McDonald incident at Fort Bragg. The media storm that ensued was my baptism by fire.
My academic background and writing abilities secured the position, as I was also Lt. Gen. John J. Tolson's speechwriter. It was an interesting time as I had to contend with public affairs associated with Vietnam War protestors led by Jane Fonda coming on post; and movement of nerve agent artillery shells from Anniston Army Depot to Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, North Carolina, with subsequent disposal at sea in a sunken WWII Liberty ship. In the summer of 1970, I also edited "The Cadet," the official newsletter of the 1970 Fort Bragg ROTC Summer Camp, wherein I not only supervised soldier reporters and photographers, but also did all the paste ups (layout and design) of the newsletter for printing.
Q: What was your favorite TV show?
A: This was a close call between "Leave it to Beaver" and "Sergeant Bilko," but the military won out. He ran the post motor pool, and just like I had to do later in my career, he successfully maneuvered around confusing and frequently vague rules and regulations, but he made it work. One interesting aspect of the show was the fact that there was only one civilian position, that of the post commander's secretary, a far cry from today's situation of civilian employees and contractors. However, in the day of the military draft, if you were only paying Private Doberman $25 a month, he was cheaper.
Q: How about your favorite movie?
A: My initial pick was "Easy Rider" because of where and when I saw it (Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1970). However, I liked "Emperor of the North" with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Keith Carradine that showed that even a hobo ("bindle stiff") can be a hero or as Lee Marvin put it candidly at the end of the movie, a "meat eater" battling the system and winning.
Q: Do you have a motto?
A: "Knowing where to find information is more important than knowing the information."
Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
A: "Anything that can be misunderstood, will be misunderstood," from Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke during the Franco-Prussian War (1871).
Q: What has been your favorite project at the 599th thus far?
A: Several come to mind, but I would say saving customers' money and facilitating their movements. In 2009, we were faced with an unauthorized commitment in Singapore, wherein the stevedoring contract we had was allowed to expire, but the requirement to continue supporting the Diego Garcia shuttle vessel remained. Someone convinced the contractor to continue doing the work without a contract for six months, and that remained the case before we were able to put another contract in place. In 2011, I did a ratification package to get the contractor paid for the work he had done during the ratification period, but in auditing contractor invoices for the period, I found the contractor had overbilled us 35 percent on each bill, and there was reason to believe this situation had existed since 1999 when the contract was first put in place. In the audit I found that the $2.8 million we had in invoices, actually amounted to $1.333 million, including the 35 percent overcharges and $400,000 that were payable under other contracts. I had saved the US Government $1.467 million!
Two years later we had another situation with this contractor in which I saved the U.S. Government $908,000 buying out 31 missing containers. It doesn't matter how far down on the totem pole we are, we can all do it if we just pay attention to detail.
Q: What was your best vacation?
A: On Hokkaido, the northern Japanese island, in 2008. My wife and I traveled there from our quarters in Yokohama to Sapporo and Hakodate. It's extremely easy to travel in Japan, even if you don't speak the language. There are tour operators at each major train station where you can purchase a ticket for any of their tours. We toured Sapporo; Shiraoi, an Ainu village (the Ainu are the original Caucasian inhabitants of Japan); a seaweed factory (what excitement!); rode the antique streetcars as well as a horsecar in Hakodate; and went to the top of Mount Hakodate to witness the famous nighttime views at the top. Hakodate was at one time the major ferry port for ferries from Honshu.
Q: What advice to you have for new hires?
A: Your success here or anywhere else is based on what you know and where to find the information. Networking is a key to your success, and I'm not talking about Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of social media. Talk to people face-to-face, communicate freely in emails and by telephone, especially if you are not close to where these people are. Maintain and cultivate the contract. Help people even if it is outside your current responsibilities. Don't pass the buck. If you can help, do so.
As a federal employee it is your responsibility to freely exchange information, not hold on to it and exchange it when it benefits you personally. The information does not belong to you alone. Keep tabs on what the government has paid you over your career and balance that against what you have personally saved the government. In my own case, I have documented savings of over $3.4 million and the government has paid me $1.8 million. What have you saved?
I am probably the wrong person to ask for career advice, because I have had the following jobs over my 52-plus years of labor: occupational therapist at a mental hospital (three years); legislative intern (three months); bank bookkeeper (three months); Army officer (RA+ USAR) (28 years and one day and two RIFs); senior electronic technician (12 years); licensed stockbroker (one year); laundryman (one year); over-the-road professional tractor-trailer driver (four years); and Federal employee (almost 19 years). In short I have been there and done that, from washing peoples' dirty underwear (wash, dry, fold) to driving a big rig cross country (100,000 miles per year). However, I have loaded and discharged ships in Bayonne, New Jersey; MOTSU, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; Pearl Harbor/Barbers Point, Hawaii; Balboa, Panama; Japan (Yokohama, Hiro/Akizuki, Iwakuni MCAS, Sasebo); Subic Bay, the Philippines; Thailand (Chuk Samet, Thung Prong); Tanjung Priok, Indonesia; and Australia (Port Alma, Gladstone).
Q: What three way you would describe yourself?
A: Intense -- I am passionate about what I believe in. Focused -- I have been accused of being too focused to the exclusion of all else. However, if you want something done, do you want a disinterested observer or someone who is "too focused?" Interested in everything. I like to look at everything. I don't even mind going shopping with my wife and looking for her clothes.
Q: Do you have any phobias?
A: I don't like large spiders, like tarantulas and black widows. I was bitten by a brown recluse spider in Japan in 2002 and the bite wound infected my leg and was very painful.
Q: What is your favorite place to eat?
A: Assaggio's, an Italian restaurant founded by a Vietnamese immigrant. The food is good and relatively inexpensive. However, I am a hamburger man and my ample girth is the consequence.
Q: What theme would you like for the 599th to turn into a book?
A: We are a command of solutions based on our vast training and experience. At one time in my section alone we boasted 200-plus years of experience and training at all levels of command. We are the "hand" that connects the "fingertips" of the system to the "head" back in the continental United States. We also have the unique distinction of being on the same island with four four-star, one three-star, and one two-star commands from all the services. No other brigade can boast that situation.
Q: If you could change jobs with anyone here, who would it be and why?
A: I would be down on the waterfront, my second home, working with the people who put the products on our shelves and are largely invisible to the public; as well as those merchant mariners who bring 97 percent of what we consume here in Hawaii.
These are the people who make it possible for us and our families to survive day-to-day. Many of them work far from home and their families, supporting our existence and our freedoms through their support for the Department of Defense and world peace. As a former over-the-road tractor trailer driver, I know only too well the trials and tribulations of doing an important job that too few in the public appreciate. I would also enjoy working in Japan and Korea again.
SDDC's "Surface Warrior Spotlight" program highlights different members of the SDDC workforce every few weeks through a series of interview-style questions that focus on his or her unique background, personal stories and experiences.
Take a look at Carlos' Surface Warrior Spotlight video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/baS_1X4H79w