By Sarah Aubouin
Scientists define symbiosis as an interdependent, mutually beneficial relationship between two very different species. In the Army’s Training with Industry (TWI) program, the same thing happens, except the relationship is between highly motivated Army acquisition professionals and their respective industry sponsors, including Amazon.com Inc., Ford Motor Co., General Dynamics Corp. and Motorola Solutions Inc.
The Army Director, Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office sponsors TWI, a one-year assignment designed to expose military acquisition professionals to industry best practices, management techniques and organizational structures. Participants get onsite experience, training and industry knowledge not normally obtained through traditional military or civilian education. In exchange, the sponsoring corporate partner gets a no-cost, valuable, high-performing employee for one year.
In early May, the Army DACM Office hosted an event at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, that brought together incoming participants and outgoing graduates of the TWI program, along with Soldiers interested in participating in the future.
One of “our biggest gap[s] inside of Army and acquisition is that most acquisition professionals don’t understand how industry works,” Jeffrey S. White, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)), said as he kicked off the event by welcoming participants. The TWI program aims to “understand what incentivizes the culture and the CEO of the corporation … how industry works and what’s important to them.” White also discussed leadership philosophy, cultural change, accelerated fielding, accelerated technology and accountability. “We’re here to deliver to the Soldier—progress, not process. We need to work with industry. We do a lot of things really well, but certain things in the culture we need to change.”
Those changes include the TWI program itself, which will be spreading its wings to include more participants. “We’re going to double the size of the TWI program over the next three to four years,” said Craig A. Spisak, Army DACM, responding to questions at the event.
TWI participants from the Army and from industry discussed their takeaways. Maj. Melissa Johnson, an outgoing TWI fellow assigned to Motorola Solutions in Hyattsville, Maryland, offered up some pointers to the incoming TWI students. “Communication is key. Write down your goals and be able to articulate your goals to your industry sponsor. Volunteer for projects and have an open mind, and bring back to the Army [any] untapped capabilities,” she said.
“Good fences make good neighbors,” said Motorola’s Wes Jones, “but good neighbors talk to each other.”
Maj. Desiree Dirige, a TWI participant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who was detailed to Amazon Web Services in Reston, Virginia, described how she and Amazon reaped the benefits of the TWI program. “I sat on the [Amazon Web Services’ DOD team], so a lot of the interactions that I got to have with them were from an acquisition-related perspective,” she explained. “I got to provide inside feedback to their acquisition contracting processes and procedures, all in hopes of helping them help us, the DOD customer, procure cloud services more efficiently. I got to see how they shape and develop their bid and capture strategies, along with helping them with building guides for DOD customers, especially the contracting officers. I also got an opportunity to really immerse myself in a very innovative culture.” She noted that the assignment also gave her the chance “to see how their leadership applied the Amazon leadership principles and how they develop their workforce, along with how they hire and manage their talent.”
Maj. Sheila Howell, who manages the TWI program for the Army DACM Office, asked participants how they adjusted to the commercial environment and handled any culture shock they encountered. “As a contracting officer, I deal with a lot of commercial contractors,” said Maj. Pedro Pacheco, formerly with the with the 414th Contracting Support Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy, and assigned to General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Michigan. “The one thing that surprised me with General Dynamics is their soft skills. As we all know, delivering a final, integrated product is always a challenge, so attending team meetings with suppliers was definitely insightful; the communication, the problem-solving, the team environment were impressive.”
If you have questions about applying to the TWI program, please contact your assignment officer. For general questions about TWI, contact Maj. Hassan Kamara, the Army DACM Office TWI program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-664-5702. Be sure to check out the TWI webpage at https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/programs/aac-training-with-industry/, and for complete information on how to apply, go to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command website at https://www.hrc.army.mil/content/Training%20With%20Industry.