Answering the call and swearing a solemn oath to defend your country, your family, your way of life, is nothing short of exemplary character, tremendous fortitude, and an unquenchable desire to improve the lives of others through selfless service and sacrifice. On Veterans Day, as we strike up the band, march in parades, hold ceremonies and raise our glasses to honor those who answered the call, take a moment to reflect on a unique group of veterans “still in the fight” developing advanced modern warfare systems to ensure present and future Soldiers operating on the tactical edge of technology, win.
Veterans are diverse professionals who have unique skills and experiences, making them invaluable contributors to any organization or community. Here at Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), four of them talk about their military experiences, their occupational specialties, how they serve Army Soldiers, and Veterans Day.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Product Manager for Electronic Warfare Integration (PdM EWI) Elizabeth Bledsoe, earned two military occupational specialties during her military career working for both the Army Signal and Acquisition Corps.
“The first half of my career I was a signal officer, and then I chose to go to the Acquisition Corps. It was similar to a branch transfer,” she said. “I was an acquisition officer involved in project and product management.”
Bledsoe served with the 11th Signal Brigade at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where she deployed to Somalia and Haiti, the 7th Signal Brigade in Germany, and the Joint Program Executive Office Joint Tactical Radio System. She also served with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Army Human Resources Command.
At PdM EWI, Bledsoe works with a capability that provides commanders the ability to plan, model and simulate electronic warfare effects, and gain situational awareness via electronic visualizations created with the application of sensor data. And while this work differs from work she performed on active duty, meeting the needs of customers is, for her, familiar territory.
“On active duty, I wasn’t quite a product manager, but I did do a lot of the same type of work, focused on providing a product on a specified schedule with a specified functionality,” she said. Currently, “I am primarily working on a software system that is hosted on a commercial laptop, so now I am much less hardware focused and much more software focused. But being able to provide that capability to the operator is very similar.”
Bledsoe is dedicated and committed to serving others and appreciates having a day to honor her service and that of her fellow veterans.
“I think [Veterans Day] is a good day to basically feel grateful for those veterans who were discharged before me and are currently in the workforce,” she said. “I certainly appreciate [them] and I still tend to go out of my way to support companies and events that supply funding for veterans or support them in some way. I was an Army brat, then I joined the Army, and now I’m still working for the Army, so the Army, for all intents and purposes, is my family.”
“Veterans Day to me is one of those things where we honor the forefathers, the people that came before us, remembering their sacrifices and things they’ve done that have made our lives better,” she continued. “That’s why I do what I do, the job I’m doing, because I’m still contributing in some way, using the talents that I have.”
Retired Army First Sergeant and PEO IEW&S Operations Chief Noel Osborne, held two military occupational specialties during his 20 years and nine months on active duty, enlisting first, as a cannon crew member before transitioning to recruiter.
As a recruiter, he strategically marketed joining America’s largest fighting force to the public by encouraging anyone who might be thinking about joining to see the Army as a top choice in planning for the future.
“Objectively, you’re selling a lifestyle, an opportunity, job security, safety, and unlimited medical care,” he said. “So, it’s an abundance of things that you are selling to meet the dominant buying motive of that individual interested in our organization.”
Packaging an Army enlistment as a viable life choice alleviates some of the challenges in getting prospective recruits to sign on the dotted line.
“It makes my job that much easier because you are affecting a way of life,” he said. “You are shaping an individual’s future, so that makes a big difference.”
Osborne retired in early 2006, and remained at his post working as a civil servant with the 1st Recruiting Brigade at Fort Meade, Md.
As he oversees all the organizational efforts at PEO IEW&S headquarters, Osborne continues to have a direct impact on the lives of Army Soldiers.
“I was providing strength as a recruiter by putting individuals in a foxhole,” he said. “And now I am defending those individuals in the foxhole by providing support and service to the warfighter.”
Osborne described Veterans Day as an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be part of a special group of people who continue to be of service to others all year round.
“Veteran’s Day is great. I want to thank all the veterans that served out there. I want them to know that one day out of the year doesn’t define who they are, they are veterans every day of the year, and there’s only a limited number of us,” he said.
“Being a veteran, I have personal attachment to every Soldier that’s out there, the Soldiers that are fortunate enough to write that check, and in the memo of the check it says, ‘even if it means my life, I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to defend the constitution of this great nation,” he said. “That speaks volumes to who they are as individuals. They stand far above their contemporaries because it takes pride and commitment toward professional excellence. Those are the individuals who continue to drive on for the sake of the mission and the country as a whole.”
United States Army veteran and Product Director for Mounted Systems (PdD MS) under Project Manager Intelligence Systems and Analytics (PM IS&A), Victoria Baker is responsible for the logistics, software, hardware, testing, fielding and accreditation upgrades for five systems, three of which are mounted on the S-788 shelter found on the back of a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or “Humvee”. These systems are equipped with computers, radios, sensor downlinks, data storage, power sources, and can connect to laptops allowing for the collection and analyzing of data to obtain a clear picture of the battlespace.
Baker served as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Army and worked in signals for the 2nd Armored Division, Fort Hood, Tx., the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Md., and the 326th Army Security Agency (now the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM)) in Germany.
Baker’s work involved assisting with software testing, operating capabilities, and manpower studies of a new intelligence system (All-Source Analysis System). Her contributions, she said, furthered the ability of the Program Manager and the vendor to build out the new system over a shorter, two-year period.
Following her discharge, Baker continued to work in signals supplying Soldiers with the systems they need to accomplish their missions.
“The thing most important to me as a contractor, was that I was involved in the operational capability of this system,” she said. “It mattered to me that the system reflected the Soldier’s requirements. We have a lot of operational situations, [but] does that Soldier have what he or she needs to address them.”
As the PdD MS, Baker continues to deliver systems and provide direct support to Soldiers in the field, and her military experience keeps their needs at the center of her work.
“It matters to have been a Soldier and to work with other Soldiers,” she said. “I know what we’re doing gives them the intelligence tools, the intelligence capabilities they need in order to do their jobs to help keep us safe. I am a civilian now, but I remember what it’s like to be a Soldier. If we look out for them, we can get them the best gear.”
In her take on Veterans Day, Baker emphasized the spirit of selfless service and sacrifice.
“What Veterans Day means to me is a day when, regardless of who you are or what you believe, all veterans past and present are honored for their duty and their sacrifices. So, many veterans have come before us, and they’ve made the sacrifice that many are unable or unwilling to make. Veterans Day honors these men and women, but it also honors and helps us to remember today’s veterans who sacrificed themselves and their families to keep us free. Today’s veterans represent the best of America, and they strive to keep freedom alive, whenever and wherever we can help them to do so.”
Steven Isaacs, a United States Marine Corps veteran and IT contractor at Project Director Sensors, Aerial Intelligence (PD SAI), dedicated four years of his life to military service. He graduated boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and earned the 3051 Military Occupational Specialty (Inventory Management Specialist) at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Ga. After spending one year at Camp Kinzer, Okinawa, Japan, he returned stateside to Camp Lejeune, N.C. He finished his service as a Corporal in the Marines. He earned a B.S. in Electronic Engineering Technology from DeVry University in Columbus, Ohio.
Isaacs began his career at PEO IEW&S about 14 years ago prior to the relocation of the organization’s headquarters from Fort Monmouth, N.J. to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. (APG).
“I started working with robotic unmanned systems at Fort Monmouth before we were ‘BRACked’ (Base Realignment and Closure) to APG in 2008,” he said. “After that, I got to know more and more people, and then I got pulled over to work with [what is now PD SAI] as the only IT person.”
As a primary go-to for all things IT in his section, Isaacs approaches his job by observing industry trends and benchmark best practices in resolving and maintaining computer-based information systems for his customers.
“One of the things I like to go after a lot is working toward the future instead of working toward the present,” he said. “For example, I just purchased a bunch of new computers with newer chipsets, but in the next couple months I will have to do it again. It is a constant revolving door, but one of the things I’m trying to do is stay ahead of that.”
Early in his career, Isaacs took the advice of a colonel who recommend that he find computer products that would solve problems rather than employing methods that would only patch things up temporarily.
“He instilled that in me and got me to the point where I am looking forward in solving problems,” he said.
Isaacs embraces the PEO IEW&S mission and credits his time in the Marines for his strong work ethic in serving the needs of the Army.
“There is this aspect to work that drives the individual person when something needs to get done,” he said. “A drive like there is something or someone higher than me, a drive like being in the military. It’s kind of like esprit de corps in the Marines.”
Veterans Day is a significant occasion for all veterans regardless of branch, specialty, conflict, and generation. Whether it is a moment of silence, celebration, or reflection, this national observance resonates deeply with all who served. Cpl. Isaacs is no exception.
“I have deep respect for Veterans Day, my dad was in the Marines, and he served in Vietnam, but I have always had this thing about Veterans Day,” he said. “I would always to go to the parades, but it is more than that, it is about honoring those who there before me and those who will be there after me, because they did a lot.”
“My dad had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but he dealt with it himself. He didn’t go get help, he managed it by himself,” Isaacs recalled. “I remember him getting up in the middle of the night smoking a cigarette, that’s how he would deal with it.”
To honor his father’s legacy, Isaacs reached out to his Marine Corps family and requested a special military detail. Three Marines presented a flag and conducted a small ceremony honoring a fellow, fallen comrade.
“There are not too many sons and fathers who can call each ‘brother’,” he said noting the time-honored camaraderie and special kinship that runs deep throughout the Marine Corps.
Happy Veterans Day.