JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Young professionals are making their mark in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison headquarters thanks to a fellowship opportunity made possible by the Installation Management Command.

Two fellows are receiving real-world experience in various departments across JBLM by learning the ins and outs of how an installation is run.

The four-year IMCOM Fellows Program is designed to build a multifunctional, mobile team of highly qualified Army civilian employees.

Fellows can expect to finish their studies as a senior-level federal employee, working their way up the General Schedule levels while in the program, according to the IMCOM Fellows website.

The IMCOM postgraduate program is derived from the Army Materiel Command Fellows program to give students more opportunities to see the array of jobs available.

Students’ first years involve completing master’s degrees through AMC’s Logistics Leadership Center and Texas A&M;University"Texarkana.

The next four years, fellows rotate to various installations around the Army to receive on-the-job training.

Fellows Melissa Richardson and Kimberly Willard have worked respectively for the JBLM Resource Management Office and the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office for almost a year now.

As part of their rotations, the two women perform job-related duties alongside other permanent federal civilians. Besides their work assignments, they are required to develop and complete academic coursework as part of the IMCOM Fellows program.

Virtual projects, teleconferences and papers take up much of their free time.

Maintaining a successful work and life balance can be difficult, but the result of completing the program and getting the experience makes it worth it, Richardson said.

“Our generation has a big focus on life balance,” said Richardson, 30, from San Diego. “And
that’s why I’m grateful to be placed at JBLM, with the beautiful surroundings and fresh air.”

At the end of the program’s term, fellows may be placed into permanent positions in the Department of the Army.

That’s Willard’s hope. She already has greatly enjoyed her time working at JBLM and for the military.

“I’ve been able to learn so much about the military and learn about things I wouldn’t have any idea about as a (non-federal) civilian,” Willard, 26, from Huntsville, Ala., said.

“I have developed a greater appreciation for everyone who works for the military and in public service.”

The two women have been part of some major projects for the JBLM Garrison in their short time with their offices.

Willard helped the PAIO host the garrison’s Strategic Planning Symposium last month, receiving kudos from base leadership for the event’s professional atmosphere.

She’s also made strides in improving the Interactive Customer Evaluation program, which provides an outlet for anyone on base to give customer service remarks.

“I’m just trying to touch every program to get a full understanding of how the garrison is run,” Willard said.

The two expect to finish the program in 2013. Richardson would like to stay at JBLM, while Willard wants to try other assignments. Richardson looks back on the program as one that taught her how to be an effective manager in the federal system.

“We’ve learned managerial and leadership roles, developing policy, implementing program change and how to develop bigger projects,” she said. “That’s lots of practical knowledge.”

It may be a generational norm or the two women’s desire to learn all they can, but both have developed reputations for asking lots of questions.

“They call me ‘Squeaky’ because I ask all kinds of questions and won’t stop until I get the answer I want,” Richardson said.

Her inquisitive nature is just one of the useful traits that she, and other fellows, bring to the table.
“We have youthfulness, that young spirit that is still motivated and not confined to the gray cubicle for so long,” she said.

“We bring to the table a quality product, looking to improve things, gain efficiencies, streamline processes and improve quality of life.”

For information including application details, go to

Lorin T. Smith: