ON DISPLAY: Cadets were particularly interested in the Next Generation Squad Weapons display and the M1A1 rifle replacement. Displays like this help plant the idea of becoming an FA 51 officer in the future.
Army acquisition brings guns to compete for future talent at West Point’s Branch Week.
by Lt. Col. Camille N. Morgan
Army branches competed for the attention of hundreds of cadets at West Point’s annual Branch Week, Sept. 6–9. The U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center’s Director of Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office and the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Soldier brought out the guns—prototypes—to the so-called war for talent. But only for display and informational purposes. DACM Office and PEO Soldier acquisition professionals engaged one-on-one with cadets sharing information and demonstrating equipment that provides a high-level overview of what impact a career in Army acquisition can have in the Army and on the warfighter.
CLEARING THE FIRST HURDLE
The U.S. Army is in a fight for talent, and acquisition has to compete with the Army’s other career fields, or branches, and functional areas for a limited pool of talent. Because an Army Acquisition Functional Area 51 (FA 51) career cannot begin until the officer is in their sixth or seventh year of service—a hurdle that no other branch has to clear—participating in events like Branch Week at West Point is a first opportunity to plant the seed in the minds of future officers in hopes they will consider the profession later in their Army career.
Indeed, a career in Army acquisition can be a long and fulfilling one. From ensuring the delivery of quality capabilities, providing the right product or service to the right place at the right time, to working with joint and international partners as well as industry and academia to develop, acquire, deliver, sustain and safely dispose of weapon systems.
This year’s Branch Week provided cadets access to the Army’s 17 basic branches and three functional areas, including FA 51, acquisition. Approximately 870 cadets engaged with Army acquisition professionals at the FA 51 booth and viewed examples of how the acquisition workforce supports modernization priorities at the Soldier level.
Branch Week marks the final opportunity for firsties (seniors or first class) to finalize their preferences, referred to as rankings, that will be used to place them into one of the 17 Army officer branches. Cows (juniors or second class) also spend the week talking to branches that interest them in order to start narrowing down their rankings. For plebes (freshmen or fourth class) and yearlings (sophomores or third class), the week is geared toward getting educated on their career options for the future.
The FA 51 presentations emphasized the vast number of opportunities in the workforce for long-term career paths all the way to general officer, master’s and doctoral degree funding, managing multibillion dollar DOD and Army acquisition programs, or leading contracting detachments, among many others. Acquisition offers dozens of assignment locations to choose from, as well as opportunities for continued service after the initial active-duty service obligation and post-captain key development assignment.
Thanks to equipment provided by PEO Soldier, cadets were drawn to the FA 51 booth to talk and ask questions about all of the small arms systems on display, particularly the Next Generation Squad Weapons—the replacements for the M4 carbine and the M16 rifle, as well as the M249 squad automatic weapon light machine gun, and the Fire Control System.
The static displays peaked Soldiers’ interest and provoked conversation. That was especially true of the Next Generation Squad Weapon’s introductory chart. Cadets showed most interest in the M4A1 rifle’s replacement, as many are closely following the timeline for this critical Army modernization effort, which supports the Army’s Soldier lethality priority and the Army’s close combat forces.
The ability to share information about these systems and put their development, testing and acquisition into perspective as it relates to Army acquisition provided context to the cadets as they consider Army acquisition as a future career choice in the Army.
Officers are accessed into FA 51 through a semi-annual voluntary transfer incentive program (VTIP) board at their sixth or seventh year of service. Officers may be accessed before completion of their key development assignments through early accessions into the talent-based career alignment (TBCA). During TBCA or early assignment placement, the Army agrees to place an officer in FA 51 upon successful completion of a follow-on assignment and key developmental assignment. Critical to accession as a FA 51 officer is demonstrated successful leadership performance in the appropriate key developmental position in the grade of captain as outlined in the officer’s basic branch of Department of the Army Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-3, “Officer Professional Development and Career Management.”
For more information about career opportunities in Army acquisition, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/recruitment.
COL. CAMILLE N. MORGAN is a proponent officer for the Proponency and Analysis Division at the Army Acquisition Center of Excellence. She is instrumental in Army talent management and military recruiting. In support of the Army’s people first philosophy, she has undertaken the most comprehensive reform of military recruiting through Talent Based Career Alignment and Direct Commissioning for the Army Acquisition Workforce. She earned an M.S. in management and leadership from Webster University and a B.S. in business marketing from Morgan State University. She is a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Certified Professional in contracting.