Bringing Precision To Fires

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Maj. Seth Fort

 

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Assistant Product Manager for Precision Attack Cannon Munitions, Program Manager for Combat Ammunition Systems, Joint Program Executive Office Ammunition and Armaments
TITLE: Assistant product manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 2
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 13
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level I in program management
EDUCATION: MBA, College of William and Mary; B.A. in international relations, George Mason University
HOMETOWN: Woodbridge, Virginia


 

by Susan L. Follett

 

“As a Soldier, I took for granted that the systems I used would work when I needed them—and that’s exactly how it should be,” said Maj. Seth Fort. The former artillery officer joined the Acquisition Corps a little more than two years ago and now has a broader perspective. “If a Soldier is worried about something working correctly in the field, we have failed as acquisition professionals.”

Fort serves as an assistant product manager for Precision Attack Cannon Munitions in the Program Manager for Combat Ammunition Systems, within the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A). “As cliché as it sounds, what I like most about my job is getting capabilities to the warfighter, both for the U.S. military and allied nations,” he said. “Each time we have developed and fielded a new capability, it has been fulfilling to see that what we do daily truly impacts the capabilities of our military.”

Fort is responsible for developing, upgrading, producing and training precision munitions and associated equipment used by U.S. Soldiers, Marines and allies. Over the past year, two new 155 mm material capabilities were introduced from the program office he supports. Fort supported the acquisition of the Swedish-developed Bonus 155 mm, an anti-armor projectile, as the bridging strategy for Cannon Delivered Area Effect Munitions, filling a high-risk capability gap until a U.S.-developed solution is available. Additionally, he and his team also supported foreign military sales of Excalibur projectiles and training to India, a strategic U.S. military ally. The capability was delivered and trained with India’s newly acquired M777 howitzer, enabling initial operation capability declaration in less than eight months.

“Being able to participate in the development and fielding of Excalibur Shaped Trajectory and the acquisition and fielding of the Bonus Mk2 projectiles allowed me to see the unwavering commitment of the acquisition workforce to ensuring that we are capable of either deterring or defeating our enemies,” Fort said. “I am continually humbled by the engineers, testers and business development leads who are fully committed to the warfighters’ success.”

He added, “People are typically surprised to find how much we work with international partners to accomplish common objectives. Like today’s global economy, the development and acquisition of military materiel crosses international borders. We engage allies daily to assist with the development of new materiel and facilitate the sale of existing materiel.”

Fort’s interest in acquisition was sparked by some extracurricular reading. “As a captain, I read several books that captured my attention regarding cost, schedule and performance and how to effectively manage or influence them—‘Great By Choice’ and ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins and ‘The Signal and the Noise’ by Nate Silver,” he said. “During my second battery command, I spoke with a mentor and former commander who encouraged me to take the leap and submit a packet to transition to the Acquisition Corps.” He reported to the Army Acquisition Professionals Course in the summer of 2018, and then moved to JPEO (A&A) not long after.

When he got there, he found a devoted and well-educated group of people supporting warfighters. “The products that we develop or support the development of require people with very specific skills. I remember meeting someone who graduated from college and then went on to specialize in sensors for the rest of their career. There are people like that all over Picatinny Arsenal and in industry who have committed their careers to very unique areas, which consequently provide invaluable information and experience to developing materiel capabilities,” he said. “Without these people, we would not have the same level of success that we do in our work.”

His artillery experience helped smooth the transition to acquisition. “When working with industry and Soldiers, the training and experiences that I had as an artilleryman have been invaluable. Key artillery concepts, such as the five requirements for accurate fires, that I learned as a second lieutenant help me understand potential product limitations or advantages beyond cost, schedule and performance,” he said.

Transitioning to the Acquisition Corps “is just like starting a new job anywhere else,” Fort added. “There are skills and experiences that I brought with me; however, there are countless requirements and processes that I am required to learn to be effective as an assistant product manager. I take a lot of notes and ask a lot of questions.”

He noted that when he is asked by other officers and friends who are interested in pursuing a position in the Acquisition Corps, “my message each time is that they must be fully capable of and committed to team operations. It is extremely rare to do anything in the Acquisition Corps as an individual. As a team of teams, we challenge each other, provide direction and guidance, and support each other’s actions to achieve success.”

Now starting his third year in acquisition, he added, “I absolutely love working in the Acquisition Corps. It’s all that I expected it to be and more. Two things have surprised me: the degree of research, development and testing that goes into ensuring we are providing the best materiel capabilities, and how brilliant and dedicated the acquisition work force is. In one of my first meetings—an engineering working group—I remember thinking to myself that the amount of intellect, education, specialty training and experience that is being applied to make this product better is amazing.”


“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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