The Training With Industry program expands and enhances officers’ knowledge of industry practices.
by Jacqueline M. Hames
Military and corporate business best practices are fundamentally different, and the barrier to effective collaboration between the military and industry can often be found in that space. The Training With Industry (TWI) program aims to close that gap, one TWI fellow at a time.
The program helps to develop a strong relationship between the Army and industry partners, enabling both to learn each other’s methods of operations, said Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)). “This understanding will secure a better glide path between the Army and our industry partners by creating new bonds that allow us to minimize future obstacles,” he said.
COMMUNITY AND CURIOSITY
The TWI program is a work-experience program for Army officers, from captain to lieutenant colonel, that provides exposure to managerial techniques and industrial procedures in corporate America. “The program matches highly qualified acquisition officers with a wide array of businesses from inside and outside the defense sector,” Ostrowski said. Acceptance into the program is fairly competitive, and the Army selects the best from the acquisition community to represent not only ASA(ALT), but also the Army and DOD as a whole.
“Industry spends a great deal of time and money on streamlining how they do business to be more efficient and effective,” Ostrowski said. After their TWI rotation, officers are expected to identify industry best practices and implement them at their next duty station, he said.
This past year, the program expanded from 12 positions to more than 30. Program fellows could be placed with one of many big-name corporations, such as Lockheed Martin Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Amazon.com Inc.—or smaller, nontraditional technology-based firms—where they can educate industry on how the Army runs and learn about industry best practices. “This mutual exchange of knowledge is vital to the enduring relationship between the Army and our industry partners,” Ostrowski said.
But don’t just take his word for it.
“Some of the key things that Army Soldiers and all of our fellows bring to the program are leadership, community and curiosity,” said Sarah Martin, military affairs program manager for Amazon. “They are great additions to their teams because they know how to establish connections and community very quickly. We enjoy learning from their leadership skills just as much as they learn from us.”
Martin manages the defense and government fellowships and exchanges for Amazon; her responsibility is to make sure fellows are set up for success from their first day through the end of their program. “The goal for their fellowship is to learn innovative best practices from Amazon that they can apply when they return to their military or government organization,” she said.
Typically, fellows are placed on teams across the company so that they can learn by doing, she added, and there are regular events where fellows can interact with company leadership. Each program participant is given a specialized treatment, she said. “There is really no one-size-fits-all solution. The scope, scale and rotation of projects in the fellowship program truly depend on the fellow,” Martin said. “For example, some fellows are strategic leaders in supply chain or logistics, and it may make the most sense for that fellow to work on one large program or project for the whole year.” Other fellows may benefit from multiple projects to give them greater perspective on emerging technology or leadership development, she said.
THE FORD EXPERIENCE
TWI graduate Lt. Col. Thomas Monaghan was the first fellow placed at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. At first, Ford didn’t quite know what to do with him, but after looking at all the acquisition certifications on his resume, the company zeroed in on Monaghan’s status as “a former mechanized Bradley guy” with experience with rail operations. Ford assigned him to work shipping and receiving and physical shipping problem sets, and to visit plants to look at the internal processes and see where they could develop efficiencies.
“And that was my first day. The first couple of hours I was there, there was a complete shift on what they thought I was supposed to do,” Monaghan said.
As a car enthusiast, the assignment with Ford was “pretty cool” for Monaghan. He spent roughly three months helping to improve the build process at the Mustang plant, and he was able to test a GT350R right off of the assembly line—in fact, Monaghan became certified to test vehicles at Ford while completing project rotations.
“I rotated around, working with what they called problem-solving teams. So I went to the different plants—I did 187 individual projects over the year,” he said. Some projects were short, maybe a few hours in duration, while others were longer, spanning months.
Since Ford started sponsoring TWI fellows, it has hosted Soldiers consistently. Lt. Col. Christopher Orlowski is on assignment with the company now. “I was placed into engineering manufacturing operations for North America, which is primarily responsible for Ford’s engine manufacturing operations in Canada and the United States,” he said. Orlowski is the first Army officer to work in engine manufacturing, and the third TWI fellow placed at Ford. With this placement, he didn’t really know what to expect, but feels the assignment is a great learning opportunity. Although Orlowski doesn’t have much experience with engine manufacturing, he does have a doctorate in aerospace engineering and spent time as a program manager with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Orlowski is working with the director of North American Engine Manufacturing Operations, Kevin Bicking, and will help support the launch of some of Ford’s new engine programs for the 2021 model year. He hopes to learn how Ford does business-forecasting and drives efficiencies such as reducing cost while reducing consumption. Ford is focusing on reducing the consumption of energy, material usage, the amount of trash going to landfills, and water usage. “Part of that is because it has a cost, part of it is because Ford is pushing for increasing environmental friendliness and environmental advocacy,” Orlowski said.
Orlowski wants to bring to his next program management position a deeper awareness of how competing priorities are tied together. “Design decisions impact manufacturing, which impacts efficiency, which impacts the supply base, and all of those things need to be considered and taken into account, and not just what makes the system performance better,” he said.
Rapid decision-making skills were the key thing that Monaghan learned while at Ford. “I watched them make multimillion-dollar decisions based off of a 15-minute conversation,” he said. Ford employees came to a meeting ready to make decisions; they were well-educated on the subject at hand and ready to address courses of action because they realized “a good decision now is better than the best decision three years from now,” otherwise they would lose the competitive edge, Monaghan said. He believes the Army would benefit from that philosophy—right now, it can take a long time to make decisions on divestiture or procurement; adopting Ford’s philosophy may improve production timelines for the Army.
No matter what lessons TWI fellows learn from industry, Monaghan encourages them to be active participants in the program. “If you think the TWI year is a year to take off and take a knee and relax, you’re totally wrong,” he said. A year goes by quickly if you’re still on the command track and obligated to take pre-command courses; it’s more like 10 months. “You are a future leader of the Acquisition Corps—you need to go out there and understand as much about that industry you’re working in” as possible, he said.
Martin reminds the fellows to ask for help when they need it, and to cultivate a willingness to learn. For other industry partners like Amazon, she encourages them to better understand the military. “One of the most helpful suggestions was to read the NDS [National Defense Strategy]—and, from there, I was able to work backwards and build out an entire training and education program to meet the needs of military fellows,” she said.
FROM TWI MANAGER TO FELLOW
Lt. Col. Shelia Howell’s experience with the TWI program is a little different than other participants’—she used to be a TWI program manager. Supporting the warfighter has been her mission since she started her Army career as human resources officer in 2003, and she wanted to continue that support throughout her career. The TWI program let her continue a service role as a program manager. Howell saw firsthand what a great opportunity the program was for Soldiers. “It is a tremendous opportunity that the program offers to really build your business acumen and have a deeper understanding of industry,” she said. “It was priceless, and I really wanted to have the opportunity as well.”
Even though she was a program manager for TWI, she still had to undergo the normal application process. “They hold a board, and they create an OML [order of merit list]…but I think that one of the main requirements is that you’re at a point in your career where it works out for you,” she said. The program should not be detrimental to a Soldier’s career, and the candidate should be a good representative of the Army as well as the Acquisition Corps when with industry, because sometimes the TWI program is the only contact that company may have with a military member, she added.
Howell was placed with Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Florida, and is currently on assignment there. She was able to tailor her experience with the company and is able to rotate around to different teams from different lines of business. At the time of her interview for this article, she was working with the capture team, learning the ins and outs of program management at Lockheed. She sat down with one of Lockheed’s financial program managers to discuss the types of things that he looks at from an earned value management perspective. “That was really good to learn some of those financial metrics and how they look at it and what kind of levers they pull to ensure that they are meeting their targets,” she said. Understanding those measures on a deeper level has been her biggest takeaway so far. “I really do want to have a better understanding of how industry operates,” Howell said. “I think that, as acquisition officers, that is an invaluable skill to have.”
All three of the TWI fellows, past and present, agree that, to succeed in the program, you have to be a self-starter, and that you should leave a better understanding of the military—particularly, Army acquisition—behind with the industry host.
In addition to fostering a greater understanding between the military and industry, the TWI program helps convey the Army’s six modernization priorities to industry, Ostrowski said. “We must recognize that the six priorities are not just an Army initiative, but it is also guidance to industry, so they know what they should focus on to drive innovation and get the best equipment to our Soldiers for the ever-changing fight.”
For more information, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/programs/aac-training-with-industry/.
JACQUELINE M. HAMES is an editor with Army AL&T magazine. She holds a B.A. in creative writing from Christopher Newport University. She has more than 10 years of experience writing and editing for the military, with seven of those years spent producing news and feature articles for publication.
This article is published in the Winter 2020 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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