COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments & Ammunition (JPEO A&A) Project Director Joint Services
TITLE: Program management engineer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 16
ACQUISITION CERTIFICATIONS: Defense Acquisition University Production, Quality, and Manufacturing Level III and Program Management Level 1
EDUCATION: M.S. in engineering management and B.S. in electrical engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology
AWARDS: Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center Quality Engineering and System Assurance Employee of the Month (2009), DEVCOM Armaments Center Munitions Engineering and Technology Center Demilitarization and Environmental Division Employee of the Quarter (Oct. – Dec. 2019), Enterprise and Systems Integration Center Coworkers Honoring Others Award (2020)
Viviana Gutierrez Jimenez
by Holly DeCarlo-White
If you are interested in an Army acquisition career field that sounds “dangerous and fascinating at the same time,” Viviana Gutierrez Jimenez has you covered. “I have demilitarized munitions items dating as far back as the Vietnam era and I get to blow things up,” she said.
Gutierrez serves as a project management engineer for Product Director Demilitarization within Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A). Her responsibilities include managing a portfolio of over $200 million to strategically plan, budget and execute the demilitarization of conventional ammunition that has come to the end of its life cycle for all the U.S. Armed Forces. The purpose of her work is to properly demilitarize or dispose of obsolete, unserviceable and excess conventional and missile munition to reduce the stockpile and open storage space for serviceable munitions.
“Demilitarization happens in a controlled and regulated environment. It takes place at a military detonation range where field operators set up open detonation pits with pre-selected munition items. The items are wired to a time fuse or electric shock, then from a shelter away from the detonation zone, a button is clicked to fire the pits,” she explained. “We watch the detonation through a window.”
Gutierrez travels often to the 12 U.S. demilitarization sites but “this is not my everyday job,” she said, “it only happens when I go visit one of the multiple demilitarization operation locations.” Her typical day is in the office where she works with a team to plan and fund these efforts and track the work completed. This process is important to the Army and the warfighter in order to clear room for serviceable items throughout the U.S. and overseas storage facilities, thereby allowing the services to be efficiently mission ready. “I take my job very seriously and do my very best to support our mission,” Gutierrez said.
Originally from Rockaway Township, New Jersey, Gutierrez began her career with the Army Acquisition Workforce straight out of college after attending a career fair. Her first position was an electrical engineer role supporting the Quality Engineer and System Assurance directorate under the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center, Army Futures Command, where she worked on quality engineering, systems assurance, reliability and system safety competencies.
“I got an interview and learned about Picatinny Arsenal and its mission. At the time, our forces were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom so the job appealed to me because it would allow me to participate in acquisition projects from cradle to grave, while ensuring that the systems were safe and operational for the safety of our warfighters,” she said.
Since then, Gutierrez has been able to work on a wide range of programs in multiple phases of the life cycle. For example, from 2014 to 2018 she was the software quality engineer for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, working to validate the vehicle’s software.
Now, she leads planning and execution for the demilitarization of conventional munition and missile items.
One of the major programs she supported from 2006 to 2011 was the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS), a remote weapon that can engage targets while the Soldier remains protected inside an armored vehicle. Gutierrez participated in source selection, testing and evaluation, and preparing and presenting the urgent materiel release of the first units to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. “I feel the proudest after seeing some CROWS systems come back from theater destroyed,” she said. When those systems come back destroyed, she knows warfighters’ lives were saved.
“I have grown my career from drafting performance specifications and doing testing, to project management of the demilitarization portfolio. In CROWS, I learned that the work I did preparing a performance specification resulted in providing the warfighters with a high-quality system that saved Soldiers’ lives,” she said. “These experiences have allowed me to grow in my career, understand the bigger picture, and continue to contribute to the defense of our nation.”
According to Gutierrez, the most important aspect of her career within the Army Acquisition Workforce is the opportunity for career broadening experiences. She always recommends that her peers give themselves a chance to participate in developmental assignments or co-locate in the program management office. Gutierrez completed a program management developmental assignment within the Project Director Joint Services three years ago while she was working as a quality engineer for the Joint Program Executive Office Soldier. She excelled in the role and was given the opportunity to stay in Project Director Joint Services following the assignment.
Through the developmental assignment, Gutierrez said she truly experienced and learned the world of program management. “These kinds of programs allow engineers to get out of the labs and testing centers and see the impact the work relays to the Army and the warfighters,” she said. “However, program management is very demanding, and dynamic, you must bring your ‘A’ game every day.”
Another career development program Gutierrez participated in more recently (April 2020) was as program engineer in Product Director Demilitarization. “The takeaway from this assignment was the full project management experience of planning and executing the demilitarization of the conventional ammunition and missiles portfolio,” said Gutierrez. Work included preparing program objective memos, Army program budget briefs, and responding to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) and congressional taskers.
As a result of this assignment, she has gained a greater understanding of how the demilitarization program fits into the Army strategy—valuable information since she aspires to grow into a project management role in the future.
“I highly encourage my peers to take advantage of some valuable Defense Acquisition University [DAU] classes, non-DAU training, leadership training and career development assignments that present opportunities to grow professionally within the Army Acquisition Workforce,” she added. She also strongly recommends networking to find a good mentor—there needs to be a strong connection between mentor and mentee. Gutierrez has had several mentors help her throughout her career and said when she entered the workforce, a mentor was assigned but “this doesn’t always work out, there has to be a bond.”
Outside the office, Gutierrez loves hiking and exploring the outdoors. She describes herself as a social, caring and resourceful person. “I am always inquisitive so I can learn my surroundings and find how it can be applied in the future. This sense of curiosity is applicable at work because I ask questions, seek answers, and I enjoy finding solutions to problems through multiple sources.”
Gutierrez said that the most important lesson she has learned over the course of her career is to be consistent on a daily basis. “It builds credibility and strengthens integrity. . . it is important for the team that depends on my work to know that the product provided is of high quality and accurate,” she said. “The greatest satisfaction I have as a member of the Army Acquisition Workforce is that I get to be part of and serve the Army family and explore ways to maximize demilitarization.”
“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 go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.