Although a young Mrs. Tara Bell saw herself pursuing a career in medicine or law, a chance meeting at a job fair redirected her professional path toward Army logistics.
Nearly 20 years later, the seasoned logistician brings a passion to the business she may have otherwise channeled toward healing patients or advocating for clients. As a U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) civilian professional, Bell is serving as the acting Director and Assistant Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space, Logistics at Program Executive Office - Missiles and Space.
“We do our job so the warfighter can focus on the task at hand,” Bell said. “Beyond ensuring the right parts in the right place at the right time – we account for the tools, spares, resources, technical manuals and facilities to support our weapons systems.”
With a bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University fresh in hand in 2000, Bell wanted to advance her education, without paying the high cost of tuition.
“I stumbled on a job fair booth for the Army Materiel Command Fellows Program. I had no experience with the Army, no relatives who served in the Army – I knew nothing about it,” she said. “With the support of my family and most importantly God, I took a leap of faith. It wasn’t the plan I had for myself, but I have no regrets.”
The former AMC Fellows Program was aimed at building a multifunctional, mobile cadre of qualified professionals, the majority of whom continue to work within the enterprise. Bell’s indoctrination began at Red River Army Depot where she and others completed an assignment at the AMC Logistics Leadership Center and Texas A&M University – Texarkana, where each earned a master’s degree in business. The fiver-year fellows program also led her to AMCOM, where she first worked as an item manager.
When she saw the opportunity to pursue a career with the Army Materiel Command, Bell’s husband, Quincey, her biggest cheerleader/advocate, encouraged her to apply, despite her own hesitation. Having now served in various leadership positions, she understands that while she has successfully motivated others, she often underestimates herself. Because of this, Bell is now making a conscious effort to believe in her talents, gifts and intellect. She is also embracing God’s plan for her career by focusing on a “cause” bigger than herself by helping others excel whether in the civilian workplace or on the battlefield.
Complacency and fear almost caused Bell to miss out on her calling to become a logistician. “I was a young mother of one, now two sons (Quincey Jr. /Jordan) who was afraid of the unknown/change,” she recalled. During the Fellows Program, she achieved the chance to work with Lockheed Martin in Orlando for a year. Since then, her career path has her pushing beyond her comfort zone at every step.
Gaining that industry perspective, she said, was important then and continues to frame her outlook today.
“I gained the understanding that the original equipment manufacturer is just as motivated as the Army to support Soldiers,” she said.
In her current role, she leads nearly 400 AMCOM logistics professionals who are “matrixed” to PEO Missiles and Space. Their charge is to support cradle-to-grave sustainment, or full lifecycle management of Army tactical and air defense missile and selected space programs.
From her strategic level, Bell considers that sustainment is often a lost art, or at best, an afterthought. Among the discussions of cost, schedule and performance to design, production and fielding of systems, Bell continues to watch the progression logisticians have made to bring maintenance and sustainment considerations to the table early in the life cycle process.
“When it comes to addressing sustainment related requirements, we, as logisticians, not only want a seat at the table, but it’s equally important we have a voice - and a voice that is heard,” Bell said.
Bell noted sustainment costs make up the majority of a systems price tag, particularly considering the long life of many Army systems.
Beyond having a voice, Bell said logisticians must continue to adapt to changing times.
“We must constantly challenge ourselves and our sustainment processes to meet warfighter’s readiness requirements” she said. “That’s why we have done so well throughout the COVID-19 situation. I am amazed and inspired to see how we rise to the occasion, because that’s what we do as logisticians– we solve the challenges we encounter.”
Although Bell considers herself relatively new in her current role, she said she is appreciative of the leadership support as she continues to grow in her career and chart her course for the future. She continues to tap her own mentors while she serves as one to others.
“I’m humbled by the support and mentorship I have received over the years by both formal and informal mentors. Beyond the values that were instilled in me from a young age, I have found empathy and understanding,” she said. “It fuels me to give back and help build the bench for the future.”
Her leadership skills and passion for her profession have not gone unnoticed by senior leaders. AMCOM Commander Maj. Gen. Todd Royar said Bell is the kind of leader who will make important contributions to AMCOM and the Army through modernization efforts.