Faces of the Force: Still learning after 20 years

By August 30, 2018Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program; Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems
TITLE: Information technology network specialist
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in information technology
AWARDS: Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal

Still learning after 20 years

by Ms. Susan L. Follett

Over the course of a two-decade career, Mark Block has learned one important lesson: “No one person in IT knows everything. Learn from others, and pass on your knowledge to other teammates.”

As an information technology (IT) specialist for the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, he analyzes and evaluates existing computer configurations of data and voice networks and recommends changes—additions, deletions, efficiency and reconfiguration—to network components to improve a system’s support capability. “In short, I provide IT oversight on behalf of the Army to make sure the integrator implements what the Army’s contract stipulates.”

He’s part of a team in the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program, which works with the Home Station Mission Command Center program, which brings up-to-date video conferencing capability that enables division and corps commanders to conduct mission command from home station and command centers. Block’s job is to review the engineering plan that an integrator submits to the government, identifying any mistakes and making sure it is technically feasible. “The greatest satisfaction I have is knowing that my work provides reachback capability to the headquarters components of the Army, who can then reach out to warfighters in theater,” said Block.

Block is a civil war reenactor within the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, and takes place in at least one reenactment or living history event each month. Photo courtesy of the author.

Block is a civil war reenactor within the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, and takes place in at least one reenactment or living history event each month. Photo courtesy of the author.

Block’s military career—nearly seven years in the infantry and in the Signal Corps—provided him with his first exposure to military communications systems. Between public and private sector work, he has roughly 20 years’ experience in IT. His tenure in the private sector included posts at IBM and MCI, and he joined U.S. Customs and Border Protection after 9/11. He has been in his current role for a little more than three years.

Block left Army service as a sergeant, and he has found that the leadership training provided by the Army serves him well in his current role. “The Army teaches its leaders a lot—how to push yourself, how to lead by example, how to get the best out of the people you’re leading. All of that comes in handy, no matter where you find yourself.” Private sector employers “don’t always provide that training,” he said. “Someone might get promoted because they’re good at what they do but not necessarily good at leading people.”

For Block, the biggest challenge he faces in his work is inertia. “I have encountered a few people who don’t seem like they’re in a hurry to get things done,” he said. “Senior leadership has emphasized the need to get new capabilities to the warfighter faster, but that needs to trickle down further than it has so far. If I were in charge, I would allow command decisions to be made at a lower level so that bigger decisions could be made faster, especially when it comes to purchasing equipment and finalizing contracts. Right now there’s a lot of back and forth that slows everything down.”

When he’s not at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, you’re likely to find him in a field somewhere: Block is a civil war re-enactor with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment; he takes part in at least one re-enactment or living history event each month. “We usually camp at the battlegrounds, and at night when everyone else has gone home, it’s really peaceful. And it’s a great time to think about what happened in those sites hundreds of years ago.” He also got involved in the American Battlefield Trust, an organization that purchases battlefields from the Civil War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 that come up for public sale and returns them to the respective state or the National Park Service. “I’m proud to have had a hand in preserving several sites, including Franklin, Gaines Mill, Antietam, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.”

“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 contact 703-664-5635.

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