By Susan L. Follett, USAASCApril 25, 2019
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Materiel Systems Organization, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command
POSITION AND OFFICIAL TITLE: Director, Acquisition Life Cycle Cell
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 18
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and in engineering
EDUCATION: M.S. in mechanical engineering, Wayne State University; B.S. in mechanical engineering, Michigan Technological University
AWARDS: Commander's Award for Civilian Service
Sure, acquisition can be a rough and tumble field. But have you ever tried working with hockey parents? Benton Gady has, and his experience in both arenas is paying dividends for the sustainment of Army ground platforms.
Gady is chief of the Acquisition Life Cycle Cell within the Materiel Systems Organization at the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), advising the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) on decisions related to efficient and effective sustainment. "I sit on senior Army decision review boards and communicate the AMC concerns regarding requirements or acquisition planning" to teams at TRADOC and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. As part of that job, he has prepared and briefed the commanding major general of TACOM as well as AMC's executive deputy to the commanding general on the programs that have appeared before the Army Requirements Oversight Council for approval. Additionally, Gady was recently named director of the Industrial Base Health Directorate, providing independent analysis of the TACOM industrial base that supports the National Security Strategy.
"My position is a one-off, and it's kind of sideways to TACOM," Gady explained. TACOM is tasked with sustaining Army ground systems, Soldier systems, and chemical and biological defense systems; and as a result oversees the sustainment efforts of five program executive offices (PEOs).
"There's just my boss and me as the PM-trained acquisition advisers to TACOM. We're the liaisons between the program managers and the sustainment community, and we work with leadership at the two-star level to ensure that good decisions are made relative to acquisition and sustainment of Army ground vehicles."
Gady began his career as a college engineering co-op student in the former U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research and Development Center (TARDEC), now the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Ground Vehicle Systems Center, and has since "bounced around the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan, working within TARDEC, the PEO for GCS [Ground Combat Systems] and now on the sustainment side with TACOM."
Working first as an engineer on developmental projects, Gady switched to program management in 2011 as an assistant product manager in charge of executing the Engineering Change Proposal 2 program for Bradley Fighting Vehicles at PEO GCS--a switch that marked a turning point in his career, he said. "I didn't really know what it entailed before I started, but I realized fairly quickly that the position offered a lot more influence over a program than an engineering position--and that's coming from an organization that already gave its engineers a pretty big role. I found that I really enjoy managing all aspects of cost, schedule and performance by trading between the three during planning and execution."
After switching to the product management role, his manager asked him to consider competing on the selection board for product and program manager positions. "I had never considered it until he asked, but ever since, I've been working to build out my file for competition. I got the paperwork together and gathered a lot of input from military and civilian personnel at the O-5 and O-6 level about what the board looks for."
So far, so good: He applied to the 2018 boards and was selected as an alternate for project manager and product director positions. "I'm told that being named as an alternate is a great outcome for the first time," he said, "and I was able to speak with Maj. Gen. [Brian P.] Cummings, the PEO for GCS, and Mr. [Timothy G.] Godette, the PEO for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, after the selections were announced to get their feedback on my application and the overall selection process."
What he learned is that senior rater potential evaluations (SRPEs) and job titles are the two most important parts of an applicant's file. "The board looks for applicants who have received exceptional SRPE ratings on positions that feed into PM slots," Gady said. "My current role is kind of an outlier, which I think affected the outcome." He's now looking to get back into positions that have a straighter path to a PM role.
His advice for career planning? Get after it early. "Talk to the leaders in your organization and map a path within a career field or two. But be flexible and don't be afraid of opportunities that present themselves. I had the chance to spend five months in Europe on a developmental assignment by responding to an email message requesting volunteers." The assignment was part of the European Deterrence Initiative, which was looking for candidates to fill a vacancy for an acquisition liaison with experience in heavy vehicle capabilities. Gady worked with the U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) G-3, fielding questions from Soldiers about vehicle capability, availability and timelines, and reached back to his contacts in the Bradley community for support. (And in a small-world twist, a friend of Gady's from college--a major in the Acquisition Corps--now works in the same position.) "The Army has many worldwide and interesting jobs to take advantage of. Move around, know your peers and take training," he said.
When he's not at work, Gady coaches youth hockey teams and plays on a team of his own. "My work to manage schedules and team money directly influences my ability to manage teams," he said, "and my leadership practice at work also blends well with my ability to lead parents and players. If one thing about sports parents has been documented well, it's their craziness. Keeping all that in check to hold a team together has been a significant challenge."
Both rink-side and at work, he has learned that it's important to remain calm, think about problems critically, listen to others, "and understand that perception is 100 percent reality. We cannot field the greatest Army in the world with a bunch of individuals. We must work together on our problems, clearly communicate with each other, and integrate solutions to those programs to achieve success."
"Faces of the Force" is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.