APG, Md. – The ‘guy stuff’ is initially what piqued Colonel Gregory K. Smith’s interest in joining the military as a young man: camping, field exercises, blowing stuff up and the opportunity to build comradery with his teammates. For Smith, it was a natural progression going from playing on his high school teams to standing beside his Army team. Smith never went to ROTC, but instead used the skills acquired from playing years of team sports, as well as being a percussionist in school bands, to apply himself in an Army career. He took those and brought them into his adult life.
As Smith evolved and matured, he soon learned the most important part of being a Soldier meant serving the nation, protecting our citizens, and fighting for their rights and values. 30 years later, Smith retires as military deputy of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Analysis Center, known as DAC.
Smith had always been inclined toward the military, and it didn’t hurt that he had a history of family members serving in the Armed Forces. He quickly decided that if he wanted to make the Army his career, why not try and go to the mecca of commissioning for the Army: The United States Military Academy, or USMA.
Smith was conditionally accepted into USMA and accepted an ROTC scholarship directly out of high school. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, he did not make it into the class of 1987. USMA told him that they would keep his file open. “At that point, it was almost a challenge. It was almost like, ‘You can’t do this,’” Smith said. “I thought, ‘Yes, I can! I can do this: watch me.’” Smith took the ROTC scholarship and spent a year at Tuskegee University. While there, Smith decided to pursue his original goal of getting a West Point commission and was accepted into the class of 1988.
The following summer, he tried out for the Army football team. When the upperclassman said he couldn’t do it, Smith kept saying, “Yes, I can.” He did not realize it then, but the “Yes, I can!” became a running theme throughout his adult life and Army career.
Later in the season, he broke his back and required two extensive surgeries. Getting commissioned became a concern: would he be physically able to complete a military career, and if commissioned, would he be able to accomplish all his career goals? Through arduous and enduring dedication, he was commissioned in 1992 in Field Artillery.
Smith served in operational and non-operational positions throughout the Armed Services. He spent thirteen months from June 2008 to July 2009 as the Chief Operations Research and Systems Analyst, or ORSA, for the Combined Joint Task Force Paladin while serving in Afghanistan and had additional ORSA assignments during his 30-year career. From HQDA and the Pentagon, to acquisition to RDT&E, Smith touched just about every part of the U.S. Army.
2019 pulled him to a new organization: the DEVCOM Analysis Center. DAC became official on Feb. 3, which happens to fall on Smith’s birthday. During his time at DAC, Smith helped strongly support the Innovation Program, provided military insights and perspectives for DAC products and discussions, and mentored rising military and civilian analysts.
Current DAC Director, Mr. Patrick O’Neill, SES, describes him as a key player in addressing obstacles in the organization. “To me, as exemplified by Greg – analysis – can help our U.S. Army understand what technology or materiel is working, what IS NOT working, and what WILL WORK in the future. Greg was always there to help, and he is extremely talented at ensuring we were answering the right question, rather than spending analysis on the wrong questions or challenges.”
A DAC value Smith saw in his own values was believing in yourself and bettering yourself. “Always bet on self,” Smith said, “Always bet on self. Address obstacles and setbacks for what they are; don’t dwell on them. Make a path to either go through or go around to get to your ultimate goal. Only YOU can define your level of success and what success means to YOU.” Reflecting on all his deployments and assignments, Smith realized this theme has been present throughout his life and career.
When asked the ‘what’s next after retirement’ question, Smith said that he will continue to support his family, his parents, his in-laws, continue to give back to the community and continue to be a stalwart of positivity. “Whatever happens next, it will be with the upmost support from my wife and daughter.”
“The ride has been fun,” Smith said. “It’s been enjoyable and worthwhile. I believe I made a difference, which is why I stayed around so long. I felt at each juncture, I was able to make a little difference or live a little bit better. That’s why I kept doing what I was doing.”