Thursday, August 20, 2015

ARL Greening Course Gives Civilians a Taste of Army Life

As an Army civilian, have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Soldier? Thirty-two civilians from ECBC and Army Research Laboratory (ARL) recently got a taste of Army life during ARL’s semi-annual greening course.

Five ECBC Engineering employees participated in the course: Alena Bortkiewicz, Raymond Blucher, Samuel Leppert, Joseph Maheady and Amanda Mihok.

Under the leadership of ARL senior enlisted advisor SGM Kevin Connor, the course was designed to give civilian employees insight and experience in the activities, duties and responsibilities of an Army Soldier. The week-long course included lessons on physical fitness training, basic Army knowledge, marksmanship, assembling and disassembling military weapons, weapons training, vehicles and test-driving, obstacle courses and team building. Participants even got to fly in a Black Hawk helicopter and learn about aviation operations and maintenance through the Maryland National Guard. The course concluded with a graduation ceremony.

Maheady liked the helicopter ride the best, and found sighting a rifle to be the most challenging. “It takes skill to coordinate your body with the rifle to hit the target. I can’t imagine how much harder it is when the target is firing back and moving,” he said. “The constant physical toll that wearing body armor takes on you took me by surprise. Thirty pounds doesn’t seem like a lot, but it will creep up on you real fast!”

Mihok said getting to know the Army instructors was an amazing experience. “It really put into perspective how important our jobs can be and what we do to help these people who are fighting for us. Experiencing some of the things they have to go through was awesome. It was fun, but I learned so much at the same time.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Saluting Team CBRNE Warfighters

We recently sat down with two Army Soldiers whose service, expertise and perspectives strengthen Team CBRNE.

MAJ Edwin Kolen
Assistant Product Manager, Sensors
Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance

What inspired you to have a career in the military?
I simply wanted to serve. I’ve been on active duty for 10 years, and also served in the National Guard. After a few years of service, I knew it was something I wanted to dedicate my life to.

Tell us about your current role with the JPM-NBC CA.
I am an Army Acquisition Corps officer. I help manage the cost, schedule and performance of various DoD products. Many Soldiers may not realize the materiel development side of the DoD and the people and processes that are involved in the acquisition of equipment. Soldiers are known to be very passionate about what they do, and I believe they would be elated to know just how passionate the civilians are about their jobs. What they accomplish here at the JPM gives Warfighters a strategic advantage on the battlefield.

What unique perspective does a Warfighter bring to Team CBRNE?
I’ve had the chance to speak up about the kinds of equipment that are being used by Soldiers and what capabilities might be needed. The exposure to the civilian side of acquisition and the skills I have learned here will prepare me for the next step in my career.

Is there anything about working in CBRNE that has surprised you or would be interesting to other Warfighters?
Before this assignment, I didn’t realize all of the chemical and biological threats that are out there. The civilian workforce―I call them “quiet professionals”―is actively studying this, looking for ways to fill in the gaps and getting Soldiers prepared for emerging threats. Communication and collaboration styles are different on the civilian side, but the enthusiasm for the mission is definitely there.

SGM Jamison Johnson
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Director
U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC)

What inspired you to have a career in the military?
I enlisted because I wanted a secure job and to travel and learn a skill. I’ve been serving for 22 years now, and these expectations turned out to be true.

What has your developmental assignment at ECBC been like?
In this role, my goal has been to provide an understanding of how certain technologies are currently used, or could potentially be used, by the Soldier. I have been introducing myself around the Center as enlisted and having field operations experience, so they can use me as a resource. I have spent time learning about the various capabilities, many of which have really surprised me―for example, the video gaming and robotics capabilities that the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division is using for military applications.

What unique perspective does a Warfighter bring to Team CBRNE?
I hope that my perspective gives a practical validation to the design process and integration of technologies. At a demonstration of unmanned aerial vehicles with mounted detectors, I provided input about what the Soldier looks for regarding functionality and supportability. Training on the Joint Chemical Agent Detector will begin soon, and I will go to Fort Leonard Wood to be a liaison between ECBC and the Soldiers to help ensure the most realistic scenarios are demonstrated.

Is there anything about working in CBRNE that has surprised you or would be interesting to other Warfighters?
I do have experience training Soldiers in CBRN, such as donning masks and personal protective gear. But learning how the equipment is tested in laboratories here at ECBC―using live agent―has been eye opening. The scientists and researchers here are proving the technology well before the Warfighter has to use it. That would have been great to know as a younger Soldier.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sitting down with Nan Ramsey, Engineering Associate Director, Upon Her Retirement

ECBC bids a fond farewell and best wishes to Nan Ramsey, Associate Director of Engineering and ECBC-Rock Island Site Manager, as she retires after 30 years of government service. She reflects on her career and gives some final advice to the workforce:

What inspired your career in engineering?
 Economics was actually my first love. I double-majored in economics and business because it was practical. After graduation, the job prospects at the time convinced me that an engineering degree would be valuable. My dad was an engineer, so I think that influenced me as well.

You worked in industry prior to the government. What were your jobs in industry, and how did you end up working for the government?
First, I worked as a management trainee for Caterpillar Tractor Company, but the plant was moved to France and eventually closed down. Then I went to work as an engineer at J. I. Case, but there was discussion of closing the Rock Island plant where I worked. It was by coincidence that a supervisor at Rock Island Arsenal Industrial Engineering Activity called me and asked me to apply for a job there. Since the J. I. Case job looked tenuous, I applied with the government and got the job.

What are some of your favorite memories from your early government career?
My best memories are of friends and co-workers who helped make our various projects go smoothly and made me feel like part of a wonderful team. There is great satisfaction from working with great people and getting the job done right. I had the privilege of working with all the Research, Development and Engineering Centers on various issues with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and we had a tremendously proactive, helpful team. The Army Materiel Command (AMC) G6 group worked very closely with us and we made great strides together. That was a very rewarding time.

Early in my career, I had the honor of briefing the Army Chief of Staff on an industrial base study. I got to ride over to the Pentagon in a staff car with the Deputy Commander of the AMC at one point. It was very exciting for me. I wouldn’t have had the privilege if not for all the hard work of the industrial base team back then.

What made you decide to take a position with ECBC?
I was looking forward to working for Larry Light, the site manager at ECBC-Rock Island―he had a great reputation. I was barely here a few months when Larry decided to retire. When AJay Thornton became the Director of Engineering, he asked me to move into the Associate Director position. Moving up the ladder was never an objective of mine―I was always focused on projects. I really enjoyed working with the entire management team at ECBC. It was very much like a family and everyone was very easy to work with. I wanted to do the most I could do for ECBC and the Army.

What were your first goals as Associate Director/ECBC-RI Site Manager? What were the immediate challenges?
Under the direction of Rick Decker, one of my first goals was to resolve any issues we were having with support to DLA. From a strategic perspective, I knew this was important to a successful future, so I spent a great deal of time working the issues. This work with DLA kept me very busy and away from the office, and I did not get much chance to know all the folks in the workforce. When I look back, I wish I had made it more of a priority to connect with the RI workforce.

Also, since we were ISO 9000 certified, all our processes were documented, and we surveyed our customers for feedback and wrote corrective action reports when we deviated from our goals. One of my challenges was to show the management team and workforce that the ISO 9000 system could work for us, and that we would reap great benefits from it. I felt in some cases, the actions were performed without real buy-in. I think over time, most everyone has come to see that the effort has real payback, and we understand our customers better and can react to their needs more effectively.

As a leader, what has been your biggest “change of mind”?
I used to take on every single issue, large and small, and try to ‘fix’ it. It took a while, but I figured out I needed to spend more of my time leading and thinking strategically.Also, I always believed that if I put my mind to something and did absolutely everything I could, I could make positive change happen. In this role, I learned that sometimes there are things outside our control, and I would be better off accepting them and moving forward.

What are your thoughts on bridging the gender gap in the science and engineering fields?
I think we’re doing better than when I first started in the field, but we need to keep working at it. We need to promote STEM outreach to schools at the youngest ages. Parents need to do what they can to encourage young girls, as well. 

What is your advice for those who are interested in advancing their careers at ECBC?
When you say you’re going to do something, do it. This develops trust with your colleagues and management. Volunteer for challenging assignments, and don’t turn down any opportunities management might present. This helps to increase your own skill set and network; it can also help you better understand the bigger picture. Always remember that this is about serving the Army and our customers.

What are your plans for retirement?
I plan to spend more time with my 88-year-old mother, and spend more time keeping fit. I am going to try stand-up paddle boarding, and do more kayaking and running. 

What will you miss the most about working at ECBC?
Isn’t it always the people? The people are ECBC.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tiffany Sutton is Proud to be an ECBC Scientist

When Tiffany Sutton arrived at ECBC as a student contractor, one of her early assignments was assessing commercial detection systems for the U.S. Postal Service during the 2001 anthrax attacks. She immediately decided that she was doing very interesting and important work, and that she wanted to make ECBC her career.

“I had worked for ECBC for two summers as part of Drexel University’s Coop Program while working on my physics degree. I liked the work, but it wasn’t until that assignment that I saw how my role figured in to the big picture of keeping the nation safe. So I transferred from Drexel to Towson University to be closer to ECBC,” she said.

For the next four years she worked at ECBC as a physicist full-time while taking classes at night. “I got lucky; I had a good job doing something I really enjoyed. I really liked my colleagues and my supervisor was very supportive, so I was willing to work days and study nights so I could stay,” she added. She continued burning her candle at both ends until she graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in general physics.

Her next big assignment, as a physicist in the Sensor, Signatures and Aerosol Branch, was the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch Program. It was a federally managed, locally operated, nationwide bio-surveillance framework designed for the early detection of intentional releases of aerosolized biological agents. “We assessed the performance of the next generation (Gen3) of commercial biological agent detection systems intended to replace the currently fielded systems” she said. “My supervisors gave me more responsibility and I felt myself growing in the job,” she added.

She kept proving herself and the big assignments kept coming. For the past two years she has been supporting Leg 3 of the Project JUPITR Advanced Technology Demonstration, an assessment of ten different biological agent detection technologies to determine their detection limits and suitability for a field environment.

“We had a pair of biohazard detection systems from each of ten vendors to assess in the Ambient Breeze Tunnel. We challenged each of them simultaneously with a set of aerosol threat agents at different concentrations for them to collect, detect, and identify,” she said. “That way, we could establish their respective detection limits against four different biological agent-like organisms” she added.

Her role was to make sure that the six ECBC scientists performing the trials inside the Ambient Breeze Tunnel (ABT) and another three in the laboratory performing sample analysis had everything they needed to do their jobs when they needed it. “It started with the assessment plan, which I helped to develop, and continued with upgrades to the ABT and supporting laboratories to perform Bio-Safety level 2 aerosol operations. I had to justify the experimental design and the surrogates to be used to replicate real-world conditions, and I had to confirm that our laboratory practices conform to all the expected standards,” she said.

It was a long, iterative process with the customer, the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD). And, developing and getting the plan approved was just the start. “I had to make sure that those nine people had all the materiel they would need to execute the trials, I had to plan for contingencies such as equipment maintenance and the inevitable malfunction, and I had to manage their work schedules so that the project deadline would be met,” she said.

“It was the most stressful, yet the most professionally satisfying work I’ve done in my 14 years at ECBC. So many things could have gone wrong, but by the middle of the trial execution I realized that things were going right. We completed the project’s goals on time and on budget,” she said.

Having met that challenge, Sutton is now establishing new challenges for herself. She is seven months pregnant with her first child and will deliver in late May. Then in September she will start a master’s degree program in pharmacometrics, a highly specialized study of pharmacologic and toxicological responses to substances introduced into the human body at different concentrations. “I have a very supportive mentor in my branch chief, Aime Goad, and I have a terrific husband helping me to make this possible,” she said.

Asked where she got the grit to take on so much and do so well, she answered, “My mother always told me that the days when she was growing up, in which women were often held back, are over. She told me not to limit myself in any way, and to go out and do what I want. That’s exactly what I did and what I would tell any young female scientist to do. I would add that being a scientist at a federal laboratory provides women with all kinds of professional possibilities and lots of mentoring from very talented colleagues. I really made the right choice in coming here and staying here,” she concluded.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ECBC Analyst Uses Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Skills to Reduce CASARM Surveillance Costs

 Sometimes routine and habit can keep even the best scientist from seeing a cost savings right in front of them. As Steven Lagan, a new operations research analyst in the Modeling Simulation and Analysis Branch, discovered this is exactly where Lean Six Sigma training comes in handy.

 Lean Six Sigma is a management approach for problem solving and process improvement based on a combination of the different tools of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. Six Sigma is a strategy first created by Motorola in 1986 that involves creating groups of people in an organization who are experts in process analysis, and through a set of steps can allow them to create products virtually free from defects. Lean Manufacturing involves a never-ending effort to eliminate or reduce waste, or any activity that consumes resources without adding value to the manufacturing process.

 “I was about to begin four months of Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training over the summer, and I needed to find a project to complete the requirements to actually become a black belt,” said Lagan. “ECBC’s Quality Manager, Sue Procell, suggested that I do a financial analysis of our agent sales. Analyzing our prices quickly led me to examining all our costs incurred to produce it, which led me to the amount of surveillance we perform to ensure its quality, and how we select the agent vials from our stocks for sale to other authorized labs for testing .”

 “We sell both CASARM (Chemical Agent Standard Analytical Reference Material) and non-CASARM agent. When a new lot of CASARM agent is created, it is immediately vialed. The non-CASARM lots are stored in bulk and vialed only when we have a sale for it,” he explained. “Because the CASARMs aren’t always in the vials that customers want, it’s harder to get them off the shelf. Some agents might have remnants of eight to ten lots sitting on the shelf. More lots mean more inventory work and more surveillance tests. On the other hand, the non-CASARM lots only keep one lot in stock at any time, and customers are always guaranteed to get the vials that they want. The non-CASARM approach was obviously doing a better job of keeping costs low. The question was whether the non-CASARM approach could keep the agents as pure as the more controlled CASARM procedures.”

This is where Lagan’s Lean Six Sigma training came in. “Using a statistical method known as a linear regression, I looked at our surveillance data for both the pre-vialed CASARMs and the non-vialed non-CASARMs and found an inconsequential difference in how pure they remained over time. If purity could be maintained at a fraction of the cost, it made sense to adopt the simpler and cheaper method.”

The potential savings did not end there. “I also observed that we could take more care to select agent for sale to these labs from our smallest lots so that fewer lots could be kept in stock. Again, fewer lots means fewer surveillance tests,” said Lagan. Lagan then made two recommendations to Procell and his branch chief, Mike Kierzewski. First, apply the same procedure used for non-CASARM agent of not vialing it until it is sold, to CASARM agent, too. Second, systematically select agent from the smallest lot first so that there will be fewer lots to perform surveillance on.

The biggest challenge of applying Lean Six Sigma to real-world business problems, according to Lagan, is finding the middle ground between what the Lean Six Sigma methodology tells you is the optimum solution and what the organization doing the process can actually take on. “In this case, the things that needed to be done differently actually made for less work – plus a 50 percent savings in our surveillance process - making this a very good outcome from both standpoints,” Lagan said.

Asked when Lean Six Sigma should be used, Lagan used the analogy of a headache. “If you only get a headache every now and then, taking a Tylenol is sufficient. However, when the pain from them becomes too severe, you need to go beyond symptom management and find the root cause. If the root cause can be identified, maybe the pain can be taken away permanently. Similarly, if you have a process that comes with excessive costs, unacceptable delays, or an inability to consistently meet the needs of the customer; it's probably time to bring in a process improvement expert who can help identify the root causes.”

Lagan sees a lot of applications for Lean Six Sigma analysis at ECBC. “Anytime a process has problems with speed, cost, or quality, it can be benefited by the Lean Six Sigma methodologies. Most problems won't require a full Black Belt-level project. They may only require the application of a couple of tools from the Lean Six Sigma tool kit,” he said. “The Lean tools are typically aimed at the elimination of waste, which results in faster and cheaper processes, and the Six Sigma tools are aimed at increasing quality and reducing variation, which results in decreased costs and increased customer satisfaction.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Question and Answer with Daan Noort, ESEP

When Daan Noort, a research chemist and principal scientist from the Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research (TNO), first pitched the idea of moving his family from The Netherlands to the United States for a few months, so that he could participate in the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP), his three children –all in middle and high school –were not enthusiastic.

“They had their friends and their routines, and did not want any change,” Noort explained. Now, five months later as Noort and his family are preparing to return to The Netherlands, his children are asking if the family could extend their stay.

“At this point, we like it here, and have really become a part of the community. Now the idea of leaving is hard,” Noort said. “Our time here has been smoother and more memorable than any of us imagined.”

Noort and his family spent five months living in Bel Air, MD while he worked at ECBC as a part of ESEP. ESEP is an international exchange program that promotes international cooperation in military research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) through the exchange of military and/or government civilian engineers and scientists. ECBC has been an active participant in the ESEP program for many years. Currently, ECBC employees are serving ESEP rotations in the United Kingdom, Germany, Chile, Australia and The Netherlands. The ESEP experience helps ECBC scientists create personal working relationships with international partners and have resulted in efforts such as mutually beneficial leveraging of technology between participating organizations.

“Having Daan work with us was very beneficial to our work, as well as personally and professionally enjoyable for our whole group,” said Jennifer Sekowski, Ph.D, DABT, Principal Investigator for the Systems Biology of Host-Toxicant Response Project in ECBC’s Biosciences Division. One of the projects Noort worked on at ECBC was to transition an assay from his laboratory at TNO to ECBC. Sekowski first started this project in summer 2013 during a week-long visit to TNO. Sekowski said it was invaluable to have Noort at ECBC working to continue that project with the rest of the team.

“His chemistry background and international perspective helped us develop important new tools and protocols which have opened new possibilities in our DTRA funded work. Already, the chemical analog probes he synthesized while here will allow us to publish an extra manuscript this year, an extra deliverable we can provide for our customer, DTRA. We also plan to follow-up on this and related work in future collaborative efforts of interest to DTRA and DHS.”

Before Noort returned to The Netherlands, he discussed his experiences working and living in a different country.

Why did you get involved with the ESEP Program?

In The Netherlands, I am in charge of running various projects at TNO, so I do not get the chance to get in the labs and do hands-on research. Participating in ESEP gave me that opportunity to get back in the labs as a scientist, and sharpen my skills in a completely different atmosphere and culture. During my five months with ECBC, I worked with the Biosciences, Chemistry and Toxicology Divisions, so I had the opportunity to gain multiple perspectives and see how differently each one operated. I truly feel like I was able to contribute a lot and learn a lot with each team that I worked with. I also wanted to participate in ESEP to get the international experience. I had been to the United States many times, but just for a few weeks or days, this program gave me chance to come here in a completely different way, and become a part of the community here.

What was it like to move your family to a different country for five months?

Moving the entire family –my wife and three children –to the U.S. for five months was difficult, but not as difficult as we thought it would be. The Harford County community was so helpful and welcoming, that it made our transition very easy, and makes leaving tough. The teachers at the local public schools my children attended took the extra time to help my children get adjusted to a new country and a new language. My children also made friends and participated in after school sports and other activities. My wife and I met several people in the community. We traveled a little bit and visited New York City, Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and went to a large number of sport events. Although it was just five months, we were able to build a life here and get comfortable, so I thank the community for that.

What ECBC projects and programs did you support?

I spent some time working in the Synthesis lab in the Chemistry Division, and then I moved to the Proteomics Core lab in the BioSciences Division. Currently, I have just finished evaluating compounds that I have prepared. Working in both labs has given me multiple perspectives on different labs and how we approach similar questions. For example, while working on the Systems Biology of Host-Toxicant Response Project, I was able to synthesize a series of new “click chemistry” probes, opening up a new type of activity based protein profiling (ABPP) assay which should be able to more precisely identify proteins and peptide adducts that bind directly to chemical agents of interest.

What was the most important lesson that you’ve learned while with ECBC?

Being at ECBC and working in the labs again have reiterated to me the importance of details. In every experiment, you have to be sure that every detail is correct, or else it could ruin your entire outcome. You can’t think only of the big picture in scientific research, or you will miss something. Rather you have to focus on the small, solid details and slowly build a strong knowledge basis for your project. Although this is a basic research principle, I don’t work in the labs on a day-to-day basis back at TNO, so doing that here served as a good reminder for me that I can apply in my project manager role.

What is the biggest benefit to participating in ESEP?

After completing five months in the program, I can say that there is no better way to create meaningful partnerships and build trust with international colleagues, than to work alongside them for a few months. Now I feel like I can reach to the people I worked with at ECBC for anything, and they can reach back to me in a way that is more personal than before. We have become natural collaborators through this process, and I know that we will continue that relationship when I return to The Netherlands.

What will you miss the most about living in the U.S.?

I will miss how convenient everything is in this country. In the U.S., stores are open late, so you can go shopping after dinner if necessary. If you don’t want to cook, there is a restaurant on every corner and it is easy to get a table. Also, so many different types of food are available; you can try something different every day. I will also miss the space that we had in the U.S. Back home, we live in a small city, so our homes are not as big and we don’t have yard space or much personal space in general. I’ll miss having those types of luxuries.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Question and Answer with SGT. MAJ. Jamison L. Johnson

New Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Director Brings Warfighter Perspective to ECBC

Q: What was your previous role prior to joining ECBC?
A: I was a command Sgt. Maj. for a training support battalion at Fort Dix in New Jersey since 2007. I was responsible for overseeing all of the mobilization training for the Army Reserve, National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. Folks that were mobilized to go overseas came to Fort Dix as their training platform where they got validated prior to going overseas. My battalion specifically ran all the training lanes, which included: HMMWV drivers, combatives, land navigation, MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) training, and roll-over training with simulator machines. We also did small CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) classroom training and individual movement techniques.

Q: When did you decide to join the Army?
A: Halfway through my senior year of high school in Howell, N.J. I met a recruiter after lunch one day. College didn’t interest me but serving my country and seeing the world did.

Q: Where have you served during your career?
A: I went to Germany for seven years when I was 18-years-old. That was the first place I went after my training. While I was over there, I ended up deploying to Bosnia for a year and then Kosovo for six months. I deployed to Iraq for a few months in 2008. I got to see how people in other countries live and when I came back to the States, I definitely had a greater appreciation for what we have, especially basic infrastructure like paved roads and electricity.

Q: What was your experience in Iraq like?
A: It wasn’t too bad because I escaped without having to go over for a year like a lot of folks. I was sent over there to gather the latest tactics and techniques on how to combat IED (improvised explosive device) threats. My job was to meet face-to-face with soldiers on the front lines who were either hit by IEDs or out on the street clearing IEDs, and bring that information back to implement into the training lanes so soldiers had the latest defense techniques to better prepare for what they would see overseas. It was an incredibly valuable and important job that impacted many lives. There were a lot of things we came back with that we didn’t have before, and it gave a heightened level of credibility to emerging threats in near real-time. IEDs were the number one killer of U.S. troops at the time and defending against the threat was a constant back-and-forth that required up-to-date information so we sent teams over there pretty frequently to gather what we needed for training. Things have progressed and got more technical.

Q: What’s the biggest change in combat you’ve seen over the years?
A: Technology. It has come so far so quickly, and there are certain things you see and are just amazed at what we have. It’s neat to be working at a place now where I can see how a lot of the latest technologies are developed and tested in the CBRNE arena.

Q: Has there been an adjustment to working at ECBC?
A: Well, I’ve never worked with civilians before and that’s a big change that I am embracing at the moment. I understand there is a larger picture here and it’s going to take some time for me to fully understand all the moving parts and how they contribute to the overall mission. I’ve visited a lot of divisions and partner organizations, and am looking forward to learning more.

Q: How do you hope your role as Senior Enlisted Advisor will evolve over the next few months?
A: Right now, I’m trying to find my niche and help out where it makes sense to have a Warfighter perspective. I’ve been involved in a vulnerability assessment and am looking to get involved in some of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) outreach ECBC does, as well as the Greening Program. I’m most excited about bringing an understanding of how certain technologies are used by the soldier and what that interface experience is like. Hopefully, I can be the face of 21 years in the Army and work with different ECBC scientists and engineers on how equipment may or may not work in the field. Having that perspective might help in the design process and ultimately improve how technology is integrated. If there’s anything that can be developed in CBRNE defense, the folks here at ECBC will probably make it happen. They’re innovation and some of the things you wouldn’t think are possible, they can actually do. So I’m very excited to be working here.

Q: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
A: Don’t ever think you’re too old or too far in the game to change. I’ve had to do it several times in my career and continue to do so today. Even if you’re the highest ranking guy and have soldiers below you, you have to step back and look at yourself constantly. You can’t get stuck in your ways and think that you’re always doing things the right way. You have to be able to take feedback, even at the highest levels. I think if you can do that and tailor your ways to be open to change later in your career, I think it helps you out and helps the organization.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
A: I love to run and play golf, baseball and basketball. I grew up going to the beach in Long Branch, N.J. and have a lot of great memories of the ocean as well.

Q. If you could sum up your career in one word, what would it be?
A: Successful. I progressed fairly quickly in all the ranks, but it’s not only moving up that matters. It’s about doing what’s right at each step of the way. For example, when I look back at myself when I was a Sgt. first class, I asked: did I do everything in my power to be a great platoon sergeant? Did I take care of my soldiers, accomplish the mission and take care of their families too? Yes I did. And then I got promoted to Master Sgt., and that was my reward for doing the best I could as a Sgt. 1st Class. I took that mindset every phase through my career so yes, I view it as a success.

Q: Has there been a defining moment in your career?
A: There was actually a point where I was not successful, and that has turned out to be a defining moment for me. I came off active duty in 2003 as a Staff Sgt. and went to the New Jersey Guard full time as a recruiter. Now think about it: what’s going on in 2003? The Iraq War had started and two years earlier, the war in Afghanistan. It was a very difficult time to convince people to join the military, but I came in motivated only to be punched down right away. I learned that recruiting wasn’t my niche. There were no soldiers to take care of and there was no unit that you were a part of. I was a recruiter on my own, and long story short, I was not successful. It was very rough. It broke me so much so that I got out of the military altogether in 2005 and took a job at a local electric company. Four months later, I was reading meters in front of a house when I saw a uniform hanging in the car parked out front. A man walked down the driveway and we got to talking. He was in the Army and we shared a few stories before he gave me his contact information in case I was ever interested in joining a Reserve Unit full-time. At that point, I was just done with the military, but I owe a lot to him for pointing me in the right direction. I saw it as an opportunity to get back on the train and I realized that I could still be successful. Turns out, I found my niche all over again training soldiers at Fort Dix.