Editor’s note: The Army’s People Strategy focuses on the entirety of human performance, developing leadership and optimizing performance for all components of Army readiness. Faces of TRADOC supports the Army's People Line of Effort by highlighting exceptional TRADOC team members through their stories. The campaign highlights the Army’s greatest asset, our people.
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – Only a week after graduating from high school, Antonio Johnson joined the U.S. Army. Now, 29 years later, he’s continuing his dedication to ensure Soldiers are taken care of as the Training and Doctrine Command program manager of the Partnership for Youth.
“PaYs is a strategic initiative between the U.S. Army and a cross-section of businesses, corporations, and public sector agencies - all in an effort to help Soldiers’ find employment when they get out of the Army,” Johnson explained. “The uncertainty that comes with transitioning out of the Army is what PaYS seeks to help alleviate. The job market can be a difficult terrain to navigate and for Soldiers who have spent years of their life in the Army, the stark contrast can cause anxiety.”
As a veteran himself, Johnson understands why transitioning out of the Army can be stressful.
When he first joined the military, he was looking for a stable way to provide for his family. His own father had been a Soldier and his presence in Johnson’s life made a positive difference in his character. He knew how important it was for a family to have a positive role models and joining the Army allowed him to be that for his kids. However, working for the Army became about more than just providing for his family, it turned into a passion to lead and serve others. Johnson served in the Army for 22 years before transitioning to PaYS.
“I tell people all the time, if you haven’t transitioned out of the Army, you really don’t know what it’s like,” he said. “It can be scary because that’s a lot to walk away from when you’re not 100 percent sure what’s on the other side of the door.”
Reducing uncertainty is what makes Johnson excited to work for PaYS. He spent his time in the Army taking care of Soldiers, especially as a recruiter, as he made sure to find the right fit for the men and women who came into his office. Now as a government civilian, he still has the chance to help Soldiers, this time as they transition into the outside world like he did.
Johnson became the program manager of PaYS in 2020, after working with the program for five years. When the opportunity came up, Johnson decided to bet on himself and go for the role.
“In my mind I was thinking, ‘no one knows this program better than me,’” he said.
His arrival at TRADOC in 2020 was hindered as Covid-19 had many offices teleworking. Johnson’s goal was to increase awareness about PaYS and get people talking about it, but this was difficult as social distancing set in. His ability to make connections and put a face to the program was stunted but that didn’t stop his mission. Despite the challenges, the program was able to grow and in the last year Johnson said he has been really proud of the work PaYS has done.
After spending years directly working to make partnerships between the Army and different organizations, Johnson now feels his purpose is to change the perception of the program and increase awareness.
The more people who know the about the program the more successful it can be in reaching those Soldiers who need it, he explained.
Johnson is proud of what he and his team have accomplished since he came to TRADOC, with senior leader involvement being at the top of the list.
In the last six months of 2021, Gen. Paul E. Funk, II, TRADOC commanding general, officiated three ceremonies and in the first few months of 2022, Funk and Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais, TRADOC deputy commanding general, are set to officiate another three ceremonies.
“Probably one of the biggest accomplishments so far is getting Gen. Funk and Gen. Gervais involved in our ceremonies. That’s huge, to have a generals sitting at the table and giving remarks about this program,” he said. “Right now, my focus is on continuing to transform PaYS into a premier program for all transitioning Soldiers.”
Why do you serve?
I did 22 years in the Army on active duty. I joined when I was 18 and retired when I was 39, turning 40. The last 15 years of my career, I put everything I had into bringing young men and women into the Army as part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. From being a recruiter, to managing recruiting stations and leading Army recruiters, I think the biggest success in that is just being able to represent the Army and help young men and women make a decision at a very vital point in their lives. After doing that for 15 years and making sure that Soldiers are taken care of on the front end, I retired. I’m a civilian, the program manager of PaYS, and now I have the opportunity to make sure Soldiers are taken care of on the backend.
Why do you continue to serve?
I serve because I enjoyed leading Soldiers throughout my career. Now, being the program manager for PaYS and having an effect on Soldiers transitioning out - that’s why I continue to serve and I love it.
What’s your personal mission statement?
My mission statement as an individual is providing leadership through teaching, coaching, and mentoring. Taking care of Soldiers and just being a positive example for anyone to follow.
How have you seen yourself grow and develop while working at TRADOC?
I’m continuously establishing new initiatives and new strategies. Knowing how to get them accomplished through the structures of this organization is probably one of the biggest ways that I’ve grown.
The other one is just taking a step back and managing the program. I knew I had a vision for where I wanted to take this program and I realized that I had to focus more on communicating to the team versus putting my hands in the work. I couldn’t get any of this done without the work they do.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of working at TRADOC?
It’s an excellent organization. My daughter is here so I would definitely recommend it to anyone. There’s great support from the very top, i.e. Gen. Funk, all the way down to the lowest level, my supervisor, my leadership, and the Accessions directorate. Everyone’s great, always willing to help, teach, train, and everybody needs that.