SDDC hiring program streamlines workforce talent acquisition

By Laura MarshallJune 13, 2023

Pictured from left to right, Sheila Zgonina, Human Resources Liaison, Zachary Middendorff, IT Specialist and Lance Davidson, Human Resources Specialist, attends a job fair at McKendree University located at Lebanon, IL.  Middendorff was the first...
Pictured from left to right, Sheila Zgonina, Human Resources Liaison, Zachary Middendorff, IT Specialist and Lance Davidson, Human Resources Specialist, attends a job fair at McKendree University located at Lebanon, IL. Middendorff was the first direct hire for the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in 2018 and continues to work for organization today. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

SCOTT AFB, IL -- During the Army National Hiring Days campaign, the focus is on recruiting Soldiers. However, a division in the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s Personnel and Manpower directorate actively recruits for civilians as well.

A 2022 study by Rand Corp, found there is a lack of awareness of Army civilian opportunities as well as misconceptions which made recruiting and retaining Army civilian talent difficult. The report’s recommendations are efforts the SDDC’s Talent Acquisition and Retention outreach team has been doing for six years.

To reduce lengthy onboarding process times for vacant positions, SDDC received its first Direct Hiring Authority for post-secondary schools in 2017. A Direct-Hire Authority is an appointing authority that the Office of Personnel Management can give to Federal agencies for filling vacancies when a critical hiring need or severe shortage of candidates exists.

Since then, the team has attended job fairs with local colleges and universities, building relationships and connections with potential candidates. To date, they have participated in 24 hiring outreach events including nation-wide events and virtual job fairs such as the Becoming Everything You Are event, better known as BEYA, and the first Federal Asian/Pacific American Council Career Fair in Maryland.

“We hired six new employees from each of the very successful hiring events at McKendree University in May 2018 and May 2019,” said Lance Davidson, Human Resources Specialist. “BEYA 2023 is on track to be our most successful hiring event ever, with the possibility of hiring eight new employees.”

The team’s efforts fall in line with the Army’s key initiatives in the Army People Strategy to streamline hiring processes to attract, recruit and hire top civilian talent. By using DHAs, the team has onboarded new employees in half the time as competitive hires.

“Feedback from supervisors on the quality of the DHA hires has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Davidson. “Our recent grad hires are highly motivated and have brought a great deal of positive energy, technical skills, and motivation to the workplace.”

The personnel team helps the new hires find positions and careers they can excel at within the command. That was the case for Nicole Cayson, a traffic management specialist in SDDC’s G3 Seaport Contract Management Branch.

“Federal employment is something I had always considered,” she said. “While I was an undergrad at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, I sought out internships on base but unfortunately, could not find anything that aligned with my degree program. After graduating, I applied for numerous positions at Scott Air Force Base, but I quickly learned that it can be difficult to get hired on.

“I'm so grateful for SDDC's recent grad program,” continued Cayson. “It is such a great way for recent grads to get their foot in the door.”

The Rand report also found that graduates were not aware of the benefits of Army civilian positions.

Grad-hire and manpower analyst, Matthew Wright, said he appreciated the opportunity because he grew up seeing the quality of life having an Army job can bring.

“Both my parents worked for the federal government, so I always considered the possibility,” Wright said. “I remember when growing up, my parents had a great work-life balance so much so that my dad worked full time and still had plenty of time to coach my little league baseball team for years. SDDC has shown me the same great benefits in my short time here.”

The outreach team also helps to recruit for open positions across the command using multiple methods and is always willing to assist anyone interested in applying for positions. For example, they recently partnered with the Army Logistics Career Field’s Army Fellows Program, a major initiative to hire more logistics specialists and place them in the command’s subordinate brigades and battalions. Since 2019, SDDC hired and placed 20 fellows within the organization.

The Army’s People Strategy states “The Army will acquire, develop, employ, and retain the diversity of Soldier and Civilian talent needed to achieve Army readiness.” With SDDC’s human resources efforts, they bring and build a deep and talented bench of future leaders for the command.

“People are the Army’s number one priority, and at SDDC, they are considered the command’s strategic advantage,” said Davidson. “Leveraging and expanding hiring programs that attract and retain diverse talent will allow the command to effectively meet its mission requirements now and into the future.”

The link for the Rand Study report can be found at