Problem-solver thrives in Army Reserve, civilian careers

By Samantha TylerJanuary 2, 2024

Lt. Col. Terrance Wilson, Incoming Commander for the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, addresses his new soldiers during Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Totten, New York, September 10, 2022. Lt. Col. Wilson, upon accepting the transfer of the colors, assumes responsibility for the mission and the welfare of the troops.
Lt. Col. Terrance Wilson, Incoming Commander for the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, addresses his new soldiers during Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Totten, New York, September 10, 2022. Lt. Col. Wilson, upon accepting the transfer of the colors, assumes responsibility for the mission and the welfare of the troops. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert McIntosh) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala — Terrance Wilson was 26 years old when a chance encounter changed the course of his life.

Wilson had attended Fort Valley State University, a public land-grant historically Black university where he played football and ran track, and he had met and married his wife. He was working in sales and finance when he met a young Soldier who had just come out of advanced individual training, the training Soldiers receive in their specific occupational specialties.

“I watched the Soldier buy a car by himself,” Wilson said. “And that was my recruiter. I was like, ‘sign me up.’ I wanted to spend more time with my family instead of doing sales and finance. So, I decided to join the Army.”

Wilson’s military exposure up to this point was limited. He was a first-generation non-sharecropper on his mom’s side. His great grandparents were enslaved. His family had saved photos of family members who were Buffalo Soldiers, but no one has been able to identify them and make the linkage. When his father, who was born in 1927, received his college degree, he was not allowed to commission in the military.

“He wanted me to enlist and told me, ‘You'll learn so much more about the Army,’ and eventually when I decided to enlist after college, it was the path that felt right.”

Wilson enlisted in March 2001. He completed basic training and was almost done with his AIT training when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

He went to Fort Riley, Kansas, that October and deployed in November. He remembers coming home, getting promoted to sergeant, the birth of his daughter and then deploying again.

“The Army's been at peace all this time. I join up and now we're going to war,” he said.

After those deployments, Wilson decided to commission. He returned to Fort Valley State University and joined ROTC as part of Army's Green to Gold program, commissioning and joining the Army Reserve in 2005. When he commissioned, he became the first member of his family to be a military officer.

Wilson’s years of service — both as a reservist and as an Army civilian — were filled with problem solving. He was in the Army's first Master Black Belt course for Lean Six Sigma, which helps Soldiers manage an organization’s processes better and look for ways to improve aspects of an organization’s business. As a result, he led projects to reduce post mobilization training times, which ultimately stabilized the Army Force Generation model for the Army Reserve.

While serving as commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 200th Military Police Command, at Fort Meade, Maryland, Wilson also served as an Army civilian, working as the deputy deployment director for the Lean Six Sigma program, which focuses on the elimination of waste. He took on a project to help better track equipment coming back from Kuwait to make sure everything was accounted for consistently.

“We were starting to process map it out. We were able to get a lot of quick wins,” he said. “It’s not like it was anything genius — we had a process.”

After joining a signal unit in Georgia, he led a business process reengineering effort for the Logistics Modernization Program, an enterprise resource planning system that houses data on supply chain and maintenance, repair and overhaul solutions, along with financial management.

Wilson’s extensive experience in these areas led him to joining Army Materiel Command’s audit team. On the military side, he simultaneously served as a brigade logistics officer for a medical unit, modifying training plans and giving feedback to ensure they were ready to deploy.

Later working as an Army civilian for the Logistics Data Analysis Center built on his previous experiences and allowed him to bring his Lean Six Sigma mindset to a team that made an important impact on the Army. He would begin worked on a conditions-based maintenance project, trying to see if data could help predict failures in Army equipment. This work set the foundation for AMC’s Predictive Analytics Suite, a tool being used in current operations to support senior leader decision making.

Almost 20 years of problem solving later, Wilson still wears a few hats around the Army. He is still an Army civilian, specifically a program manager in the AMC Analysis Group, helping the Army’s senior leaders solve problems through analytics.

“Everything I look at, everything is a project,” he said. “Whether it's a cyber effort, whether it's a technology-based effort, whether it's supporting Ukraine, whether it's moving Soldiers — that same problem-solving methodology I learned so many years ago can be applied over and over again.”

Another hat Wilson wears is that of a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, serving as a battalion commander for the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. This means, between his two jobs, he is facing challenges at the strategic, operational and tactical levels. He’s helping senior leaders solve problems with worldwide implications, while also taking calls about issues ranging from a Soldier in need to a coyote in the motor pool.

Col. Thomas J. Kim, 77th Sustainment Brigade Commander, presents the colors of the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion to incoming Commander Lt. Col. Terrance Wilson during Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Totten, New York,  September 10, 2022. Historically, these colors served as the point around which these soldiers of an organization rallied as they moved into battle.
Col. Thomas J. Kim, 77th Sustainment Brigade Commander, presents the colors of the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion to incoming Commander Lt. Col. Terrance Wilson during Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Totten, New York, September 10, 2022. Historically, these colors served as the point around which these soldiers of an organization rallied as they moved into battle. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert McIntosh) VIEW ORIGINAL

He also wears the hat of a husband of 24 years and a father. While his Army jobs are focused on problem solving, he said he is learning the importance of being able to switch hats with his family.

“If a problem comes to my family, it may be a problem, but sometimes I just have to listen. Sometimes, I just have to support,” he said.

This concept works both ways. As a commander, while problem solving is a big part of the job, being able to teach, coach and mentor is also critical. Sometimes, that means speaking to his experience and what opportunities the Army has been able to provide him.

Over the years, Wilson has remained grateful for those opportunities. He said growing up in places like where he did, in Wyandanch, New York, the Army shows young people that they can buy a car or get the latest sneakers without getting into trouble.

The Army also provided Wilson the opportunity to be viewed as a leader and as a servant because of the uniform he dons.

“I've seen people walk by me [in the airport] and some people even clutch their purse,” he said. “And then I have to get changed, because I'm getting ready to fly out sometimes in uniform, and I'm going to hit the ground and have to work. I walk by in uniform, and the same people will be like, ‘hey, thank you for your service.’ And then I say, ‘it's a pleasure to serve,’ and just keep it pushing. But that's what the military gives me, and that's what I try to share. You have the opportunity for a fresh start.”