In 1989, David Hargett graduated from the University of Alabama at Huntsville and accepted an engineering position with the U.S. Army Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Over the years, Hargett stayed with the organization. He held various positions and watched USATA grow, shrink and reorganize multiple times. Each of those positions challenged him and brought him out of his comfort zone, ultimately fitting together like pieces of an elaborate puzzle that led to Hargett being selected as the organization’s director earlier this year.
“I started in the Army Primary Standards Lab Temperature Lab,” he said. “I was 22 years old, and there was a lot of old equipment. One of the other engineers there told me during those first few months, ‘You’re not going to get anything if you don’t ask.’”
That advice stuck with him and ask he did. Within four years, Hargett replaced and updated all of the Temperature Lab equipment.
USATA certifies the accuracy of test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment and supports every weapons system used throughout the Army, not just aviation and missile assets, even though it is a subordinate element of the Aviation and Missile Command.
Hargett worked in the Army Primary Standards Lab for the next 12 years before moving to the Business Management Office, where he expanded his knowledge base of USATA operations.
“I learned all about the [Program Objective Memorandum] process,” he said. “However, as an engineer, I was a fish out of water. I’m very technically oriented; learning the entire budget process for our organization gave me a really good perspective of funding and a foundation for understanding business operations.”
After two years in the Business Management Office, Hargett became USATA’s chief engineer for a few years before being selected for the Senior Service College Fellowship 2010 cohort — a 10-month experience he describes as unmatched and extremely beneficial.
“I will tell you, it was a lot of work, but the executive leadership you gain from that experience is phenomenal,” he said.
In 2016, Hargett became the director of the USATA Enterprise Support Directorate. The ESD is composed of engineers and publication writers who provide field support for the 42 USATA labs worldwide.
He said, “All of the calibration procedures for each piece of TMDE are written here at Redstone Arsenal and vetted by the engineers in enterprise support. This team also provides the Army with quality assurance inspections for calibration of TMDE. We audit the area TMDE support teams, the National Guard Combined Support Maintenance Shop teams and the USATA civilian calibration teams to ensure they are in compliance with what is needed for traceability of all calibration measurements we make in the Army.”
Hargett remained in that position for six years until he became the acting director of USATA in September 2022. During his time as the acting director, he had to delicately balance guiding and leading the team without making too many changes.
When it was time to formally interview for the position, he told the AMCOM Deputy to the Commanding General Don Nitti that he was grateful for the opportunity to lead the organization, and while he wanted the job, he ultimately wanted what was best for USATA as a whole.
“I told Mr. Nitti, whatever happens as far as this particular job, I wanted it to be somebody that cared about the people and someone who wanted the best for USATA and the people in this organization.”
Hargett became the official USATA director in May and said he looks forward to making positive changes. He also said his 34 years with the organization taught him a few things, namely that reorganization is not always the answer.
“When I came into this position, the one thing I knew we were not going to do immediately was to have a reorganization. We recently had two back-to-back, and it was non-stop. I told everyone we are not going to do anything that doesn’t add value. We are going to sit down and determine how we want to move forward and what is best for the future of this organization and its people.”
He said that does not mean they are not going to move and shuffle when it is deemed necessary, rather it means those movements will be thoughtfully planned out. As someone who has grown up with the organization, Hargett understands the need for consistency and predictability, and those are things he puts great value in. He said he wants the USATA workforce to “enjoy the process.”
“There are so many challenges these days, and I don’t want work to be something you dread,” he said. “If you enjoy what you do, then you can overcome the challenges you face. Those challenges may still be there, but you’ll have a different perspective about them. So, if you are not enjoying it, then I want to know what we can do to help.”
Hargett said he looks forward to leading USATA in his new role, but he is also quick to point out that he is part of a team, and it is that synergy that gets the job done.
“I have never worried about the level or title,” he said. “For me, it’s always been we — not I — so the title has never been important. You don’t work for me; we work together. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. That’s always been my philosophy. Wherever I am, I’m going to do my job and do it with enthusiasm and to the best of my ability.”