CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The director of U.S. Army Installation Management Command–Pacific presented a career roadmap Tuesday aimed at helping civilians climb the ladder during a town hall meeting here.
Craig L. Deatrick said training and experience are both vital to developing the workforce in the Army as he addressed a crowd of about 100 entry- and mid-level U.S. and Japanese civilians at the Camp Zama Community Club.
Deatrick and Command Sgt. Maj. Jason R. Copeland, senior enlisted leader for IMCOM-Pacific, held the closed-door meeting, which leadership here did not attend to promote an open dialogue, as part of their weeklong tour of Army installations in Japan.
Touting the Army’s top priority of placing people first, Deatrick discussed several self-development programs available to Army civilians and Japanese local nationals.
The Civilian Education System, or CES, offers a foundation course for all new civilians to orient them on how to become an effective leader in the Army, he said.
There are also CES courses designed to be completed at a certain grade, or equivalent position if a Japanese national, to further their knowledge and leadership skills. For instance, there is a basic course available for those GS-01 through GS-09, an intermediate course for GS-11 and 12, and an advanced course for GS-13 through GS-15.
“These can help form a roadmap if anyone in the room has aspirations to take on positions of greater authority or responsibility,” he said.
Deatrick advised audience members to search the Army Civilian Training Education and Development System for the appropriate career path and additional training they can take in their specific career program.
He said he understood that some civilians who are not native English speakers may be hesitant at pursuing a course, which can require written assignments and presentations.
English is also not his spouse’s first language, he said. While she had similar reservations about attending her first CES course, she still decided to go and was able to graduate.
“I would encourage you to swallow your fear and go to the courses,” he said. “As long as you try at the course, they will not fail you out of the course. They will do every single thing they can to help you graduate.”
Civilians with prior military service can also benefit from the courses. When Deatrick was a young officer, for instance, he said there was no such thing as the “military decision-making process,” which is now widely used in offices across the Army.
Once he became an Army civilian, he said he had to learn it as well as other topics.
“Just because you knew it 10 or 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean you know it now because stuff changes,” he said. “And we have to stay with the times.”
Gaining the experience
The other half that is needed to rise in the civilian ranks is a breadth of experience, Deatrick said.
Throughout his career, the senior executive service officer said he had to move several times in order to take advantage of career-broadening opportunities in the Army.
“If you are ambitious, it will require you to move,” he said.
He told the civilians in attendance that it would be easier for them to seek experience in another career field now, rather than years later when they are at a higher level.
The cross-functional mindset earned by tackling roles outside their comfort zone can provide civilians a more diverse background and an understanding of a new vocabulary spoken in a career field different from their original one, he said.
Some experiential learning opportunities that allow civilians to work in a different environment include the Senior Enterprise Talent Management and ETM programs, which are available for those GS-12 or equivalent and up.
As a Soldier, Copeland said his array of leadership training has also prepared him to handle greater responsibility. He announced he will tackle his next challenge as the senior enlisted leader of IMCOM in the coming months.
“Each of my positions have taught me more and more what it is I need to do to not only assist all of those Soldiers, but to also assist you as our civilian employees,” Copeland said.
The sergeant major said civilians who enroll in leadership courses can learn how the Army operates and how to better communicate with their Soldier counterparts.
“Please take advantage of these opportunities, because we want to truly keep you on the team,” Copeland said. “You are a value to us and [training courses only make] you better with time.”
Deatrick said that a mentor should also be sought to help guide someone along their career path.
While he admits it can be an awkward request, he suggests employees to personally ask a leader that they admire if they would be willing to provide them mentorship. This is especially key when questions arise on what assignment or course they should take next, he said.
“If you have a mentor, or someone you trust that you are not competing with, then that is a great starting point,” Deatrick said.
He said those with aspirations of becoming an SES officer should be prepared to work long hours and weekends without any compensatory time.
But the extra work can be worthwhile if they really want to make a difference that helps the Army’s mission and its people.
“If you’re looking to make a positive impact on your organization, I would encourage you to try to pursue SES,” he said. “If you’re interested in status, a parking spot and more pay, don’t bother pursuing SES. Go find a job in the private sector.”
(Editor’s note: Those interested in attending a course or talent management program can speak with their human resources office to see if they are eligible.)