Integrating systems, experiences

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Project Manager for Soldier Warrior; Program Executive Office for Soldier

TITLE: Project manager

YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 18

YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 26 (including almost two years as an enlisted Soldier)

DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and contracting

EDUCATION: M.S. in national resource strategy, Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy; M.S. in management, industrial procurement and contracting, Florida Institute of Technology; B.B.A., Marshall University

AWARDS: Dwight D. Eisenhower School and National Contract Management Association Award for Excellence in Research and Writing; National Reconnaissance Office Director’s Circle Award

 Integrating systems, experiences

By Susan L. Follett

“If you want to have a direct impact on the Soldier, you will be hard-pressed to find a place where you will have a greater positive impact than PM SWAR and PEO Soldier.” Col. Wayne E. Barker should know: He is the project manager for Soldier Warrior (PM SWAR) in the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“In PM SWAR, as well as PEO Soldier, we focus on providing our Soldiers the kit they need to ensure that they never go into a fight without the advantage,” he said. It’s a pretty big mission, with PM SWAR housing three organizations: the Product Manager for Ground Soldier Systems, which provides dismounted situational awareness via Nett Warrior; the Product Manager for Air Warrior, providing aviation life support and safety systems as well as pilot situational awareness; and the Project Director for Soldier Systems and Integration, which supports power and hearing protection platforms and the Soldier Enhancement Program, and ensures that various systems across PEO Soldier work together smoothly and with minimal demand on the Soldier.

“For PM SWAR and throughout PEO Soldier, the biggest challenge is integration,” said Barker. “Each new technology that comes out means a new challenge if the interfaces are not managed correctly. We try to bring all of it together while managing space and weight constraints and reducing the burden—cognitive as well as physical—on the Soldier.” For PM SWAR, a systematic approach to integration helps identify problems early on—“at the concept or design stage rather than during production,” said Barker.

Barker, left, briefs civilians, military members, and industry representatives in April at Fort Belvoir on the mission and capabilities of the project manager for Soldier Warrior. Integration of systems, which Barker considers the biggest challenge of his work, requires good communication at the concept or design stage, he said. (Photo by PM SWAR staff)Barker, left, briefs civilians, military members, and industry representatives in April at Fort Belvoir on the mission and capabilities of the project manager for Soldier Warrior. Integration of systems, which Barker considers the biggest challenge of his work, requires good communication at the concept or design stage, he said. (Photo by PM SWAR staff)

That effort includes conversations as early as possible in the development phase and integrated product teams that involve a variety of stakeholders. “We want to make sure that the equipment being developed in one PM shop doesn’t conflict with the space and weight claims for equipment being developed in other PM shops, that they’re complementary. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the Soldier can use whatever capability we develop without any problems,” he said.

Barker’s career followed an atypical path. “When people ask me how I got here, I usually joke that it’s because I haven’t been able to hold a job,” he said. Barker enlisted in the Army in 1988 as a field artillery forward observer, eventually earning a Green to Gold Scholarship and entering the officer corps as an infantry officer. He spent four years with the branch detail program, which transitioned him to the Military Intelligence Corps. “I completed three years as a military intelligence officer, and during the latter part of my company command, I was exposed to the wide range of opportunities in the Acquisition Corps,” he said. “The thought of doing something other than the tactical world I had lived in was intriguing, so I submitted a packet and was subsequently accessed into the Acquisition Corps as a senior captain.”

That was in 1999. Barker spent the first six years in a highly classified environment as director of contracting. “When it came time for my O-5 command, the Army selected me to be a program manager at the National Reconnaissance Office, and that served as my transition to the program management side.”

Between that post and his current one at PM SWAR, which began in September 2015, he served as the executive officer (XO) for the Hon. Heidi Shyu, then the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology and the Army acquisition executive. That assignment was one of several “leaps of faith” that shaped his career, Barker said. “When I was selected to interview with Ms. Shyu, I was not well-known, given all the time I spent in the classified world. She took a leap of faith on me as a relatively unknown lieutenant colonel, and I am so thankful she did. Ms. Shyu taught me so much about patience, resilience and listening, along with so many other things, and I carry those with me today in both my professional and personal life.”

Another leap that shaped his career was his assignment to the highly classified job that he was told little about. “The culture of that organization was that of the quiet professional: not caring who gets credit but caring only that the job gets done,” he said. “The position provided daily feedback on what we were doing to impact the global war on terror. Working in an environment as dynamic as that was an invaluable experience.”

In addition to the leaps, Barker noted the career-shaping contributions of several mentors. “Lt. Col. John Carmichael, my second battalion commander, looked out for me in so many ways and taught me what it meant to be a good officer and an even better man.” Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski has also served as a mentor, when he was an O-6 PM with U.S. Special Operations Command and when he served as PEO for Soldier—first during Barker’s time in the classified world and later when he was Shyu’s XO. “He helped me in my early days as I was learning to navigate the waters of the Army staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon.”

During his tour as XO, Barker also had the opportunity to work with Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, then Shyu’s deputy for acquisition and systems management. (He later served as deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan and was killed in August 2014 in an attack by an Afghan soldier in Kabul.)

“Aside from having a brilliant mind and being an esteemed acquisition professional, he reminded me every day that if you’re not laughing and having fun, you’re doing something wrong,” Barker said. Greene passed along some job-related advice that still resonates. “He said the things you can always control are doing a good job and having a good work ethic, wherever the Army sends you or whatever it asks of you. If you can do those simple things, you will be surprised at the doors that will open. He was a very wise man.”

For Barker, trust is the key to success, and trust is built with time. “Get to know your people and those you work with on a daily basis, and you will be amazed at the trust you build,” he said. “When things are tough, … they are there for you.” Time in the classroom is important, too, he added, for more than just book smarts. “Schooling and certifications help establish a baseline skill set and provide the opportunity to make important friendships and connections. You’ll find out how small the world is when you start to run into people you’ve met throughout your career.”

This article will be published in the October – December 2017 Army AL&T magazine.

“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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