Faces of the Force: Ms. Aladrian Wetzel

By October 13, 2016October 19th, 2016Army ALT Magazine, Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology
TITLE: Department of the Army systems coordinator
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management; Level III in test and evaluation; Level I in science and technology management
EDUCATION: M.S. in management, University of Maryland University College; B.S. in mechanical engineering, University of Delaware
AWARDS: U.S. Army Acquisition Corps Certificate in Recognition of Achievement; Commander’s Award for Civilian Service; Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service; DA Commendation for Exemplary Performance and Outstanding Achievement

A front-row participant in the acquisition process

By Susan L. Follett

Looking for a little motivation? Consider Aladrian Wetzel’s perspective on the importance of what she does. “I am not a Soldier. I don’t wear a uniform or shoot a rifle or drive a truck in theater. I sit at a desk, write information papers and attend meetings. However, I am still a member of the Army. The decisions I help to influence, the documents I write and review, the emails I send and the meetings I attend impact the type of equipment Soldiers receive to fight their mission.”

Part of the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) since 2004, Wetzel is a DA systems coordinator (DASC) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (OASA(ALT)). “As a DASC, I’m able to shape all aspects of planning, budgeting and execution, financial management, logistics, procurement, technical requirements and program management issues for several programs of record. I have a direct link to HQDA staff and key decision-makers,” she said. “The coordination work I do directly impacts the programs of record’s ability to secure funding, validate requirements, develop equipment and field to Soldiers.”

As a DASC, Wetzel serves as the subject matter expert (SME) and program executive office (PEO) representative on system acquisition and program management. She’s responsible for coordinating program actions among the project manager, the PEO, the Army acquisition executive, the White House Office of Management and Budget, HQDA, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and congressional stakeholders. Additionally, she analyzes and reviews program requirements, funding data, statutory documentation and program execution for a multibillion-dollar portfolio. She leverages a range of skills in her work, using her engineering and technical expertise as an SME, oral and written communication skills to deliver information, and collaboration skills when working with stakeholders.

“Being a DASC has been one of the highlights of my career thus far,” Wetzel said. “I have the opportunity to influence Army decisions, and I have a front-row seat for seeing the acquisition process in action. This position has given me an appreciation for how things work, from budgeting to requirements to fielding equipment, and I’ve had the good fortune to interact with congressional members. That has given me a unique perspective on the relationship Congress has with the Army and DOD.”

Wetzel was recruited out of college in 2004 by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center (AEC), a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC). She accepted the position for two reasons: She needed a job, and she saw the value in civil service. “The need to provide Soldiers with well-engineered, -tested, -evaluated and -managed equipment is what has kept me here,” she added.

Wetzel worked within the ATEC family of subordinate commands through 2012, holding posts with AEC’s Survivability Evaluation Directorate, the Developmental Test Command’s Aviation, Missiles and Unmanned Systems Division, and AEC’s Aviation and Fires Evaluation Directorate. Over the course of her career, she noted, “I have had an excellent network of first-line supervisors and senior leaders who believed in my potential, recognized my skill set, gave me career advice, encouraged me to apply to leadership training and developmental assignments and supported my career decisions.”

From 2012 through 2015, Wetzel took part in the Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship (CDG/AAF) program sponsored by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center. CDG/AAF provided her the opportunity, as someone who had worked in test and evaluation, “to gain experience in program management, work in different positions, participate in unique leadership training opportunities and network with others within the Army acquisition community,” she said.

CDG/AAF participants are responsible for determining the types of developmental assignments they’re interested in pursuing, and network with program management personnel to pursue those opportunities. As such, said Wetzel, CDG/AAF “was the first time I took control of my career and planned three years in advance the types of training and broadening assignments I wanted to become a more knowledgeable Acquisition Corps member and future senior leader in the Army Acquisition Workforce.”

Her developmental assignments included rotations as a test and evaluation lead for the project manager (PM) for the Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A) within the PEO for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, and a project lead supporting the PM for the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical in the PEO for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical. She served as a DASC in the OASA(ALT) Intelligence Directorate while in the CDG/AAF, and, when the fellowship was complete, accepted a full-time position within OASA(ALT) as the DASC for DCGS-A.

Interested in a similar career path? Wetzel has three pieces of advice. “Learn through classes, certifications and those around you: My career has benefited from taking leadership classes, earning advanced degrees and taking courses to earn certifications. I constantly learn from my co-workers and always ask questions in all forums,” she said. Second, focus on networking and collaboration skills. Increasing technical skills and becoming an SME are equally as important as the ability to work with others.

“Throughout my career thus far, I have received insight into acquisition-related topics and career opportunities through networking and collaboration. Understanding how to cooperate and network with others are both necessary to succeed in the small community of Army acquisition,” she said. Finally, Wetzel recommends developmental assignments and career-broadening experiences. “Having an understanding of other jobs and learning new skills makes for a well-rounded AAW employee and makes you competitive for future opportunities.”

This article was originally published in the October – December 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

“Faces of the Force” highlights members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. The series, produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch in close coordination with public affairs officers, features Soldiers and DA civilians serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.

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