COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Acquisition Support Command, Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space
TITLE: Program Manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 20
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 4
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in business, cost estimating and financial management and Level II in program management
EDUCATION: M.S. in management and acquisition and contract management, Florida Institute of Technology, B.S. in secondary education, Athens State University
AWARDS: Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service (2018)
William “Cody” Swinford
by Cheryl Marino
William “Cody” Swinford was awakened out of deep sleep at midnight in Fayetteville, Tennessee, by a call from an Army civilian recruiter 600 miles away in Dallas, Texas. The recruiter had reviewed his resume and said “You do not qualify to become an acquisition (contracts) analyst, but how would you like to be a budget analyst?” Swinford said “Sure,” and the recruiter said someone would be in touch in about three weeks.
The rest, he said, is history.
Swinford joined the Army Acquisition Workforce in 2004, after completing his internship as a budget analyst for the Department of the Army. He may not have—according to the recruiter—qualified as an acquisition analyst at the time, but three years later that intern position as a budget analyst was identified as part of the Army Acquisition Workforce. To make it official, he completed the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) training in business cost estimating and financial management, and received his Level III certification in 2007.
“Things do not always go your way,” he said. It’s the old motto, “if at first you do not succeed, try and try again,” which is the most important lesson he’s learned, on the job or off, during the course of his career. Though Swinford didn’t get the position he sought right away, he ultimately ended up where he wanted to be.
Swinford currently serves as program manager in the Leadership Excellence and Acquisition Development (LEAD) program for high performing professionals in GS-12/13 or NH-03 pay bands, working in the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space (PEO MS) for the assistant PEO for international operations (APEO-I).
“International and security cooperation is relatively new for me, so learning new and challenging things brings me satisfaction.” Plus, he said whenever he mentions the Army or a missile or aviation system he supports, it tends to pique people’s interest. “I believe they think I am more important than I really am, which is kind of cool.”
And his job is both important and cool. Swinford is responsible for creating trip books—reference tools that contains vital information about countries that PEO MS senior leaders engage with when they travel to trade shows, program management reviews or other high-level events. “I support the team by helping to develop some of the information for our dashboard,” he said. “I research the artillery systems other countries obtain, and generate a report with compiled information about the U.S. relationship, missile systems and equipment they are procuring or are preparing to buy through the foreign military sales process.”
According to Swinford, leadership starts at the ground level. In addition to knowledge and expertise, it’s also about interpersonal relationships, laughing and having some fun. Prior to joining the Acquisition Workforce, Swinford served in the Army for four years, and said his experiences as a Soldier prepared him in many ways for the civilian roles that followed.
Swinford said he will never forget the time his drill sergeant in basic training told him that he “reminded him of someone who shot at him once.” Or the time he arranged a conference room prom at lunchtime for a colleague who never got to attend one in high school. Or the time he was the new Department of the Army System Coordinator with the responsibility of escorting a visiting colonel to a meeting and, somehow, he got both of them lost at the Pentagon.
These experiences may seem unrelated, but not when you look at them in terms of communication and positive outcomes. Swinford said the Army is, after all, in the people business. “Each of these experiences has made me the individual and leader I am working to become,” he said.
Communication and dealing with all personality types are just two of the reasons Swinford enlisted in the Army. Another was to take advantage of the unique opportunity for personal and professional growth and development.
“I was born and raised in a small town called Fayetteville [Tennessee]. Like many small towns, there were not a lot of job opportunities and between my mom passing away when I was seven, and my dad who was disabled, there was not much money for college. Therefore, I decided to take advantage of what military service could provide and put simply, it was a way out. I tell people that I joined the Army to see the world and got stationed 30 minutes from home at Redstone Arsenal (Alabama). I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Looking back, it was the best decision career-wise that I would make” he said.
When Swinford was up for reenlistment, he found himself at a crossroads professionally, but the advice from his command sergeant major, Jack Hoffman, helped put things into perspective. “He sat me down and said, ‘Cody, you can take your military experience of four years and get out and complete your education, or if you decide to sign up for an additional four years, you would have eight years in and at that point, you might as well complete the 20 years and retire and then have a second career,’ he said. “I chose the first option.”
“At that time, I was working toward a degree in education. I thought I wanted to teach.” Swinford said he pursued his degree while working several jobs, including the seafood department of Winn Dixie Supermarket, as a teller at Redstone Federal Credit Union, and a camp counselor at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, until he received his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Athens State University in 1998.
“I had no leads or offers for a teaching position, so I took a job with the State of Tennessee in the Department of Human Services until I was selected for the Department of the Army intern program as a budget analyst,” he said. Seeing how his role directly supported the Soldiers in the field gave him a purpose and mission.
“Being in the acquisition workforce, it’s my job to ensure our Soldiers have the system or equipment within budget, on time, and in perfect working condition so that they can do their jobs and be ready to defend our freedom at any point and anywhere in the world,” he said. “If my actions play a role in making them successful, then I have done my job.”
“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/.