Valuing the Civilian Workforce
(Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series on the Army Civilian workforce.)
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Following in the path of former leaders, Gen. James McConville re-emphasized the strength and value of the Army's civilian workforce when he was sworn in as the Army's 40th chief of staff Aug. 9.
McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, telling the Army News Service that "People are the Army. They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system."
And, when it comes to the Army civilian corps, McConville is convinced they are the "institutional backbone of everything we do" and should be given opportunities to grow in their Army careers.
With such a significant endorsement, the Army's 330,000-plus civilians are not only reminded of their role in support of the nation's Soldiers but also of their duty to live by the Army Civilian Corps Creed.
Creed phrases like "a member of the Army team," "dedicated to our Army" and "always support the mission" speak to the importance of the contributions of the civilian workforce. The creed's listing of the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage and its oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States mirror the oath taken by every Soldier. In addition, the phrase "I provide leadership, stability and continuity during war and peace" defines the civilian corps' long-standing role in moving the Army forward in its defense of the nation and freedom worldwide.
The creed supports the mission of all Army civilians: To support the nation, the Army and its Soldiers in times of war and peace, and improve the readiness of the force; to preserve continuity and provide essential support to the Army mission; and to work together with Soldiers as one Army, one team, one fight.
"The Army Civilian Corps is meant to unify the Army civilian service and embody the commitment of civilians who serve as an integral part of our Army team," then Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said in a joint memorandum to Army personnel in 2006 when the corps and creed were established.
Currently, the Army has the largest civilian workforce in the Department of Defense, with 540 careers spanning 31 career programs, including cybersecurity, engineering, medicine and administration. Of its four senior commands, the Army's largest civilian employer is the Army Materiel Command, with a workforce of 190,000 that is 96 percent civilians.
"From a demographics perspective, most military organizations are majority uniformed personnel. In our case, we are mostly civilian personnel, but still laser focused on the needs of Soldiers, civilians and families," said Max Wyche, the deputy chief of staff for Human Resources (G-1) for Army Materiel Command.
"Of our total civilian workforce, more than 92,000 are federal employees with the rest being contractors and local nationals. Our job is to make sure we've got the systems and personnel in place to maximize the capabilities of our workforce; and to make sure everyone has what they need to get their job done from a personnel and training perspective."
Getting the job done is right in line with the civilian creed.
"It's not just the fact that we are a primarily civilian organization. What's impressive is that we are a civilian organization focused on Soldier readiness," Wyche said. "The type of work we do and the diversity of the work that gets done within the command affects the entire Army.
"We are a command of logisticians. But we are also a command of acquisition professionals, engineers, manufacturing personnel, the list goes on. We have a huge function when it comes to readiness - from our contracting officers who purchase everything from helicopters to uniforms, to our blue collar workers who build and sustain weapon systems being used today and in the future. From a diversity of perspective of the work getting done, I think that's what makes the Army Materiel Command and its employees unique."
The legacy of civilian service is evident in Army Materiel Command's Hall of Fame, which includes such civilians as:
• Isabella Hansen, who went from clerk typist to the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, establishing innovative programs that saved millions and paved the way for better working relationships with contractors and industry.
• Edward Korte, former senior legal counsel recognized for his work in preventative law and proactive mission involvement.
• Dr. Stanley Kronenberg, a nuclear physicist whose 47-year career included the publication of nearly 100 papers on nuclear radiation, 39 nuclear-related patents, and a reputation as one of the leading authorities in nuclear radiation and detector technology.
• John Dugan, whose 35-year career began as a trainee and ended as a deputy commander, leading contracting, logistics, depot maintenance and manufacturing operations.
Among the most honored examples of civilian contributions to the Army mission are found among those employees who receive the Army's Presidential Rank Awards.
"This award is the most prestigious recognition afforded to civilian career executives and senior professionals. It represents the very best," said Dr. Mark Esper in 2018 when he served as Secretary of the Army. "There is a common theme among them. Each has made an extraordinary contribution to the readiness of our Army, to the readiness of our forces, to the readiness of our units."
The award emphasizes the critical role the civilian workforce has in ensuring the Army's readiness through implementing reform and building efficiencies that save time, money and manpower, Esper said, which is "absolutely essential if we are going to make the leap to the next generation and modernize our force."
Among the 2018 recipients were Army Materiel Command's Sue Goodyear, deputy chief of staff for resource management; Bill Marriott, Aviation and Missile Command deputy to the commander; and John Shipley, Aviation and Missile Command Special Operations Directorate director for special programs.
Shipley, who was also inducted into the Army Materiel Command Hall of Fame in 2019, first served in the Army before beginning his civilian career in 1960. Shipley's career includes serving as director of the Aviation and Missile Command's Special Operations since 1991, with responsibility for the development, acquisition, modernization, fielding and sustainment of the Army's Special Operations Forces fleet of uniquely configured aviation vehicles.
Army civilians do not just serve at installations or headquarters; for decades, they have voluntarily deployed alongside Soldiers, conducting critical supporting functions in harm's way. With the 17-year wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the dedication of Army civilians have led hundreds to voluntarily deploy. One of those civilians - Linda Villar - was the first Army Materiel Command civilian killed in Iraq in 2005 by a mortar attack, and is one of 15 Army civilians who have been killed during recent deployments.
"The best Army in the world needs the best possible support, and that's what we civilians do," said John Nerger, who began his career as an Army intern and closed it out 35 years later as AMC's senior civilian.