COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems, Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition
TITLE: International project lead and executive officer
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Program management and engineering
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 12 years
MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Civilian
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and engineering
EDUCATION: MBA, Florida Institute of Technology; M.S. in engineering management, Florida Institute of Technology; B.S. in mechanical engineering, University of Maryland
AWARDS: Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, 2014; Unsung Hero Award, Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, 2012; Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Special Commendation, 2011
HOMETOWN: Budd Lake, New Jersey
By Ellen Summey
If you want to know about towed howitzers, Matt Nestor is your guy. A mechanical engineer by trade, he has worked for the Army since he first graduated college. His uncle—who was also an engineer and Army civilian—inspired him to join the Army workforce, capturing his interest with stories about the projects he was working on.
“At the time, my uncle was working on an electromagnetic gun,” he recalled. “The idea was fascinating.” Besides the obvious cool factor, Nestor liked the idea of contributing to something much bigger than himself. So he decided to pursue an engineering degree and an Army career of his own. He found the ideal program close to home, in the picturesque mountain town of Frostburg, Maryland. “Frostburg State University had a joint program with the University of Maryland,” he said, which allowed him to take classes with students from the larger university while still maintaining the feel of a smaller school. Then, it was off to the races.
His first job was at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (now the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center), Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, where he was an engineer supporting the M119A2 howitzer. “I started my career working as an engineer for towed artillery pieces,” Nestor said. “When I first started, I was doing ‘proper’ engineering, but I’ve found that, as my career has progressed, I’m getting further and further away from that, focusing much more on the program management side of things.” Today, he serves in two different roles within the Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems (PM TAS), Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A)—international project lead and executive officer.
“As the international project lead, I am directly responsible for supporting eight separate international partners through various foreign military sales (FMS) cases and international agreements,” he explained. Through his work in FMS, Nestor and the JPEO “provide key capabilities to our partners in the realm of indirect fire through towed artillery.” And as the executive officer for PM TAS, he actively supports the office and ensures the organization can function and meet its mission—enabling U.S. and allied warfighter dominance through world-class cannon artillery and survey systems.
Nestor said the Army has been the ideal place for him to grow his career and he appreciates the autonomy he’s had in charting his own course. “There are ample opportunities within the Army for a civilian to take additional training to develop skills and abilities,” he said, “and there really isn’t a set path that each person has to take.” He believes it’s important for Army civilians to determine their own career goals and then seek out the training opportunities and positions to make it happen. “I encourage everyone that I supervise to take that into their own hands and plan their career from point A to point B. Take ownership of your own career planning. You are in the best position to define where you want your career to go.” His other piece of advice involves the importance of continually developing interpersonal skills. They are “key to working in and leading a team,” he said.
Early in his career, he had the opportunity to directly support U.S. and partner forces in Afghanistan through the D-30 howitzer program. “The program sourced towed artillery systems from former USSR countries and provided them (along with training, ammunition and other equipment) to Afghanistan, to stand up an indirect fire capability within the Afghan army,” he explained. This opportunity made him realize the direct impact he could have as an Army civilian, advancing the U.S. mission globally. “My greatest satisfaction is knowing that I work in a career field that has a direct impact on the men and women serving in our military,” he said.
He recently had the opportunity to take the Army Civilian Education System (CES) advanced course, and he said one lesson in particular stands out to him. “The biggest piece I took out of that was a section on how the Army works,” he said. “As part of the course, they have students attempt to build an organizational chart of the Army, listing out well over 100 different agencies and getting into the details of how the organizations work together and how each contributes to the overarching mission of the Army.” It was an eye-opening opportunity for Nestor, as he began to better appreciate his own role within the Army’s acquisition enterprise and how best to engage with other stakeholders in support of the JPEO.
If he were king for a day, he said, he would like to provide more long-term stability to his colleagues in the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW). “Even in my relatively short career, I’ve seen some significant changes to acquisition regulations and policies with a pendulum swinging back and forth between faster capability development and more deliberate efforts. Recently, it looks like the acquisition community may be pushing for decreased delivery times with processes like mid-tier acquisition,” he said. He has learned from more seasoned AAW members that “this swinging pendulum has always been a part of acquisition,” but he would like to see the pendulum settle somewhere in the middle. “We can find a good balance between the appropriate levels of rigor and oversight on one side, but not go too far the other way where it’s about speed for the sake of speed, just to get something out, which can cause sustainability problems down the road.” Planning, stability, precision and systems-based thinking—sounds like an engineer’s approach to acquisition. When it comes to his work, Nestor is bringing out the big guns.
“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/.
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