TACOM’s G1 team recognized for putting People First

By Adam Sikes, TACOM Public Affairs OfficeSeptember 1, 2023

Valerie DeVries poses in front of TACOM's front entrance.
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TACOM's G1 team, which included members of the team that developed the TACOM Talent Development Program.
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DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — Sep. 1, 2023 — Modernization is often thought of as revitalizing objects and facilities. However, we seldom include people in our thinking about modernization. But in Maj. Gen. Darren Werner’s, former commanding general of U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, opinion pursuing modernization across the Army requires investing in people. It’s a vision that Valerie DeVries, who holds a doctorate in business administration and is U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command’s deputy chief of staff, human capital, and her teammates brought to life by implementing a program designed to directly invest in TACOM’s workforce – TACOM Talent Development Program (T2DP).

According to DeVries, “Being recognized with the Army’s William H. Kushnick award was surprising, but what it represents is the incredible effort of our TACOM staff and leaders to create a program that seeks to help everyone in our workforce. Together, we’ll be better prepared to answer the challenges of tomorrow.”

Though it was DeVries who received the award at the Aug. 10 award ceremony at the Pentagon, which was hosted by Gabe Camarillo, undersecretary of the Army, she was quick to state: “It was teamwork that made and continues to make the program a success. The Army has thousands of talented and dedicated HR professionals, and to be competitively singled out for this distinguished award is a true honor and privilege for me and everyone on our team.”

Listening to Werner over the past three years, you were likely to hear a common set of themes. Things such as modernization, readiness, data and analytics, and upskilling/reskilling were some of his top priorities. TACOM’s recent change of command hasn’t diminished that, with Brig. Gen. Michael Lalor, TACOM’s current commanding general, maintaining that TACOM relies on the success and skills of its workforce to meet the Army’s top modernization challenges. The question then and now is how best to support and update the skills of an expansive workforce.

The answer developed by TACOM’s G1 team in 2022 is still relevant today. T2DP was created from scratch by the TACOM G1 staff to update and enhance the talents and skills of its workforce. The program offers employees of all grades and skill levels an opportunity to invest in their professional development. This is accomplished by offering funding for continuing education at universities and colleges; hosting informational programs such as the TACOM Talks program, and a seminar series with topics on leadership, history and personal development. But the program isn’t just limited to offering funding and programs.

“From the beginning, we wanted to implement the commander’s educational priorities in a way that would benefit all TACOM employees,” DeVries explains. “T2DP was a rare opportunity to create a human resources program from scratch, starting with the commander’s vision.”

But building a program from scratch requires a team. That team includes individuals such as Brian Branch, chief, education and training division; Brian Wice, T2DP’s current program manager; and former team members Maj. Kolin Walk and Nichole Karanec, a program analyst with the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems. As DeVries comments, “Each of them helped create a program that benefits our entire workforce. Their contributions made this idea become reality.”

Karanec, formerly T2DP’s program manager, shaped the initial program that transformed Werner’s vision into reality. However, as she notes, it took time to figure out how to implement Werner’s vision:

“He had this idea. … Our job was to figure out what ‘promoting talent and education for the TACOM workforce’ looked like in real life. What we knew we wanted to do was to build a culture of learning that would have the effect he wanted. We just had to sort out what efforts we could undertake to make it logical and feasible for our workforce to invest in themselves.”

“Because at the end of the day,” Karanec adds, “it’s about our teammates and supporting them.”

Karanec and the T2DP team developed an ongoing program of educational seminars and presentations for the TACOM workforce to help pursue that objective, noting: “The point of including programs like TACOM Talks was to utilize the talent we already have here.”

According to Karanec, “We were saying we have a lot of talent here. Why can’t we use that and give our people a platform to share what’s helped them succeed?”

Karanec adds, “We thought the best way to do this was to offer a forum that showcases members of the TACOM workforce and provides insight to foster a ‘sense of collaboration.’”

“We figured if we could give the right people a voice and showcase their insights, that would be beneficial to our workforce,” she continues. “We believed that if we could demonstrate that our people make the difference because of what they already know and are capable of, that might inspire or help others.”

The result was the creation of an environment that has seen and continues to see the workforce reaching out in a real way to help each other succeed — “legacy insight” that in turn helps foster new ideas and skills. And these are skills that have been cultivated with the help of another branch of the T2DP program: the TACOM Academic Program.

TAP offers TACOM employees funding for approved courses at local community colleges and universities, as well as other forms of formal learning. Members of the TACOM workforce can apply to the program regardless of their function within the organization. If they meet the requirements, an applicant can receive funding to attend classes, with priority given to mission-critical skills. The point of this, as DeVries comments, is to afford career civil servants the chance to return to the classroom to learn and discover what may have changed since they took their oath of office.

“One intended outcome of T2DP is to create a culture of learning, so that as modernization efforts are introduced, the workforce can quickly acquire new skills,” says DeVries.

“Building and cultivating that culture is really important to our team and it helps us stay mission-ready, even in the face of changing times and practices.”

T2DP comes at a time when industry practices are often cited as experiencing a significant change themselves. With the wider application of concepts and technologies such as artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing and smart industrial processes, and greater cultivation of data and analytics, TACOM and Army leadership have prioritized initiatives that modernize the Army’s organic industrial base.

Importantly, skilled workers are critical to every facet of TACOM’s operations, which DeVries highlights as a priority that shaped the development of the T2DP program:

“Our focus is always on our people — from our arsenal and depot workers to our workers here at headquarters. We often say that our success as an organization relies on the success of our teammates. The way we support that individual success is by supporting their ability to learn in order to adapt efficiently to updates in our professions and operations. Supporting our workforce is how we support modernization.”

T2DP continues to run at TACOM, with the education application open to the entire TACOM workforce; additional seminars are in the works, and the next series of TACOM Talks will offer just the right balance of encouragement and insight to TACOM workers seeking to further their professional development. As the program evolves, the opportunities for the TACOM workforce to upskill and reskill is limited only by their desire. Lalor, the current TACOM commanding general; DeVries; and the T2DP team are looking forward to the next iteration. They understand that this evolution will make a tremendous impact on TACOM, as well as the Army as it continues its efforts to modernize and increase readiness.

“Our people are vitally important to us, and it’s the skills they have that we rely on to accomplish the broad mission of TACOM. Education is the link between where we are and where we need to be. Developing that culture of learning is what helps us remember how important it is to invest in ourselves,” says DeVries.

DeVries and the T2DP team hope that by developing a culture of learning, TACOM can show its employees that the organization is a place for growth and opportunity. But the vision isn’t limited to the short term. DeVries says, “I am personally committed to being a lifelong learner now and in the future.”