DAC Team Lead Wins BEYA Community Service Award

By PARKER MARTINFebruary 15, 2024

Tony Harris, an engineer and team lead at the DEVCOM Analysis Center, was selected as the recipient of the Community Service in Government Award for this year’s BEYA conference.
Tony Harris, an engineer and team lead at the DEVCOM Analysis Center, was selected as the recipient of the Community Service in Government Award for this year’s BEYA conference. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD. -- Tony Harris, an engineer at U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command Analysis Center (DAC) has been named one of the winners of the 2024 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA).

Harris, a team lead specializing in Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) modeling, was one of a handful of federal and private sector nominations to be selected for their achievements. As a lifelong contributor to the youth of his hometown, he won the award for Community Service in Government for his efforts in the Kenneth V. Hilton Mentorship Program at Edgewood High School in Edgewood, MD.

“Mr. Hilton assisted at the high school to set up a program to mentor students like myself,” said Harris. “He and some other folks were there to help students get interested in STEM fields, and a huge selling point was to see successful men that looked like us so that we could be successful.”

Harris explained how he jump started his career through his new mentors. Hilton, a former engineer at APG, said there was need for an African American male presence in the community. With Hilton as a conduit, Harris and other students at Edgewood High School were able to navigate and pursue a higher education with expanding career avenues.

“We would discuss careers, goals, time management, credit, business, degrees and scholarship opportunities,” said Harris. “I saw these men as examples of who I wanted to be. It helped me see that there were paths in life besides working with my hands in a blue-collar field. It’s because of them I was able to land internships.”

After graduating in 2005 from Morgan State University, Harris landed an internship with the United States Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA), later renamed to its modern epithet of DAC, where he still works today. From there, he was hired full-time within the next year and immediately celebrated by becoming a mentor – at the exact same school where he got his inspiration. For Harris, mentorship and paying it forward was just the norm; the most natural fit for him and his principles.

“Always been coaching, always helping out and physically being there – it's a lifelong thing,” said Harris. “I just want to give back to folks in any way, doesn’t have to be monetary. Your time is just as important if not more important. This program stresses that it’s key to lead the next generation. As important as it is to be a successful person, it means nothing if you don’t give back to the community that gave to you.”
Tony Harris (center, in grey) leads students from Edgewood High’s Kenneth V. Hilton Mentorship Program on a visit to Morgan State University. “Some of these kids have never stepped foot on a college campus,” said Harris. “So to go from there, to inspiring their interest in a higher education in STEM, is something that’s just natural for me to shine a light on.”
Tony Harris (center, in grey) leads students from Edgewood High’s Kenneth V. Hilton Mentorship Program on a visit to Morgan State University. “Some of these kids have never stepped foot on a college campus,” said Harris. “So to go from there, to inspiring their interest in a higher education in STEM, is something that’s just natural for me to shine a light on.” (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

He continues by saying that people gravitate to what they’re inspired by, and that giving back to the community is just his purpose.

“I’ve seen the community when it was in the midst of its lows and highs. I’ve known the importance of presence since I was a kid. And it’s not just me that’s present, there’s a ton of other folks that help out. I wouldn’t even say I’m a leader, I’m just here to help out. There’s plenty of other people who deserve their flowers.”

Before being nominated for BEYA, Harris became the new head of DAC’s Position, Navigation and Timing Modeling and Simulation team. While encouraging high schoolers to pursue their STEM goals is one thing, the skills lend themselves neatly to leading a team of some of the Army’s most cutting-edge professionals. Harris says that his natural ability to push others to achieve their accolades is his foremost duty.

“I remember when the team lead position became open,” said Harris. “The whole team encouraged me. I realized that the mentorship completely prepared me to lead, give advice, highlight and encourage. I like to give people props. I’m happy to be behind those who deserve it, that’s where I get my satisfaction. I’m always looking to push others forward and highlight their accolades. It’s a bit different than mentoring students since now I’m guiding adults - my peers - but the framework is still the same, so I kind of fell into this position and it truly feels like a natural fit. Just doing what I’ve been doing.”

Mr. Harris will accept his award at BEYA’s award ceremony at the Baltimore Convention Center, February 17, in Baltimore, MD.