Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mobile Labs & Kits Lead Joins CBARR as Program Manager

George Noya talks customer-centered design

– In the years following 9/11, new services and capabilities were meeting the needs of an evolving defense market where mobile, on-the-go applications were replacing fixed, permanent solutions. ECBC’s CBRNE Mobile Laboratories & Kits Team partnered with federal agencies to design, fabricate, integrate and validate modular, mobile and semi-permanent analytical capabilities for customers with national and international missions that include the verification of the CWC and WMD countermeasures.

The Mobile Labs & Kits team has since integrated into various Center teams as shrinking budgets forced the unit to disband, but the capability remains an active service offering for customers like the Department of Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who desire upgraded equipment for their mobile laboratories. Now, a former team lead of the group, George Noya, has joined CBARR as a program manager responsible for a mobile ground sensor project, an interagency agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the
design and fabrication of custom glove boxes to be used for new emerging threats.

Noya’s experience adds value to CBARR’s deployable laboratory services, which include near real time monitoring for the detection airborne contaminants to ensure worker safety, as well as on-site lab analysis of chemical warfare agents and their breakdown products.

“My approach has always been: let the science drive the engineering, not the engineering drive the science. There are a lot of factors that impact the customization of a mobile lab, including the infrastructure space, air flow and weight of equipment,” Noya explained. These transportable CBRNE analytical platforms require state-of-the-art, novel technologies designed to accurately perform under austere conditions. Robust engineering controls and technical risk assessments specially designed for chemical and biological threat materials significantly reduces the logistical burden while providing data that withstands the most  intensive and critical review.

“The biggest challenge is making sure the equipment is ruggedized enough to be deployed where the customer needs it. Mobile labs are designed to provide incident commanders with a level of accurate information to make quick decisions. Depending on the situation and location, there isn’t time to prepare samples for shipment to a fixed laboratory that can provide a thorough analysis of results. The equipment in the mobile labs can save time and cost while still providing an accurate assessment of the samples,” Noya said.

According to Noya, having the correct engineering controls reduce or eliminate personnel exposure to chemical or physical hazards, as well as ensure the equipment is performing  accurately. For example, Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems and diffusers are designed to mix the air so it remains turbulent, but this can create a disturbance in chemical fume hoods and BSCs. Additionally, some pieces of equipment use a lot of power or are sensitive to vibration and movement, such as electron microscopes.

“I’ve done a lot of work with glove boxes, fume hoods and customized equipment for scientists and research teams in order to work safely with new emerging threats. One of those projects is the new glove box that is going into the McNamara Building. Enrique Faure and I are in the process of fabricating the temperature and humidity control system that will be utilized for the inside chamber,” Noya said.

The McNamara Glove Box Facility recently won ECBC’s 2013 Excellence in Safety Award, which recognized David McCaskey and John Carpin, two scientists in the Research & Technology Directorate. Their design of the facility made significant contributions to existing safety management system initiatives for the “Little Mac” and “Big Mac” glove boxes. This equipment is used for the safe handling of non-traditional agent (NTA) materials at ECBC.

Noya’s experience and contributions across the Center will bolster CBARR’s mobile laboratory capabilities. Unlike the former Mobile Labs and Kits team that was limited to the design and distribution of the platforms, CBARR has the trained and specialized personnel to maintain, repair and sustain the offering for customers carrying out their mission in homeland defense.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Military/Civilian Collaboration at Forefront of Summer Internship

West Point Cadet Shadows CBARR Chemical Engineer on FDHS Project

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – When Sean Crain, a Cadet from the United States Military Academy at West Point, began his summer internship at ECBC, he had no idea he would be on the cutting edge of elimination technology for weapons of mass destruction.

“It’s pretty impressive to neutralize a really dangerous chemical and get it to a point where it is not harmful. It’s also a neat capability to be able to deploy the technology,” said Crain, who spent several weeks at ECBC assisting CBARR develop the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS).

Crain had a unique opportunity to assist on the project. He was one of 10 cadets selected to receive training at ECBC, giving up their summer vacation to received additional laboratory academic credit toward their education. Working alongside chemical and biological experts at the Center as part of the Academy’s Advanced Individual Academic Development (AIAD) program, the cadets were integrated into various ECBC teams, observed scientific processes and implemented concepts from their course work throughout the program. For Crain, he was immersed in the fast track acquisition of the FDHS, whose design-to-fabrication process has since been applauded by government partners and generated the interest of numerous stakeholders.

Crain had been assigned to shadow CBARR Chemical Engineer Adam Baker, who said the cadet’s most direct impact had been conducting calculations regarding the effluent of the system after the water has been evaporated from it. Dealing with mass and material balances in and out of a system is exactly where Crain had left off his learning at West Point prior to his summer internship. He was now putting it into practice.

“For some of our acidic effluent, that involves first neutralizing with sodium hydroxide, which leaves a salt and water byproduct. Sean’s been doing some calculations that determine how much sodium hydroxide you need to neutralize the hydrogen fluoride or hydrogen chloride. After evaporating the water, you can then determine the volume of the remaining salts,” Baker explained.

“You start with a huge amount of effluent, oftentimes thousands of liquid gallons, and once you evaporate the water, you’re left with a relatively small amount of solid remainder. So Sean’s been working on calculating what those amounts would be.”

Baker said Crain’s chemical engineering background has been just as helpful as his military experience, knowing that the FDHS was designed with the Warfighter in mind. Given the circumstance, the technology could transition from civilian-operated to soldier-operated. Because the system is transportable, it is self-sufficient with power generators and a mobile laboratory that needs only consumable materials such as water, reagents and fuel to operate. It can be set up within 10 days of arriving at an onsite location and is equipped with redundant critical systems that ensure maximum system availability. Should the FDHS be deployed, it is possible that CBARR personnel would serve as subject matter experts supporting an onsite crew of 15 trained personnel, who would be needed each shift to operate the system 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s neat to get a fresh set of eyes from someone in the military with a chemical engineering background. Being able to introduce him to the project and see what his thoughts were was a huge help, especially knowing that this system, in the long view, is expected to at first be soldier-assisted and eventually soldier-operated,” Baker said.

According to Crain, this civilian-military interaction is critical when earning higher leadership roles and moving up within a command. He got to witness the dynamic first-hand during his time at ECBC, something he does not often have the chance to do as a junior officer.

“For example, with the FDHS demonstrations, there were a lot of colonels and commanders of the chemical school in attendance. They interact a lot with the chemistry labs, and it’s very important because while the civilian side is designing it, the military side will eventually be the ones operating it. That’s why it’s important to understand that this system is capable of being run by both civilians and the military,” Crain said.

As for his biggest takeaway? “I think I’ll definitely be able to bring back the first-hand knowledge of the new technologies in the Army and how chemical engineering is truly operable to what we need. I’m also going to bring back the relationships and understanding the collaboration between Army personnel and civilians,” he said.

Crain is expected to graduate West Point in two years as a 2nd Lieutenant Officer. In five years he hopes to be serving in the Chemical Corps.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

U.S. Army ECBC employees nationally acclaimed for expertise and commitment

Researchers earn awards from Penn State University, Federal Consortium Laboratory.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) is the Nation’s premier, non-medical chemical biological defense organization. ECBC conducts some of the Nation’s most critical chemical and biological defense testing, requiring top researchers and scientists to create solutions to challenging problems. Recently, a few ECBC researchers and scientists were nationally recognized for their commitment to government service and the science community.

Research and Technology Division Chief earns Penn State University Outstanding Science Alumni Award.
Peter Emanuel, BioSciences Division Chief at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center earned the Outstanding Science Award from his alma mater Penn State University, and will be honored in November 2013. This award recognizes alumni who have a record of significant professional achievements in their field, and are outstanding role models for students in the college. The Outstanding Science Award was established by the Board of Directors of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society at Penn State.

“It’s a great honor to be selected and it provides my wife and me a great opportunity to go back to State College where we met,” said Emanuel, who was one of seven award recipients.

Since graduating from Penn State with his Ph.D in molecular and cell biology in 1994, Emanuel has served as the assistant director for chemical and biological countermeasures within the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President for three years during the Bush and Obama administrations. While there, Emanuel managed the chemical and biological defense and medical countermeasures portfolio and coordinated research-and-development efforts across the federal government.

At ECBC, Emanuel served as a scientific advisor where he developed more than 100 highly specific and sensitive tests for pathogen detection, developed recombinant antibodies using a process called combinatorial phage display, was part of a team that developed and patented a novel biological sampling device, and oversaw bacterial-fermentation production and tissue-culture production of antibodies. Currently, as BioSciences Division Chief, Emanuel is the lead for all biological research, overseeing 100 life scientists and more than 60,000 square feet of laboratories at the premier non-medical research institute for defense science and technology. “We are blessed to be located in an area surrounded by so many highly ranked universities that can feed us the next generation of Chemical Biological defense scientists and engineers,” Emanuel said.

In 2013, Emanuel received the gold Outstanding Supervisor Award Excellence in Federal Career Award from the Baltimore Federal Executive Board.

2013 Mid-Atlantic Regional Award for Excellence

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology (S&T) Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) earned the Mid-Atlantic Regional Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. Dr. Shannon Fox and Dr. Adolfo Negron helped support the Project Jack Rabbit: Chemical Release Trials to Improve Modeling, Mitigation, a project that developed critical data necessary to improve the modeling of toxic inhalation hazard chemicals (TIHs) released from accidents or terrorist attacks on chemical storage tanks or railcars. The group transferred technology to four major trade associations representing hundreds of industrial members: the Chlorine Institute (CI), the Ammonia Safety & Training Institute (ASTI), The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The transfer was performed through a variety of outlets including presentations at industry meetings and trainings, distributing data through the Jack Rabbit website and establishing a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). Dr. Fox CSAC project leader of the Jack Rabbit, conducted the technology transfer through presentations, training materials and was an instructor for industry training magazines. Dr. Negron Deputy Director for CSAC, structured and oversaw the transition process, led the effort to create the CRADA and facilitated intra-agency relationships. The Technology Transfer resulted in lives saved and dollar cost avoidance to industry. Additionally, the transfer has led to improved planning and procedures so that there could be fewer casualties in the event of a chlorine or ammonia release.

The team received their award at a 14 November ceremony.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Building the Human Body, One Cell at a Time

Reginald Gray, Ph.D discusses how he applies his medical background to the Human-on-a-Chip Project at ECBC.

Reginald Gray, Ph.D, M.B.A. was always excited about medicine and science. After spending his undergraduate summers doing biomedical research, he graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana and enrolled in graduate school earning his Ph.D in Pharmacology from Case Western Reserve University. He later attended medical school and began working for the United States Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (MRICD). Dr. Gray is now an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) postdoctoral fellow working with the in vitro stem cell group at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC).

Dr. Gray is utilizing his graduate studies in pathology, pharmacology and medical school training in cardiology to support Harry Salem, Ph.D, Chief Scientist for Life Sciences, to develop the Human-on-a-Chip project. The Human-on-a-Chip project is currently focused on using in vitro stem cell technologies in predictive human toxicology of four organ systems: heart, lung, liver, and nervous system. The project will help give better data as to how the human body might react to everything from chemical warfare agents to diseases. Recently, Human-on-a-Chip was awarded $24 million by Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, Pacific, on behalf of Defense Threat Reduction Agency to continue research for Human-on-a-Chip along with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, the University of Michigan, Morgan State University and The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Salem said that the In vitro Stem Cell team is very pleased to have Dr. Gray as an integral part of the program. “His contributions to the Human-on-a-Chip Program using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) will further advance ECBC's predictive tools for human toxicology, pharmacology and disease study,” Dr. Salem said. “His participation in all four tissues with emphasis on the heart, will assist in human estimates, risk reduction, and counter measures. In addition, using human iPSCs appears to be a more relevant system for refining, reducing and replacing the use of animals in research.”

Dr. Gray recently sat down with us to discuss his experience with ECBC and future science aspirations.

How did you get involved in the ORISE Research Program and ECBC?
After I moved to the Baltimore area, I was looking for a place to do postdoctoral research. Since my background was in pharmacology, I ended up finding a position at MRICD, where I worked for the last two years. I remained focused on doing a postdoc and continued to search the National Research Council (NRC) and ORISE websites and contact principal investigators in search of local postdoc positions. While speaking with a colleague of mine at MRICD about my situation, he told me that he knew a principal investigator at ECBC doing similar work in the field of in vitro cardiovascular science. He forwarded my CV, and I received an email from Dr. Harry Salem inviting me to an interview. Dr. Salem’s cardiovascular postdoc was leaving in a couple of months and he felt that my background in pathology, pharmacology and medicine was a good fit to resume the cardiovascular stem cell project. So, I applied for the postdoc position through ORISE and began working at ECBC in late March 2013.

Describe the work you do here at ECBC. The other postdocs and I are working together to develop the Human-on-a-Chip. We each specialize in different organs systems, i.e., heart, liver, lung, and the nervous system with the long-term objective of connecting the four systems through microfluidics or other mediums for human predictive toxicity testing. Little data exists on the cardiovascular effects of chemical warfare agents and other compounds that are potential threats to the Warfighter. Currently I am using induced pluripotent stem cells to derive cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CM) to examine cardiovascular toxicity of pesticides and chemical warfare agents. The significance of these studies is that by using human stem cells we eliminate the interspecies variability that limits the interpretation of current cadiotoxicity studies, which are largely developed with animal models.

What is the best part about your role at ECBC?
Before I started working for MRICD, I never thought much about chemical warfare agent research and medical countermeasure development. During my MRICD interview, Dr. Koplovitz and Cpt. Palmer enlightened me as they discussed the significance of and types of research done within the Army’s chembio defense program and the lives it saves in today’s threats of terrorism, both with respect to the warfighter and the civilian population. It is a priceless feeling to serve my country as a scientist, applying my knowledge, ideas and skillsets, knowing that my work is contributing to the needs of the warfighter and society as a whole.

How did you know you wanted to get involved with research and science?
Ever since I could remember, I have always been interested in medicine and science. During undergrad at Xavier University, I was a double major and double minor. The university encouraged science majors to participate in summer research programs, so between my sophomore and junior year, I did a summer program at Wake Forest University in the Department of Neurobiology/Anatomy studying Amyloid Precursor Protein mRNA expression and its role in Alzheimer’s disease. It was my first research experience, and I was hooked. When I returned to Xavier during my junior year, I applied and was accepted in the Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (SEM/MIE) Fellowship program, and I participated in a research project at Xavier for the next two years in the Department of Chemistry. Between my junior and senior year I participated in a second summer research program at Marquette University in muscle physiology while researching Ph.D programs to apply to in the fall of my senior year.

Can you describe your background?
I earned my Ph.D in pharmacology from Case Western Reserve University, and my research specialization was in immunology and pathology. I then attended medical school for three years, but took a financial leave of absence, moved to Baltimore and started working at MRICD, pharmacology branch, under Irwin Koplovitz, Ph.D. The work I participated in at MRICD was similar to the work we do here, predicting toxicity of nerve agents. We also were starting a cardiotoxicity project using the Langendorff apparatus when I resigned and began at ECBC.

Describe your day to day experience at ECBC
I like to begin my day early because I feel the most productive in the morning and usually the lab is less busy. When I am not in the lab doing experiments, I spend time analyzing data, reading scientific articles, planning future experiments, or taking care of administrative tasks.

What is the goal of your research?
The goal of my research is to validate our system through testing pesticides, toxicants, and CWAs using human and animal cardiomyocytes to determine mechanisms of action and make educated estimates of cardiotoxicity. The long-term objective of my research is the development of an in vitro platform for high throughput assessment of human cardiotoxicity of xenobiotics capable of testing compounds of interest to DoD. Additionally, my studies will assist researchers in developing cardiovascular focused medical countermeasure therapies for the warfighter and civilian.

What is the most challenging part of this program for you?
A challenging aspect of the program for me is the transition from working in an academic environment to working in a government environment. Research requires long extensive hours including many weekends. The hours here are more restricted. As a postdoc your goal is productivity and to publish as much as possible. I had to really program myself to work within the restraints of working hours and manage my research studies within the prescribed workweek.

What are your plans for the future after your postdoc ends?
After my postdoc ends, I would like to continue in the field of stem cell technology. Stem cells are at the cutting edge of science and medicine. For example, stem cell technology is spearheading the field of personalized medicine and targeting debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and cancer, to name a few. My long-term goal is to continue biomedical research in the government or academia and one day have my own lab.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Q&A with Uday Mehta

Uday Mehta, mechanical engineer for CBARR, is retiring after 30+ years of federal service. We had a chance to sit down with Uday as he reflects back on his years of service and looks forward to a new chapter.

Q. Where are you from and how did you end up working at ECBC?
A. I was born in Mumbai (Bombay), India and studied metallurgical engineering before moving to the U.S. in 1973 as a student. In 1974, I worked for the City of Baltimore for Veterans Affairs at Loch Raven VA Hospital before the Baltimore District office of the FDA hired me.

Q. How long have you been working at CBARR?
A. Since February 1990, I worked as chemist for the Monitoring Branch, which was looking for a chemist who could operate the brand new gas chromatographs in its laboratory. I developed analytical procedures for the detection of HD, GB, GD and Lewisite. By then, ECBC’s role had significantly increased beyond Edgewood and our expertise was called upon at various military installations and home and abroad. As program manager, I wrote specifications for mobile laboratories and explosive containment structures called Interim Holding Facilities (IHF). I was also a “traveling salesman” for CBARR, attending various trade shows and workshops where I talked with representatives from industry and government. Additionally, I managed an Inter Agency Agreement (IAA) with the Environmental Protection Agency, under which ECBC provided analytical and technical support during various decontamination incidents.

Q. How has the CBARR organization evolved throughout the years?
A. In 1990, we were supporting only the local tenants on Aberdeen Proving Ground. Since then, our boundaries have expanded exponentially by looking for opportunities beyond Edgewood and Formerly Used Defense sites. Now we are supporting an international community.

Q. What has been your favorite part about working for CBARR?
A. The Chemical Biological Defense COM Commanding General MG John Doesburg invited my family for a group photo as he presented me with a 20 year service certificate and pin, and gave a commendation letter for my father who had served on the Supreme War Council in Burma during World War II.

Q. What will you miss most about working at ECBC? What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
A. I will miss the group of highly talented scientists and engineers from various backgrounds, and I’ve learned that team effort has brought us to the forefront of CB science.

Q. Use one word to describe your 30+ year career in the federal service.
A. Collaborative.

Q. What are your retirement plans?
A. I want to be near my granddaughters. The second one is arriving in the middle of September, my retirement gift. I am traveling to South America in October with my college friends, and Florida in November. This winter, I am going to Turkey and India to be with my mother.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Fresh Perspective: a Guest Column by Jerome Vauthrin, ACWA intern

Jerome Vauthrin is a program and management analyst intern at the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA). As part of his internship with ACWA's Chief of Staff Office, Vauthrin learned the basics of management at the New Leader Program at Graduate School USA. One of the assignments was to perform a 30-day detail with Tom Rosso, program manager at ECBC's Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit.

I was not familiar with ECBC beyond what I read on the website, and all I knew of CBARR was that a number of government vehicles had their logo stickered on them. Thankfully, Tom Rosso, program manager, had been most receptive and willing to help me learn more about the Center and CBARR operations. Tom and his team have been very welcoming, and CBARR is a colorful place where everyone has their own contributions to the CBARR culture.

Vauthrin works on the fabrication of the new Field
Deployable Hydrolysis System, an elimination
technology with a 99.9 percent efficiency rate.
During my 30-day detail, Tom had set me up with some neat things. I was able to see ECBC senior leadership in action discussing a range of topics from employee concerns and safety topics to the impact of furloughs on day-to-day business and upcoming visits. I was also able to attend meetings and demonstrations of the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, where Department of Defense personnel from different agencies and military commands were in attendance. This gave me an idea of what a site visit is like, including the diversity of people who attend, the types of questions asked and the amount of preparation that needs to be coordinated to ensure a smooth presentation.

Additionally, Tom provided a tour (in CBARR’s very own economically-friendly Chevy Volt) of a variety of ECBC facilities and laboratories, including the Mask Issue facility, the Environmental Monitoring Laboratory and the testing site of the Rapid Detect-Identify-Decontaminate Kit, which uses the C-130 military aircrafts. Needless to say, my days at CBARR have been a mix of interesting things.
Tom Ross, middle, talks to Department of Defense stakeholders
during an FDHS demonstration in June. Vauthrin shadowed
Rosso during a 30-day detail this summer.
It has been great entertainment and a great experience learning from the CBARR crew. I have had the opportunity to see what the chemical demilitarization world is all about as well as learn about some of the other projects occurring onsite at ECBC. So, what’s been the best part? To be able to see that much in the short time I have been here has really opened my eyes to the type of support the Center provides. If you were to ask me how to describe ECBC as a whole, I would have to say it is a very dynamic environment. And it has to be, given the number of missions it supports and the variety of facilities and personnel required to support those missions.

Do I sound like an ECBC fan? I must admit that my time here has turned me from an indifferent recipient who was vaguely aware of ECBC’s role in supporting ACWA, to someone who has gained a great appreciation for the CBARR work that supports a variety of missions across the world. I can say I have enjoyed my experience at CBARR and appreciate the novelty of a fresh perspective.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's in a degree? Lindsey Lyman talks biology, decision analysis and cross-training certifications

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The single-serving college degree is a thing of the past. No longer does a degree concentration have to pigeonhole your career path; it can serve as the cornerstone that helps you jump tracks in multi-disciplinary fashion. Just ask Lindsey Lyman, a biologist for the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), who has spanned the scientific infrastructure of work at the Center while exploring the depths of her knowledge with a curiosity for real-world applicability.

“I was never one of those kids who was super focused on what they wanted to be when they grew up or anything like that,” said Lyman, who currently works with the Center’s CBARR Business Unit. “I liked biology in high school and it was kind of a default selection for my major in college. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ve always enjoyed the bio classes and think it’s really fascinating subject matter.”
Lyman began working at ECBC in 2004 after graduating from the University of Delaware with a general biological sciences degree. But her position on the Decision Analysis Team (DAT) curbed the need to directly apply her scientific background and instead promoted a secondary capability: risk and impact studies. For seven years, Lyman analyzed everything from simulation modeling and cost/benefit analysis to equipment selections and business case analysis. The customer-funded team examined a variety of projects, including selecting equipment for a mobile laboratory based on customer needs as well as the size, weight and power of the equipment. Still, Lyman was curious to learn more. After three years of part-time study at Johns Hopkins University, she received her Master’s degree in Biotechnology with a concentration in Biodefense.

“The more education you have the better. I don’t think it’s a requirement, but I do think it helps to have a better understanding, especially from a biodefense perspective, of the organisms that we’re looking at and the technologies that we’re using on a daily basis to execute the mission,” she said.
Lyman returned to her hard science roots two years ago when she took a detail working for the Environmental BioMonitoring Laboratory (EBML) using the same equipment she once evaluated and recommended to customers as part of DAT. This time, as a CBARR biologist working in the laboratory, she’s testing samples for different clients. “I can see first-hand how we’re directing their processes and how we’re impacting what they’re doing,” she said.

Lyman currently works onsite at a client’s laboratory and operational facility, which utilizes both chemical and biological technologies for sample analysis. As part of the deployed EBML team, she tests client samples for specific targets of interest and provides a daily report of her findings. How does this compare to work done in the ECBC labs? According to Lyman, the Center has more flexibility to investigate new test methodologies and technological equipment, but overall the capability remains constant. In a way, this mirrors her ability to effectively maneuver within the ECBC framework, driven to learn more and discover new avenues worth pursuing.
"I think her career has been a nice story so far. Lindsey has a biology degree working for ECBC, but started off her career mainly doing deskwork for DAT. Now, she’s getting the chance to work both in the laboratory at ECBC as well as in the field and on client sites,” said Isaac Fruchey, branch chief for the EBML.

Lyman’s full-circle career also has a neat twist. She has completed cross-training in both chemical and biological laboratory analysis techniques, a capability that enables her to conduct a variety of work for clients. According to Lyman, there is a distinct difference between chemical and biological procedures, none of which translate directly to corresponding technologies. Without the technical background to initially complete this kind of work, she proactively sought a cross-training solution that resulted in GC/MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) and LC/MS (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) Trip Quadruple certifications.
“Since she came over on detail, she has become one of my primary field analysts, as well as a project lead for on-boarding some of the new assays. She’s also taken the time to become cross-trained in chemical testing capabilities, including certification in GC/MS and LC/MS Triple Quadruple methodologies,” Fruchey said.

The opportunities ECBC has provided her, coupled with the foresight and fearlessness to pursue them, have been strong factors in advancing her career across spectrums and further down the scientific path of the unknown. Not to mention, the people she works with at ECBC have embodied a spirit of collaboration that she says, inspires.
"I came in with no lab experience and not really sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do,” Lyman said. “It’s been great to be able to learn so many different things and be a part of so many different projects. It’s empowering to feel like I’m being useful with my abilities by helping people and serving clients. And to have the opportunity to continue to learn so many different technologies and methods is exciting as much as it is invaluable.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Employee Spotlight: CURTIS HOLLISTER

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Curtis Hollister is not the kind of person who would use “fabulous” or “blessed” to describe a given experience. He is not the kind of guy who talks openly about the numerous countries--Guam, England, Belgium, Australia, Sweden and Jordan—that working at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) on international missions has afforded him. And he definitely is not the kind of guy who goes by his first name: Worthy.

But he is the kind of person who embodies what the CBARR is known for at the Center: working hard until the mission is complete. As branch chief of Process Technology, Hollister    supervises seven employees and prefers to lead by example, a style that is personified by the mantra, “If you’re doing it, I’m doing it.” It’s what he says to CBARR Director of Operations Tim Blades when asked if he’s willing to deploy overseas, work with chemicals or manage a new task. It’s also what the employees under Hollister say when he asks them the same.
“I wouldn’t ask anybody to do something that I wouldn’t do. I’ve been very lucky to have a good group of people in my branch and within CBARR who share this belief,” said Hollister, who has been a supervisor for 11 years and with ECBC since 1999. At any given time on a project site, he works with leadership across several CBARR branches including, Chemical Equipment Maintenance, Field Maintenance and Field Technology, sharing responsibility with supervisors to ensure onsite safety and to manage as many as 15 highly trained specialized personnel onsite at any given time.

“There’s more to the mission than just doing your job. Being in the middle between employees I supervise and CBARR leadership, I want to take care of the folks I have responsibility for,” Hollister said. “When you have customers to satisfy, you get a clearer picture of what you need to take care of. At the same time, understanding the details is incredibly important to the foundation of your work. It’s a balanced perspective.”

Hollister has a unique one, at that. A Maryland native, in 1990 he graduated from Washington College in Chestertown with a degree in business management before taking a marketing and sales position and was “bored to death after a year-and-a-half.” Hollister needed something a little more dynamic that could also pay off his student loans, he recalled. Shortly after, he enlisted in the United States Army as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician, with hopes of seeing the world. Instead, he was stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, just a drive down I-95 from where he grew up in Cecil County. The EOD experience included first responder work whenever buried munitions were found on post, and then safely destroying the rounds through proper technological channels.
“Explosives and chemicals add a little bit of excitement to the job. There’s a bit of danger, but once you’re trained you understand the chemicals you’re working with, and trust the safety policies and personnel protective equipment,” said Hollister, who recalled the two weeks of chemical training in EOD School as his least favorite. “I never thought I’d end up doing this stuff and get to a place where I really enjoy it.”

It wasn’t until after his service that Hollister got to travel for 6-8 weeks at a time with the Technical Escort Unit of the CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity (CARA), touching nearly every state in the country and even traveled to Kuwait. As part of the Army’s 20th Support Command, Tech Escort is responsible for the safe transport of surety materials to secure federal locations. When he took the job with ECBC in 1999, he started out in the Center’s Chemical Transfer Facility (CTF). He also spent time working as a DAAMS (Depot Area Air Monitoring Systems) technician and MINICAMS (Miniature Continuous Air Monitors) operator for the monitoring branch of CBARR.

“When I first started at the CTF, I had no idea destruction systems would be evolving. The Explosive Destruction System (EDS), the Donovan Chamber and the Munitions  Assessment and Processing System (MAPS) facility weren’t even around yet,” Hollister said. “So I think my role has evolved from a more chemical monitoring side to an explosive and destruction side. Overall, the variety of work CBARR does has expanded to reflect this, and resulted in some of the projects we’ve done to provide sample analysis for the eventual demolition of former agent laboratories and facilities.”
As the elimination technologies advanced, so too, has Hollister’s career. Utilizing his EOD background, Hollister traveled to numerous countries where the latest advancements of these destruction systems were being tested and monitored, including England, where he got to visit the town his grandfather was from. Albeit, the name of the small village escapes his memory. From discovering family history in England to enjoying the tropical climate of Guam, Hollister said the most surprising experience was a two-week site visit to Jordan in the Middle East where he participated as a team member to conduct an assessment of the country’s chemical analysis capabilities, including PPE and detection equipment.

“I was a little apprehensive just being in that part of the world. I had never been there and you hear every day about the turmoil that exists. But once I was there, the people were incredibly nice and I felt comfortable. I’ve seen a lot of neat things being a part of ECBC, but I kick myself because I’ve hardly taken any photos of anywhere I’ve traveled to,” Hollister said.
That hasn’t stopped him from writing, however. On Feb. 8, 2013, the Cecil Whig newspaper ( published an op-ed piece written by Hollister. No, it wasn’t about his experience as an EOD serviceman in the Army or his world-traveling missions for ECBC. Curtis Hollister isn’t the kind of guy who would do that. Instead, he wrote “One More Week,” an article that spoke to the heart of many Marylanders: crabs and football, and spending time with friends and family.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inside the Executive Officer Position: Current and former Engineering XOs interview each other on their experiences

On a Thursday morning in June, former Engineering Directorate Executive Officer (XO) Todd Nay, and current Engineering Directorate XO Amy Maxwell discussed the rotational position over breakfast. The Engineering Edge was present to capture their perspectives on ECBC’s prestigious rotational program.

About the XO:

Todd Nay

Duration of XO Tenure: November 2012-May 2013

Previous position: ECBC Safety Office, Safety Engineer

Little known fact: Todd and his wife were featured on HGTV’s “Bang for Your Buck” television show. While he and his wife won the television competition by creating the best renovations at a cheap price, the show did not award prizes for winning at that time, so they still went home empty handed.


Amy Maxwell (AM): How do you think the XO position benefitted your career?

Todd Nay (TN): Since I came from Safety, I was already used to interacting with a lot of people so I think the XO position helped me in two ways. First off, it helped me develop better relationships with people within the Engineering Directorate. While I’ve worked with engineers before, I feel like I have a better relationship with the Engineering supervisors. Being back in the Safety office, I feel like now I know who to reach out to if I have a problem. In my current position, I’ve been able to reach out to supervisors who I’ve met through the XO program for help. Building that awareness and those relationships definitely made my job easier.

The second benefit is that it has enhanced my presentation skills. As a safety engineer, I brief and send emails to senior leadership about safety issues. Having the opportunity to work closely with senior leadership for six months and attend their meetings, I have gotten a better sense of the type of information they want and types of questions I should anticipate. This allows me to tailor the presentation material to make sure it covers exactly what they need.

AM: Would you say the XO position has expanded your network and visibility with ECBC and non-ECBC personnel?

TN: It did expand my network, though primarily with supervisors. I also met several non-supervisors and had the opportunity to meet other people who directly support the leadership. I expanded my network outside of ECBC as well. I attended multiple Joint Project Executive Office (JPEO) and Joint Program Manager (JPM) meetings, so I had the opportunity to meet people at that level. The XO position helped me get my foot in the door with both the PMs and the Engineering Directorate employees matrixed to them. As a result of my interactions with the JPEO and JPMs, I’m hoping to work closely with them to help them establish some safety programs.

AM: How did the XO Program expand your knowledge of the Center and its capabilities?

TN: Coming from the Safety Office, I had a good command of what the Center does. The biggest benefit from the XO position for me, was gaining an understanding of ECBC’s external relationships and competition, as well as understanding the kinds of things that management deals with every day.

AM: If you could go back, is there anything that you would have changed about your time as XO?

TN: One project I tried to accomplish was to schedule one-on-ones with the Division Chiefs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet with all of them but made it to some. If I could go back, I would start the process of scheduling the one-on-ones with them sooner than I had, so that I could get to everybody. I also wish I had gotten the chance to schedule the same one-on-ones with branch chiefs. I met and talked to a few of them, but I wish I had gotten a little more personal interaction with them as well.

AM: What advice would you give to me as a new XO?

TN: Be deliberate with the Directorate leadership about goals that you want to achieve. In the Engineering Directorate, the leadership is intentional about helping you achieve the goals you set for yourself as an XO. They are very conscious about placing you in the right position to achieve whatever goals you may have. For me, I wanted to expand my network, so they helped me be able to attend the right meetings with them and interact with the best people. I really appreciate the opportunity they gave me to make the position something that I could greatly benefit from.



Duration of XO Tenure: May 2013-present

Previous position: Project Management CBR Filtration Branch, Research and Technology Directorate

Little known fact: Amy was a ballet dancer for 20 years, but then stopped when she had kids. Amy had been dancing since she was five years old doing ballet, dance, tap and many other forms of dance. While Amy has not danced in a while she would like to get back into it.

Todd Nay (TN): What position did you hold previous to the XO rotation?

Amy Maxwell (AM): I was a member of the CBR Filtration Branch within the Research and Technology (R&T) Directorate. I was mainly in a project manager role over there. I ran a project that came in from research with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. I also do a lot of test and evaluation (T&E) work. Since I have a T&E background that is something I continue to do in my role.

When I was initially brought onto the team, I worked on a test methodology standardization project that lasted five to six years. I occasionally worked in the lab, but that was not my primary function. I needed to get Dugway, Eglin, Air Force Research Lab, Natick and ECBC to work together to develop standard test methods. The six years this project took, accounted for most of my time with the Branch. I’ve done smaller projects in-between as well.

Prior to working on the CBR Filtration Branch, I was an employee in the Engineering Directorate for three years. The transition between the two directorates was a bit of a learning curve but was not a total shock to me. While the management styles between the two directorates are pretty different, the expectation to deliver quality work is the same. Coming back to Engineering in the XO role is pretty different as well. I think the Directorate has changed a lot since the eight years I have been working in R&T. When I was in Engineering, there was no formalized strategic management process, there was different management, the projects were different and the budget situation was not what it was today. The changes keep things interesting though.

TN: What are your personal goals as an XO?

AM: I would like to build my network back up again in the Joint Project Manager areas. I had that when I worked in Engineering, but it’s been so long I have not been able to maintain those relationships. I also wanted to gain insights into the functions of the Center: the budgeting, the people perspective and the Goal Teams. Through learning more about that, I can see where I might be able to support at a Center level. I would like to find ways to make an impact at the Center level. I think it might be rewarding for me and hopefully the Center. I also want to see if I can get more Center exposure to T&E. I found that many people don’t understand the critical methodology programs that we create at the Center-level. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to educate people on that.

TN: Did you know any of the other XOs prior to your rotation?

AM: I knew Kari Wiesner from when she worked at the Protective Factor chamber. I didn’t know Rich Wallace or Mike Mays at all. So, it was nice to meet new people, and see new faces.

TN: Prior to ECBC where have worked?

AM: I worked at Corning Incorporated for about two years, and I really liked the company, but the plant shut down. When I started there as a process engineer in 1999, the company was involved in the telecommunications industry working with optical fiber and producing amplifiers. In early 2001, investors in the telecommunications industry backed away, and the entire industry plummeted. Over several rounds, everybody in the plant was laid off. While the company asked several of us to return to other jobs, I decided to look for a job elsewhere. I liked the company, but with no ties to the area, I was ready for a change and ECBC has been a great fit.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part V

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part V
Introduction (Can be included as a header in all five posts): ECBC is kicking off a week-long blog series that walks you through the process of how the Center’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit safely handles and processes an unknown sample, from onsite recovery to laboratory sample analysis. Unidentified contents can pose great dangers to personnel supporting Department of Defense remediation efforts across the country. With a highly trained and experienced workforce that is certified, vaccinated, cleared and mobile, it is no wonder why ECBC is recognized as a leading entity that can safely determine unknown samples and recommend follow-up protocols to ensure proper handling.

Part V: What happens after a sample is accurately analyzed and indentified?
ECBC issues a final report to the customer regarding the unknown sample. This report includes an analytical narrative, sample summary, photographs, charts and analytical results for all of the tests conducted on the sample. From the data, the customer can accurately assess the situation on the project site and decide the best path forward.

For more information on CBARR capabilities, check out the latest issue of the CBARR News monthly newsletter:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part IV

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part IV
Introduction (Can be included as a header in all five posts): ECBC is kicking off a week-long blog series that walks you through the process of how the Center’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit safely handles and processes an unknown sample, from onsite recovery to laboratory sample analysis. Unidentified contents can pose great dangers to personnel supporting Department of Defense remediation efforts across the country. With a highly trained and experienced workforce that is certified, vaccinated, cleared and mobile, it is no wonder why ECBC is recognized as a leading entity that can safely determine unknown samples and recommend follow-up protocols to ensure proper handling.

Part IV: How long does it take to determine the contents of an unknown sample?
The EML is a full-service laboratory for processing a high volume of samples. With more than 50 civilian and contractor staff members, the EML is capable of analyzing samples in a short period of time and with a sense of urgency that ensures safety for personnel and the community.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part III

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part III
ECBC is kicking off a week-long blog series that walks you through the process of how the Center’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit safely handles and processes an unknown sample, from onsite recovery to laboratory sample analysis. Unidentified contents can pose great dangers to personnel supporting Department of Defense remediation efforts across the country. With a highly trained and experienced workforce that is certified, vaccinated, cleared and mobile, it is no wonder why ECBC is recognized as a leading entity that can safely determine unknown samples and recommend follow-up protocols to ensure proper handling.

Part III: What capabilities does ECBC provide customers?

Using state-of-the-art equipment, the EML has the capability to perform analysis of several matrices. This includes: air, water, soil, paint chips, wipes, organic solids and liquids, marine tissue, demolition debris and unknowns. Environmental sample screening includes qualitative and quantitative analysis of chemical agents, biological agents, degradation products, industrial compounds and metals in a wide range of media.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part II

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part II
ECBC is kicking off a week-long blog series that walks you through the process of how the Center’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit safely handles and processes an unknown sample, from onsite recovery to laboratory sample analysis. Unidentified contents can pose great dangers to personnel supporting Department of Defense remediation efforts across the country. With a highly trained and experienced workforce that is certified, vaccinated, cleared and mobile, it is no wonder why ECBC is recognized as a leading entity that can safely determine unknown samples and recommend follow-up protocols to ensure proper handling.

Part II: How does ECBC determine how to handle an unknown sample?

Members of ECBC’s Chemical Operations Branch, Environmental Monitoring Laboratory (EML) and the Safety and Health Office meet and perform a table-top risk assessment for handling the unknown sample. Determining proper methods, the sample container is opened and the solid or liquid contents are assessed and analyzed by the appropriate methods in accordance with customer requirements.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part I

Too Hot to Handle: How ECBC Keeps its Cool when Investigating an Unknown Sample - Part I
ECBC is kicking off a week-long blog series that walks you through the process of how the Center’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit safely handles and processes an unknown sample, from onsite recovery to laboratory sample analysis. Unidentified contents can pose great dangers to personnel supporting Department of Defense remediation efforts across the country. With a highly trained and experienced workforce that is certified, vaccinated, cleared and mobile, it is no wonder why ECBC is recognized as a leading entity that can safely determine unknown samples and recommend follow-up protocols to ensure proper handling.

Part I: What happens to an unknown sample once it is recovered from a project site?
Safety protocols are implemented and the item is secured by trained onsite professionals. The appropriate response agencies are notified, including the Army response agency, CARA, and the non-explosive item is securely transported to ECBC’s Chemical Transfer Facility (CTF) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Explosively configured items are safely transported to a storage bunker at Edgewood. The CTF is the single repository for the Army’s research and development stocks toxic chemical agents and is classified as a Single Small Scale Facility under the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is equipped with personnel and technologies to accurately handle, analyze and identify an unknown substance.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Joint Service Physical Protection Branch Expertise Defends Nation from Chem-Bio Threats

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Within the Joint Service Physical Protection Engineering (JSPPE) Branch, a unique blend of seasoned engineers work together, apply their collective and individual protection expertise, and counter Chemical Biological (CB) threats.

Within the last year, realignments brought the Collective Protection (ColPro) and the Individual Protection (IP) teams closer under the JSPPE Branch.

“We’re able to draw off the technical resources – there’s a lot of back and forth between ColPro and IP staff because we have common issues,” said Trish Weiss, IP Team Leader. “The combined Branch has been a really good thing for us.”

John Clayton, ColPro Sustainment and Fixed Site Team Leader, agrees with this sentiment: “Our team doesn’t operate in a bubble; we collaborate across other groups within ECBC and our customers harness this efficiency.”

The recent retirement of Jim Church, former JSPPE Branch Chief, extracted more than 40 years of knowledge. Yet his predecessor, Don Kilduff, is confident in the remaining and ever-growing knowledge in the Branch.

“Jim’s retirement may seem like an overwhelming gap for the Branch, but I would consider it a success story,” says Kilduff. “Jim felt passionate enough about what we do here within the branch to be able to amass those years of knowledge and build upon them by staying with us for so long.”

Despite Church’s departure, the Branch remains packed with experts, passionate about protecting the Warfighter. Prior to the Branch Chief position, he served as the team leader for the Apache Joint Service Aircrew Mask (JSAM) project since 1999. Clayton, who started supporting ECBC as a student contractor during college, is approaching a two-decade term of service. Weiss has built a career on loyalty to the Army, with more than 28 years of experience.

“There are several other people in this Branch who have many years of experience in the physical protection commodity area,” Weiss said.  “For example, Sam Carter, our Systems Manager for the M45 series mask, has over 25 years experience with the M40 and M45 series masks.  He is our ‘go to’ technical resource and ‘corporate memory’ on these systems. Such experience and technical expertise is highly valued here.” Weiss and Clayton also note other long time experts in their Branch, Wayne Gulian, a ColPro engineer, has nearly 30 years direct experience, and Allen Swim, an ECBC representative SME for PM Ground Combat Vehicle, has a diverse skillset extending to most things related to CB.

Weiss, who marked her start with ECBC before a six year assignment with the then-U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency’s Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project, supporting the Explosive Destruction System, eventually found her way back to individual protection.

When Weiss first began working with ECBC in the early 1980s, the M40 mask was what she calls “the new toy,” now as her IP Team manages the sustainment of the M40 as a legacy mask; Weiss values the experience she has of working with a mask from its conception to its sustainment.

“Sustainment in those systems is very important because the M40 and M45 are still in production at Pine Bluff Arsenal,” says Weiss. “Even legacy systems have issues arising in production, such as tooling or availability of materials or components, and these things require technical support.”

In addition to sustaining the legacy M40 mask, the IP team also aids with the current fielding of the Joint Service General Purpose Mask (JSGPM), the M50 and the JSAM.  Recently, they began providing support to the Combat Support Team, conducting Personal Protective Equipment training.

Weiss and her team are passionate about protecting the warfighter, and work to inform and educate the military community on issues involving safety of use of individual protection systems through forums like Army Chemical Review and PS Preventative Maintenance Monthly Magazine.

“For example, we recently published an article in the Army Chemical Review about the importance of using the authorized military C2A1 Canister with the M40 series mask versus look-alike commercial canisters. We are advocates for the safety of our soldiers,” Weiss said. Weiss and her team earned a Silver Quill award for an article appearing in Army Chemical Review about this topic. Many within the IP Team also share knowledge with their co-workers in the ColPro Team.

“If there was an attack, these filters are there to protect the people,” explains Clayton. “The systems filter incoming air and provide overpressure in the protected space; as pressure is increased, air travels from the protected area to the contaminated area through any leaks (instead of vice versa), so we don’t have to worry about absolutely sealing every leak point.  This results in a protected space for work and relief from wearing IP equipment.”

To ensure the efficacy of these systems, the team also conducts semi-annual leak tests and periodic surveillance involving removal and tests of filters to analyze degradation and predict when they should be replaced.  These tests indicate how well the system is performing; some systems use hundreds of individual filters. If the filters need to be replaced, the team coordinates with TACOM to order replacements and conduct change outs – an area of growth for the team, says Clayton. An Interagency Agreement is in review to provide support to the State Department Bureau of Overseas Buildings.

ColPro also draws from the knowledge base within the Research and Technology Directorate’s Chemical Biological Radiological (CBR) Filtration Branch. Clayton explains the synergy between his group and CBR Filtration: “We’re linked; they’re developing new filtration technologies, such as work on new adsorbents to address the change in threat. Jerry Young, a team member, is also working with them on the Rapid Filter Protection Assessment Tool, a smartphone app that will assist Users by estimating filter life given potential field scenarios. We execute against User requirements, leverage what they develop, and work to field the technology.”

Clayton observes the shifting threat from Chemical Warfare to Toxic Industrial Chemicals, noting that customers within JPM Protection have expressed an interest in the new absorbent technologies, with the hope that they can be transitioned into the newer mask series.

JPM Protection is currently working the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) program, which Clayton considers a new development program for ColPro; Allen Lai, from the JSPPE Branch, represents ECBC on the program. “They are using engineering to make products lighter without sacrificing durability,” explains Clayton. “The program is driven by weight – legacy systems are heavy.” Field expedience and strike-erect times are also important.

Clayton said he thinks JECP is where the future of ColPro is headed, and is glad that ECBC can be a contributor to the future of ColPro.

“There is a lot of good working going on at ECBC and there is a lot of talent here,” says Weiss. “And there are a lot of folks with years of experience in their respective areas; we just like for that to be recognized.”


Thursday, May 23, 2013

SHARE program shines light on available resources across APG

Project from APG Senior Leadership Cohort offers community-based tool for organization efficiency

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – There is a wealth of subject matter experts, resources and assets across the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) installation that spark innovative research efforts and perform sound testing capabilities to accomplish mission critical objectives for the U.S. Army.

Tapping into these areas across APG organizations has become even easier thanks to a new digital bulletin board tool available to government employees. Seeking Help through Available Resource Exchanges (SHARE) is a community-based project developed from this year’s APG Senior Leadership Cohort. In February ECBC’s Steve Norman, Peter Emanuel and Ron Pojunas, graduated from the program, which was created to build a self-sustaining leadership community among high potential GS-14/15 and equivalent level managers at APG. SHARE was one of the capstone projects that resulted from the cohort.  It is a web-enabled milBook product that facilitates the exchange of goods and services in a collaborative effort to accomplish our missions.

“There’s a lot of talent on APG that we really aren’t taking advantage of,  this board came about as an electronic media where you can advertise resources,” said Norman, chief of the Environmental Monitoring Laboratory branch for the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s (ECBC) Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit.

“For example, if you are in need of two chemists to work on a certain project, you would put the duration and specifications of this detail on the web-based bulletin board. Someone who may have two chemists that are available can respond to the request, exchange contact information and begin the process to execute the detail.  That requirement then comes off the board,” Norman explained.

Similarly, an organization can advertise resources they may have available in order to attract potential customers across APG and make visible their assets that have traditionally remained hidden on a grassroots level.  SHARE’s digital platform turns available resources into highly visible prospects for organizations to capitalize on, whether it is reducing costs, cutting down the time needed to generate contracts or completing a project in a more efficient manner.

“In this time of sequestration, we’re trying to do more with less,” Norman said. “If you have folks that are available who aren’t fully engaged, you now have an opportunity to advertise their core competencies with the hope that they may be needed to support other organizations.  This also prevents the organization receiving the support from the laborious process of generating contract vehicles to accomplish a task or procure a resource. ” 

As the largest employer in Harford County with more than 21,000 civilian, military and contractor employees, the U.S. Army garrison supports military intelligence, medical research, engineering and computer technology achievements.  Home to 11 major commands that support more than 80 tenants, 20 satellite and 17 private activities, utilizing existing capital enables organizations to work more collaboratively, effectively manage the ebbs and flows of a given workload and raises awareness of the “buyer” and “seller” existence.

Using the digital interface, users can create blogs to start discussions and receive notifications of new posts. Information can be tailored and formatted in ways that facilitate advertisements and solicitations. Attachments can also be added to posts, which can be tagged with key words to target specific audiences and make searches more efficient.

The SHARE program has been active for the past three months and encourages collaboration not only within ECBC but installation-wide. Engaging APG’s workforce in the digital space can also lead to creative problem solving in real time. The unique, yet simple, concept of the SHARE project fosters a resource-sharing environment where APG tenants can reach out to the local Army workforce for support. As a result, it equips the installation with better buying power capabilities during a challenging Department of Defense climate of sequestration, war time drawdown, contract reform and reduction in force.

“If we let some other folks know what our skill sets are and what talents we have here at ECBC that are available, that may also help generate funding opportunities. A majority of the work we do is customer-funded so we have to get out there and find new ways to capture the work ourselves. This is almost an avenue to advertise what we can do for folks who need our capabilities,” Norman said.