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.

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