Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ECBC Employee Spotlight: Julie Renner, JUPITR Scientist

Julie Renner, an analytical toxicologist at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, has always enjoyed traveling and experiencing new cultures. Her most recent developmental assignment in the Republic of Korea (ROK) supporting the Joint United States Forces Korea (USFK) Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition advanced technology demonstration (JUPITR ATD), allowed her to expand her chemical and biological defense knowledge while learning about a different country. JUPITR ATD is a program led by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO) and supported by ECBC, to establish biological surveillance capabilities to the Korean Peninsula through four thrust areas.

JUPITR is unique in that it sends ECBC and Public Health Command (PHC) researchers to South Korea to work alongside USFK representatives to improve their laboratory capabilities. Renner was one of ten ECBC scientists who made the journey so far, and one of two who have completed more than one rotation. Now, Renner shares some of her experiences in this role and how this assignment will shape her future at ECBC and with the Department of Defense in general..

What is your educational background, and how did you get started at ECBC?

I graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2003 with Bachelor’s Degrees in biology and chemistry. After graduation, I really didn’t know exactly what type of work I wanted to pursue. While I was in college, I worked a seasonal job at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Remediation, following graduation I returned there. One day, I came across a Monster.com job posting for a contractor position with ECBC’s analytical toxicology team. It sounded intriguing and after doing a little research, I realized how important ECBC’s work is to the nation, so I applied. The interview went well and in November 2003, I was offered a position by Geo-Centers, Inc. as a Scientist 1. I’ve worked with ECBC ever since eventually making the move from contractor to government employee. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work for both the analytical toxicology and operational toxicology teams in different facets. I completed University of Florida’s online masters program in forensic toxicology in 2007, with the help of my previous company.

How did you initially get involved with JUPITR?

I first heard about JUPITR when Peter Emanuel [JUPITR Program lead] sent out a mass invitation to an informational meeting about the JUPITR ATD in Korea. I love traveling and am always looking for opportunities to learn so, it piqued my interest. Initially, I simply planned to attend the meeting to learn more information, but at the end of the meeting, Peter asked for volunteers to go to Korea, and I found myself signing up. I realized what an amazing developmental assignment this was and what an amazing opportunity this program would give me, so I did not hesitate to participate.

Why did you participate in two rotations? How did your first time there differ from the second?

I originally volunteered to go to ROK for two months, but my first rotation was only a month long. In that month, I had fallen in love with the job and Korea itself, so when I returned to the U.S., I had made sure to let everyone know that I was available to go back if they needed me. As it turned out, they did need me to return and I gladly accepted the opportunity. Returning to Korea gave me an opportunity to re-engage with some of the projects I started during my first rotation. My first rotation went by quickly and much of that time in the beginning was spent acclimating to my surroundings, learning local policies/procedures, and forming relationships with our contacts and lab/military personnel. On my second rotation with all of the adjustments out of the way, I could focus on the primary goal of the project: to improve the capability of USFK to respond to biological events.
Additionally, I think the Army and Air Force appreciated the continuity in personnel. Since it does take a while for scientists to get acclimated and build relationships, I think it provided them with relief to have someone who could jump in and be dedicated to the actual project work.

What were you responsible for while you were in Korea?

I worked with Michelle Ziemski, an ECBC scientist, to upgrade the Biological Identification Capability Laboratory at the Yongsan Airbase lab to Biological Safety level-2 (BSL-2) standards. BSL-2 allows the lab to safely accommodate the receipt and analysis of biologically hazardous environmental samples. This process included physical upgrades as well as policy and procedural changes, such as a concept of operations. In addition to establishing a BSL-2, we also demonstrated new laboratory instrumentation to both USFK and ROK personnel. These new laboratory capabilities will give the USFK/8th Army Surgeon the power to make informed decisions based on results obtained locally as opposed to depending entirely on CONUS support. In the past the lab would have to send samples back to the US for analysis which takes a lot of time and resources. By setting up the instrumentation there in Korea, the soldiers can analyze these samples on their own and in a timely manner.

How has your experience with JUPITR differed from your experience with other projects while at ECBC or elsewhere?

ECBC really has done and continues to do outstanding work. Recently, ECBC and JPEO have made history by assisting with destroying Syria’s chemical stockpile by creating the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, placing it on the Cape Ray and sending personnel on the Cape Ray to operate the machinery. Our role in supporting JUPITR through developing subject-matter experts and sending them to Korea to fulfill a critical biological surveillance mission is no less significant. This project will have a huge impact on the Korean peninsula and within the biosurveillance world. For all of my years at ECBC, I have always recognized ECBC’s significance to the Department of Defense, but I have never had the opportunity to be a part of something so large-scale or highly visible until now. The JUPITR ATD has a tangible and impactful end-result: an improved bio-surveillance capability on the peninsula. I am honored to be a part of it all.

How have you seen the USFK positively affected by the work done with JUPITR?

Each day, we are significantly improving the capability of the USFK to respond to biological events. By bringing these new laboratory capabilities and our subject-matter expertise to the ROK, the USFK/8th Army Surgeon can rely on local USFK analyses rather than depending entirely on continental United States support. We have already successfully analyzed samples in the BICS laboratories as part of peninsula - wide exercises. We have also been able to bring USFK assets together by coordinating with Army and Air Force personnel.

What was the biggest highlight of working with JUPITR?

I have experienced so many amazing things working with JUPITR. A big highlight for me was when we gave an instrument demonstration to two groups of ROK soldiers and civilians. They did not understand English, so we worked with a translator to give our presentation, which was challenging. Despite the language barrier, they were wonderful to work with. It was neat to pause, let the translator translate what we had just explained, and then see all of the participants’ faces excitedly nod as they understood. Michelle and I received a commander’s coin from one of the ROK colonels for our efforts. Overall, my biggest highlight was just getting to experience all that Korea has to offer. It is truly an amazing place.

What has your day-to-day been like since returning to the States?

Currently, I am back to my previous job, with the operational toxicology team. I write tech reports and work on a team that utilizes a large-scale glove box for toxicological studies. I also assist other members of the operational toxicology team who are working on personal protection equipment (PPE) studies and human estimate studies for chemical agents. Even though I technically do not work for JUPITR currently, I still participate in weekly telecons for JUPITR’s Biological Identification Capability Sets working group and keep in touch with team members who are still in Korea.

How will you incorporate what you’ve learned in Korea to your work at Edgewood?

While the job I performed in Korea is very different from my job in Edgewood, there are many things I have learned that can be incorporated into my current position. I now have a better understanding of the world of biological threats and toxins; the more I understand about any CBRNE threats, the better. I’ve learned that ECBC is so much more than just the chemical warfare agents I happen to study. Aside from science skills, I feel like this rotation has helped me become a more effective communicator (especially when there is a language barrier), learn how to overcome unforeseen challenges, and how to work with new people.

What are your hobbies?

My passion is playing volleyball. I also have an interest in photography. I was able to sharpen my skills a bit while in Korea, I’m still a novice, but I think I got some pretty good shots.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ECBC Employee Spotlight: COL Debra Daniels

An Employee Spotlight on COL Debra Daniels, ECBC Military Deputy, Army Soldier, and artist.

Who or what inspired you to have a career in the military?

My father was in the Army, so I was raised with that sense of pride and service. I received a scholarship through an Army ROTC program and intended to serve for a few years – but here I am in my 26th year, still with the same sense of pride and service that I had at the beginning of my career.

What is your role as Military Deputy to the ECBC Director?

As the Military Deputy, one of my main duties is to articulate how the Center supports the Warfighter to sustain, survive and win in the CBRNE world. It is important to translate the Soldiers’ needs and communicate those to the engineers and scientists as they develop the products and solutions that prepare Soldiers for CBRNE missions.

How do you stay connected to the Warfighters?

By communicating to the Army what ECBC does for the Soldier – and that the Center does is more than just protective masks! It includes filters, decon kits and other equipment that the Soldier might not need to reach for every day in the field, but by explaining the breadth and depth of expertise of the scientists and engineers who work here to ensure the Soldiers understand that when they do need to reach for protective equipment, they can do so with confidence that they are protected.

What attracted you to this position?

On my last deployment to Afghanistan, I was looking for a position in the Washington, D.C. area when I returned. This position was on the list of possible assignment. While reviewing the assignment list, since I had never heard of ECBC, I discussed this position with peers and even subordinates and received words of caution and concern based on ECBC’s mission. I took this as an opportunity to work in a new area and also as a good sign that there must be very effective personnel with the safety protocols in place based on the mission; and of course, I found this to be true since my arrival. The strong emphasis on safety has helped the Center maintain the nation’s trust as it handles such hazardous and deadly materiel.

Do you have any advice for young women who are early in their careers?

Don’t listen to the naysayers – follow your passion and be sure to research and understand what it takes to succeed in that career field. Seek out a mentor whose career you admire and ask them how they became successful.

What has been the most challenging part of being a female in a male-dominated field?

I sometimes find that people can be more challenging than the Army’s mission; I thrive when people discourage me. I am proud to say that the Army provides the same standards for both male and female Soldiers with clear standards expected in each career field. The criteria for promotion in the Army are based on your skill, overall manner of performance and needs of the Army. I have succeeded not based on gender but on training, and performance that led to positions of increasing responsibility (and discouragement). In my first assignment, I was a Platoon Leader in the 18th Engineer Brigade in Germany; I was in charge of a 40-person platoon that was all male. I was one of several female officers assigned to the unit for the first time, making it a time of great change for the Corps of Engineers. My Platoon Sergeant, SFC Jeffery Kiper, was emphatic that I was thoroughly trained to be a platoon leader and knew everything about the Soldiers, the engineer equipment, our construction mission and the Army; he ensured that I was trained and expected me to be the best platoon leader in the battalion, regardless of my gender, and I was. He was aware of the challenges facing me, but focused on overcoming gender and race distractions by training and preparing me to ensure I was competent, confident and capable to handle any challenge.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I have many “relaxation” hobbies – I love to draw and paint, and I’m also an avid amateur photographer. I also enjoy traveling and reading novels, especially detective mysteries.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Matrixed Employees: Providing Valuable Technical Expertise, Direct Linkage to the Customer and Critical Support to the Warfighter

Matrixed employees make up approximately one-third of the ECBC Engineering Directorate’s workforce and play a valuable role as subject matter experts and liaisons to the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD) and Project Managers for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM-NBC CA), Protection (JPM-P), Elimination (JPM-E), Medical Countermeasure Systems (JPM-MCS), Guardian (JPM-Guardian), and Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPM-RN). Their skills and experience in the areas of engineering, science, technology, logistics and business are an asset to both the PMs and the Directorate. “Matrixed employees bring a lot of work back into ECBC,” said Randy Laye, Deputy Director of Engineering. “They are not only demonstrating Engineering’s core competencies, but they also play an invaluable role as a linkage to our customers, their programs and their needs.”

Here, six matrixed employees share their contributions and experiences, including the benefits and challenges of being matrixed.

Luke Fallon, Program Analyst, JPM-NBC CA

“I am currently on a developmental assignment with JPEO-CBD Headquarters in the Business Operations shop in support of Army-funded programs and efforts. This opportunity to work in the acquisition field is a benefit of being a matrixed employee. The acquisition field offers participation in an array of programs that provide a diverse experience in both research and development and procurement.

“An exciting project I have worked on as a matrixed employee was an effort to field capabilities to the Civil Support Teams (CSTs). This project allowed me to interact with a range of personnel, from the Warfighters assigned to the individual CSTs to members of the National Guard Bureau. This interaction gave me an understanding of the range of requirements and needs we meet through ECBC and the JPMs.

“My connection with the Engineering Directorate has been in conjunction with the Dismounted Reconnaissance Joint Urgent Operational Need System (DR JUONS). The chance to interface with the Advance Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Division to facilitate the fielding of an interim solution in parallel with the development of the program of record (Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets Kits and Outfits (DR SKO)), has given me great appreciation for the capabilities of the Engineering Directorate.”

Nicole Goetze, Chemical Engineer, JPEO-CBD

“I serve as a chemical engineer on the Product Support Manager for the Joint Portfolio (PSM-JP) team. Currently, I both lead and participate in initiatives that work towards accomplishing the PSM-JP vision of balancing affordability and readiness for the Warfighter from a Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) enterprise perspective. This role involves developing strategies and corresponding plans of action for implementation of those strategies, participating on multiple integrated product teams to provide input and expertise from the PSM-JP perspective, and coordinating with subject matter experts from the JPMs, ECBC and other organizations as needed.

“I began my career with the Engineering Directorate, and although I’m matrixed to a new organization now, I like that I still have a connection to ECBC. Additionally, I like the different perspective that being a matrixed employee allows me to have. For instance, rather than being purely customer-focused, I am now exposed to working with system stakeholders and have the opportunity to collaborate with teams at a broader level. It can also be challenging to work as part of an enterprise. The CBDP enterprise encompasses multiple stakeholders. Achieving collaboration between all of them requires a delicate balance in order to meet everyone’s expectations.”

Anne Hise, Operations Manager, JPM-NBC CA

“In 2008, I joined the Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits (DR SKO) Program as the lead systems engineer. The program completely revolutionizes how the Services complete their missions by allowing them to safely conduct reconnaissance in confined and enclosed spaces. When I joined the team, the contract has just been awarded and there were no approved requirements, yet all Services wanted a system immediately. The program just successfully completed a Full Rate Production Decision in March 2014 and fieldings are set to begin this summer. Currently I am serving as the Operations Manager for the organization. The position began as a developmental assignment, and after six months, became permanent. My main duties include coordinating and answering all internal and external taskers, as well as all internal and external documents staffing, review and approvals; coordination of weekly staff meetings; and operational support for facilities, purchasing, business processes, media and information technology.

“As a matrixed employee, I enjoy the flexibility to grow and enhance my career by moving in and around ECBC and their partner organizations, while still being an ECBC employee. It has allowed me to explore opportunities without the fears that come with moving from job to job or company to company. But it does take work on my part to stay connected with ECBC. I do that through networking and building relationships with people at ECBC as well as with the JPM.”

Elaine M. Stewart-Craig, Strategic Planner, JPEO-CBD

“ “As a strategic planner, I am involved in both assessing where the JPEO is today and planning how to get to where it wants to be in the future. I work with organizational representatives from each of the JPMs, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Joint Science and Technology Office (DTRA-JSTO), and the Joint Requirements Office (JRO) to better align the overall CBDP goals and JPEO programs to focus on the Warfighters’ priorities.

“Being matrixed to the JPEO-CBD and working with the other organizations within the CBDP allows me to see the big picture of where the CBDP is focused, which directly impacts the work at ECBC. For example, I am currently working on a materiel solution capability assessment that could impact how the entire CBDP plans for future programs. The intent of the assessment is to provide JPEO management insight into where our current equipment and development programs are addressing priorities and where we may need to make future investments.

“There are some administrative challenges to being a matrixed employee. ECBC is my home organization and I am responsible to ECBC for meeting training requirements, completing performance objectives and appraisals and addressing additional suspenses as needed. However, the JPEO sometimes has different requirements and timetables which I must also adhere to.”

J. Allen Swim, Test & Evaluation Engineer, Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP), JPM-P

“I came to the Engineering Directorate from industry in 2002 as an experienced engineer. Since then, I have participated in the Leadership Cohort, mentoring programs and also led a Balanced Score Card initiative for leadership development. In addition, I have worked in three different PM organizations under the JPEO-CBD and PEO-Ground Combat Systems (GCS). With all of these experiences, I have had the opportunity to learn about ECBC’s core competencies. In my current position, I feel better connected to the Engineering Directorate than in the past and I am able to speak with my Division Chief on a daily basis.

“Right now, I support Product Verification Testing (PVT) testing for the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) project by assisting in test site location, test plan preparation, and test execution and oversight. Support includes traveling to the test sites as needed throughout test events to oversee systems during testing. While I was matrixed to the PEO-GCS, I served as the CBRN engineer for the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCB) program as an expert in protection, detection, decontamination, and contamination survivability. This required an understanding of how all of the JPEO-CBD portfolio could be integrated onto a ground combat vehicle, and the ability to provide the necessary technical information to support vehicle development. It is hugely rewarding to contribute to an acquisition program that directly benefits the Warfighter.”

Michael Trzeciak, Director, Engineering and Acquisition, JPM-G

“I have an incredibly challenging and rewarding job representing the Joint Project Manager-Guardian (JPM-G) and providing acquisition leadership and guidance to three Joint Product Directors that span the mission space of Force Protection, Emergency Management and CBRNE Response. This mission space is so broad and diverse that it offers JPM-G a wide range of opportunities to provide the Warfighter with unique and critically-needed capabilities at an extremely fast pace. The position pushes me to constantly learn and grow throughout the Chemical and Biological Defense and Force Protection enterprises. I identify, cultivate and lead JPM-G efforts to build coalitions and partnerships in order to drive government efficiency and build future business opportunities with our Joint services and government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

“As a matrixed employee, I represent both the JPEO-CBD and ECBC, and facilitate awareness and understanding of each other’s needs while sharing and keeping the lines of communication open. Being matrixed, I have the advantage to reach out to two different organizations for guidance and mentorship and am able to have a much broader impact throughout the community. Both organizations consider me a key member of their team and allow me opportunities to professionally excel while providing world-class support to the Warfighter.”