COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Project Manager Expeditionary Energy & Sustainment Systems, Program Executive Office for Combat Systems and Combat Support Systems
TITLE: Mechanical engineer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 20
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in engineering, Level II in life cycle logistics and program management
EDUCATION: M.S. in engineering management, George Washington University; B.S. in industrial engineering, Northeastern University.
by Cheryl Marino
Knowledge, understanding and expertise do not come solely from a textbook. For Jose Santos, it’s a whole lot more than that—it’s being out in the field and getting a firsthand look at how things are being run, it’s talking with Soldiers and military personnel to assess what’s required for field operations, and it’s working with colleagues to deliver products to the warfighter for a successful mission.
“Working with others to support the Soldier in the field and identifying existing problems with power generation and power distribution in the armed services—Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines—has given me new perspective,” he said. According to Santos, human interaction and working with others has made all the difference in his career and throughout his life. And hands-on experience in the field has been advantageous for his role as a mechanical engineer supporting DOD warfighter power generation needs by developing solutions to address identified capability gaps. “What I’m doing is working toward getting that final product out, whether it’s a generator set, power distribution box or a hybrid system that works on battery, out to the Soldier, and that’s a group effort.”
Santos, who earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from Northeastern University and an M.S. in engineering management from George Washington University, believes that formal education is important and necessary in preparing a person for their career of choice, but he shared that his most beneficial learning came from a combination of education, field experience, collaborating with subject matter experts like logisticians and technical writers, and working with the warfighter to assess their needs and implement measures to address those needs.
Long before he began his career as a mechanical engineer with Project Manager Expeditionary Energy and Sustainment Systems (PM E2S2), a position he’s held for over a decade, Santos has been a scientific, technical problem solver. “It wasn’t like I thought, ‘I want to become an engineer and one day build a robot,’ although I knew I could use the engineering capabilities to work with others to address capability gaps,” he said.
“The greatest satisfaction I have from my work comes from seeing a power generation solution move from concept to implementation, then used to support real-world mission equipment deemed necessary for survival until a permanent, prime power solution is established,” he said. “People are always surprised by how important power generation and distribution [are] for operating most equipment used by warfighters in the field environment, from coffee pots to C4I [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] equipment.” He added that all power solutions are essential in the field, not just the C4I equipment that provides critical mission management capability, but also apparatus like printers, copy machines, space heaters and air conditioners that stabilize the temperature in the field units (command posts and combat hospitals), and the generators that keep all energy sources running 24/7.
“We need to provide Soldiers with products that are safe to use. Part of my job is to make sure they don’t have to worry about the power systems they rely on, once deployed. They have enough to worry about out there, dodging bullets, than to think about how to manage power generation and distribution in the field,” he said. “It’s vital to make sure power is readily available for your mission—whether it’s running an expensive piece of C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] equipment or running a coffee pot or an air conditioner.”
For Santos, problem-solving wasn’t the only thing that motivated him throughout his career, he said. Overall, he truly enjoys helping people get what they need, both on and off the job. Much like collaborating with colleagues on helping warfighters set up power generation and distribution equipment in a field exercise, he works with his church in stepping up efforts to help those less fortunate get their basic needs—food, clothing and shelter—met, which is also a team effort. Santos said sometimes he takes along his 5-year-old son, who is always eager to help his dad volunteer at a shelter, serving food to those who are homeless, lost their job or have fallen on hard times. “I get to spend time with my son and, at the same time, set a good example of how to help people who need it.”
“It’s that underlying view of helping others address clear needs—whether it’s out in the field or more importantly, in the real world.” He said. “There are so many people who are disadvantaged and might need food, clothes, a place to live or financial help. It’s also about collaborating with others on how to help them.”
While he was working toward his engineering degree, Santos took advantage of a college co-op program and became a U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command intern, supporting power and change proposals before he had the opportunity to go out into the field and support Stryker brigades. Once he graduated, he became part of the Army Acquisition Workforce, assigned to support the standard family of generator sets at Project Manager Mobile Electric Power. “My first task was working on generator set engineering change proposals, technical manual updates and other engineering activities. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I had the opportunity to work with Soldiers in the field and their equipment, that the true satisfaction of my position came shining through,” he said.
The highlight of Santos’ career is that there are multiple opportunities to collaborate with power producers, engineers, logisticians and fielders in his current position at PM E2S2. He also works with a myriad of power consumers in the development and implementation of the Central Power Solution—trailer-mounted generator sets that allow brigades and battalions to operate command post mission equipment in the field, in a safe uninterrupted method, while providing fuel savings with organically supportable generator sets and power distribution equipment solutions.
To sharpen his skill set, Santos has taken career development courses like the Inspiring and Developing Excellence in Acquisition Leaders program, which he said provided a great opportunity to team with people at similar points in their career and learn how to be effective leaders (not just bosses) and to avoid pitfalls. “I learned that many leadership goals and objectives can be achieved by simple steps like listening, effective communications, critical conversations and mentoring at the individual or group level,” he said.
And he’s applied these objectives—as well as field experience, education and hands-on experience—to every aspect of his life, and continues to do so by sharing what he’s learned with junior acquisition personnel. “I talk with younger engineers who have questions and I provide them with information,” he said. “I may not have all the answers by any means, but I can point them in the right direction. And I often learn from them too.”
“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/.