Driving Change In The AAW

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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, Director for Acquisition Career Management, Strategy and Policy Branch
TITLE: Functional Area 51 proponency officer
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in program management
EDUCATION: M.S. in mechanical engineering, Georgia Southern University; M.S. in administration, Central Michigan University; B.S. in mechanical engineering, Norwich University
HOMETOWN: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
AWARDS: Bronze Star (2nd award), Meritorious Service Medal (2nd award), Army Commendation Medal (3rd award), Army Achievement Medal





by Ellen Summey

Maj. Tom Beyerl is a man of action. An optimist by nature and an engineer by training, he brings an almost unnatural amount of energy to his work. Picture the Energizer bunny, but in uniform. “If you’re a Myers-Briggs (Type Indicator) person, I’m an ENTJ (extroverted, intuitive, thinking and judging),” he said. “It’s kind of a weird combination.” According 16 Personalities, a personality testing company, ENTJs are “decisive people who love momentum and accomplishment.” They “gather information to construct their creative visions but rarely hesitate for long before acting on them.” That should sound familiar to anyone who knows Beyerl.

He decided to join the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) after a positive experience conducting a limited user test with his Stryker rifle company. “This was my first interaction with Army Acquisition Corps (AAC) officers,” he said. “I was extremely impressed with the impact they had on system development.” An engineer through and through, Beyerl is naturally curious and has a passion for solving problems. “I always wanted the opportunity to work toward developing better ‘kit,’ ” he said, referring to the equipment carried by Soldiers in the field, “and the Acquisition Corps offered that chance.” His first AAW position was at Program Executive Office (PEO) for Soldier, where he was responsible for major upgrades in laser targeting devices and rangefinders for Product Manager Soldier Precision Targeting Devices.

Today, Beyerl works as a proponency officer within the Strategy and Policy Branch in the Office of the Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM). His primary responsibility is developing and staffing programs to help the AAW keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of acquisition. “I am responsible for ensuring the Human Capital Strategic Plan captures senior leader guidance and can … ensure our workforce recruits, develops and retains” the necessary talent. He also provides support to a broad array of military and civilian talent management initiatives.

So, what does he enjoy most about his work? “My greatest satisfaction, as part of this great team, is the opportunity to contribute to talent management changes which will have lasting effects on the quality and performance of our workforce,” he said. Not that he withholds career advice from those outside the AAW—he’s too energetic to keep a good idea to himself. “I once recruited a Marine pilot in engineering school,” he laughed. Beyerl was in graduate school and had been talking with a classmate who was concerned about the job market. “Unless you found a way to make yourself stand apart, it would be a difficult, competitive market,” he said. So Beyerl sold him on the idea of commissioning as a Marine Corps pilot, then returning to the civilian job market later. Among his selling points, “You get to fly planes—there is nothing cooler. You’ll be more marketable than your peers if you decide to get out of the military after your commitment. And if you like it, you get to stay!” Pragmatic advice, delivered with a bit of salesman’s flair.

But like any good engineer, Beyerl knows talent advancement is, ultimately, all about the data. “Talent management is such a qualitative subject that it can be hard to deduce the underlying indicators of success,” he explained. “In reality, though, any successful training or personnel initiative is supported by hard data, and that allows us to put senior leader intent into action.” He believes the Army’s senior leaders are looking for speed and innovation, and he understands that sometimes things don’t go according to plan—but that’s just part of the process.

“Innovation requires failure,” he said. If the Army is going to be truly innovative, it must also be able to accept failure as an occasional result, but that can be difficult. “People like [billionaire inventor] Elon Musk can just give up on projects that don’t work, but the Army can’t do that,” he said. Because of time and resources invested, “there can be institutional friction with admitting that an idea didn’t work.” In other words, no one wants to give bad news to their boss, so they may try to make it work anyway. “Everyone wants to help Soldiers,” he said. “The whole team.” But becoming more innovative will require the Army to be more accepting of failure in certain circumstances, Beyerl said.

The most important lesson he has learned in his career is that innovation can come from unexpected places. “It’s really impressive how innovative our Soldiers can be if we foster an environment where their ideas are welcomed,” he said. In fact, some of the most successful projects he has worked on have come from good ideas generated at the tactical level. During a three-year assignment at the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG), he said he would often see young Soldiers come up with unique solutions to problems. “They would quickly develop nonstandard ways to use their equipment to solve emerging challenges.” He served as a test and evaluation officer at AWG before taking over as chief of concepts. It was “my most valuable career broadening experience,” he said. He and his team worked to identify challenges, quickly prototype solutions and then determine their effectiveness in various environments. The experience was rewarding for Beyerl, and introduced him to a whole host of Army stakeholders, operational partners and dedicated Soldiers and civilians.

At this point in his career, he knows a bit about finding his professional niche, and he shares that lesson with others. “The best advice I have for young acquisition officers and civilians is to follow your passion across different career fields,” he said. “There are so many opportunities to excel in this workforce, that many different paths can lead you to a successful and rewarding career.” There is no single road map to success, he said. Follow your passion and you will find the right path.

“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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