REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (May 9, 2022) – It was quite the unexpected Christmas present for Ross Armstrong, Marsha Berry and Daniel Tidwell.
A “complete surprise” was how they described the personal email in December 2021 from U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Commanding General Maj. Gen. Miles Brown, informing them that they had been selected as members of the inaugural class of DEVCOM’s Distinguished Leadership Program.
The DEVCOM DLP is a year-long initiative that focuses on executive forums and strategic partnership engagements to foster innovative ideas aimed at solving enterprise problems. Armstrong, Berry and Tidwell join 22 other scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts chosen for their demonstrated excellence both as leaders and as teammates, but also for their potential to drive change. After four months of virtual bi-weekly meetings with DEVCOM Deputy to the Commanding General John Willison, they finally met with their counterparts from the other DEVCOM centers in April and were recognized in a ceremony held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
It can be a daunting job to represent a 12,000 person workforce at that level, but the three were up to the task of sharing their experiences as DEVCOM AvMC leaders.
“How do we develop leaders?” said Tidwell, chief of Systems Design and Integration Division for the Technology Development Directorate. “How do we train our current leaders, but also future leaders? Because a senior leader – Senior Executive Service and above – needs very different training than a first line supervisor.”
“They are identifying strengths of leaders and putting leaders where DEVCOM needs them,” added Berry, branch chief of the Virtual Systems Branch for the Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering & Integration Directorate. “Ultimately they are working on identifying what leadership competencies our leaders need at what level and how to assess them to determine where they fit – where we need to grow them and where we need to put our resources as far as training people in certain areas of competency.”
After meeting virtually, all three were energized by their time at West Point – a first time visiting the military academy for Armstrong and Tidwell. They participated in DEVCOM’s Board of Director meeting held at the school, but all three agreed that the highlight of the trip was Projects Day – the traditional day that cadets present their capstone projects for the school year.
“It was awe-inspiring,” Armstrong, chief of the Propulsion Division for the Systems Readiness Directorate, shared. “Both the beauty of West Point but also the military and engineering rigor. The projects they presented were things we don’t routinely see in graduate-level programs and yet these were undergraduate cadets who aren’t just going to college, they are learning everything they need to know to be military leaders as well.”
While the three have prioritized building professional relationships with other center DLP representatives, an added benefit has been the professional relationship and friendship that they have built among each other – a collaboration across directorates that might not normally happen.
“Just finding synergies and putting people together - wow, we have missed that with COVID,” Tidwell said. “I think this is a great opportunity for us to reinvigorate our attempt at building relationships.”
It is obvious that in addition to professional respect, Armstrong, Berry and Tidwell genuinely like each other and share a lot of laughs and camaraderie. They all agreed that when their time in the program is over, they fully expect to still reach out to each other for advice, support or to just touch base.
“The relationships will not end in December,” Tidwell said.
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.