REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – Several U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command leaders served as mentors during the virtual 2021 Black Engineer of the Year Awards Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Global Competitiveness Conference, Feb. 11-13.
James Johnson, USASMDC deputy to the commander, said leadership mentoring at events like this is important for students to see that USASMDC is committed to recruiting the best and brightest talent from all across the country, all walks of life, all colors, ethnicities and genders onto its team.
“We want to inspire students in high school and college to major in STEM fields because we need the best STEM talent in our command,” Johnson said. “We have found through trial and error that you can’t wait until career day to begin a relationship with a prospective student. We have found that we need to start building relationships with students earlier in their college career and even during high school.
“By building these relationships early, we can expose the students to the exciting work we do and even help shape some of the high school and college coursework they pursue,” Johnson added. “By building and sustaining these relationships, we will be more successful in bringing on the best and brightest STEM talent to work for the military or as civilians.”
Johnson said USASMDC enjoys a tremendous reputation for doing exciting work related to hypersonic, high energy lasers, satellites and other technologies with military relevance that all require the best talent to bring to fruition but there are many other government, academic and commercial enterprises competing for the same talent.
Recently, USASMDC’s Technical Center has been designated as a science and technology reinvention laboratory. Johnson said this designation gives the command more authority to attract, hire and retain top STEM talent and that direct hire authorities increase the command’s hiring flexibility.
The SMDC Underserved Community Cybersecurity and Engineering Education Development program connects the command with under-represented college and high school students to improve diversity in the command’s STEM pipeline. Johnson said the command uses multiple mechanisms to bring STEM talent on board and then give those young engineers plenty of exciting hands-on work to do. He added that USASMDC will help them continue to professionally develop through advanced education and training.
“In addition to being exciting, young engineers get a strong sense of purpose working at SMDC since their contribution directly affects Soldiers in the space and missile defense domains,” Johnson said. “A young engineer working at SMDC will immediately feel a sense of family where their entire management chain as well as their peers want to help them succeed and grow.
“As leaders, we are trying to set SMDC up to continue to be relevant and be a trailblazer in developing and operating some of the most sophisticated military equipment used for space and missile defense,”
Johnson added. “However, we know that our current and future success is not because of having the best equipment but instead having the best people. This BEYA STEM mentoring event is one of many initiatives we have to attract, hire, retain and develop a world-class team of STEM professionals.”
Other USASMDC senior leaders mentoring during the event were Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general, USASMDC; Richard P. De Fatta, director, Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence; Thomas E. Webber, director, Technical Center; and Tse Horng “Richard” Yu, director, Capability Development Integration Directorate.
USASMDC’s Equal Employment Opportunity director said senior leader participation as mentors at the event sends a clear message of the command’s commitment to BEYA STEM’s mission.
“BEYA STEM is important to improve brand awareness through engagements with affinity groups,” said Jennifer S. Thompson, EEO director. “The Army will increase diversity in accessions and hiring by building relationships and delivering career options with desirable, competitive benefits. I appreciate the enthusiasm of our senior leader turnout. The participation was phenomenal and I hope reciprocal to the mentors as it was to the mentees.”
The conference served as an opportunity for BEYA STEM to engage stakeholders, historically black colleges and universities presidents and deans; and civilian and military leaders.