Arlington, Virginia – The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has brought the United States of America to an almost complete standstill. Numerous businesses from restaurants, to hotels, cruise ships and airlines have suspended operations or laid off employees as America quarantines in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
One program that hasn’t halted operations is the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army (IPPS-A). Through telework, the program finished its implementation of the system to the Army National Guard, and is maintaining its sustainment efforts for National Guard states already live in IPPS-A. The IPPS-A Release 3 team is also continuing its efforts to prepare the system for its release to the Army’s Reserve and Active components.
“I’m impressed by this team’s dedication to getting this mission done, no matter what the obstacle,” said Col. Gregory S. Johnson, IPPS-A Functional Management Division lead. “It’s my job to ensure we are safeguarding this team as best as possible and teleworking allows us to do this.”
The IPPS-A program accomplished its first major task on March 24 when Fielding Group 10, which consisted of the final 11 National Guard states went live in the system.
The program’s Training and Deployment team is the primary group to help Guard states and territories transition from SIDPERS, the Legacy HR system to IPPS-A. Members of the T&D team travel to each state and work side-by-side with Soldiers to ensure the transition is completed successfully.
The face-to-face assistance was restricted as the country was ordered to practice social distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19. For fielding group 10, states received remote ‘over-the-shoulder’ support after the system went live.
“The key part to the telework process for us was identifying who needed to be out in the field and who didn’t,” said Ricky Butler, IPPS-A Training & Deployment team, lead. “Once we figured out that part of the process, we just needed to make sure each individual’s equipment had access to the VPN so they could send and receive emails, and any other product we needed from them.”
The Release 2 sustainment team has continued its efforts to support the National Guard. The sustainment team conducted online mobilization training for the Puerto Rico Army National Guard with assistance from the Tennessee Army Guard on March 25, and continues to conduct weekly webinars for the National Guard covering topics from unit level CRM management to contract extensions, and semi-centralized and centralized promotions.
“Just because we are dealing with adverse circumstances doesn’t mean the mission stops,” said Maj. Lee Baklarz, Release 2 Sustainment Lead. “Our mission is to not only field IPPS-A to the National Guard, but ensure they receive the training and support they need to ensure a successful transition.”
The Release 3 build team hasn’t slacked in their responsibilities, either. Team members have continued bringing together stakeholders and system integrators to ensure R3 fields on schedule.
The build team also confirmed for FORSCOM IPPS-A will capture PERSTEMPO and Dwell Time updates for CONUS locations as long as the temporary assignment is completed. FORSCOM worked with ARNORTH to ensure Soldiers on the Southwest Border Mission received PERSTEMPO credit and an update in Dwell for their efforts.
“I’m extremely proud of the work the build team has accomplished these last few weeks,” said Maj. Brian Hollandsworth, IPPS-A Release 3, Design and Development Lead. “Although these are unprecedented times, the R3 build team continues to remain in the fight, showing unmatched resolve to get R3 fielded for Soldiers and their Families.”
Along with continuing to carry out their missions, teams have noticed a positive change brought on by teleworking.
Meetings have become more efficient due to having to conduct each one via conference call. Individuals are having to streamline the focus of their meetings to ensure the time set aside for the discussion is used resourcefully.
“Individuals have had to learn how to get around not having non-verbal cues to push along a conversation,” said Hollandsworth. “When you’re having a remote conversation, you have to frame it like a lesson plan and say ‘ok, I want to get to this point. If the discussion goes in this angle, I need to be able to steer it back.’”
The effort the program is putting in to continue the mission of bringing IPPS-A to the Army under unusual circumstances is a source of pride for Johnson.
“When a group of people embraces adversity to complete a mission like IPPS-A, you can’t help but be proud,” said Johnson. “IPPS-A is very important to the future of the Army, so whether it’s the green suitors on the team or our civilian staff, it means a lot for everyone to show their dedication to this mission.”