COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition
TITLE: Assistant product manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 2
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 12
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in program management
EDUCATION: B.S. in business administration, University of New Hampshire
AWARDS: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (2nd award), Army Achievement Medal (2nd award), Meritorious Unit Citation, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (3rd award), Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Maj. Michael Sidman
by Ellen Summey
Maj. Michael Sidman was just a kid when he decided that he wanted to be a Green Beret. “I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to be an American warrior,” he said. “I wanted to prove myself in combat. I wanted to be tested. I wanted to be validated in that way, I guess. Ever since I chose to go into the Army, I decided that if I was going do it, I wanted to go all in. And in my opinion, that was special forces.” He completed the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of New Hampshire and earned his commission as an infantry officer. Sidman was on his way.
When he was selected for the Army Special Forces Qualification Course as a young officer, all was right with the world. “I was on a high, feeling wonderful,” he said. “I had just married the girl of my dreams, moved to Fort Bragg [North Carolina], started the [qualification] course, bought a house,” and he felt like nothing could stand in his way. “I was cocky,” he said. The training was difficult, but he made it through “with a lot of grace and a lot of help from friends and peers.” He moved on to his first operational assignment in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and that’s when humility came knocking.
“For me, that was the first time in my Army career that I was a little fish in a giant pond. I was humbled over and over again, and consistently inspired by the people I worked with,” he said. “I got my ego checked in a big way, and it forced me to focus on what really matters. What makes you successful as a leader in the Army? Without a doubt, I’ve come to realize people are what matter most. Building up your people—each individual and as a team—really is what helps you be successful as a leader and as a manager.”
And with that approach, Sidman found success in the special forces, taking on a series of increasingly competitive and demanding assignments. But his family suffered in his absence, and the strain of the job became too much. He was gearing up for a Tier One special mission unit selection, when he could no longer deny the issue. “I realized I had found my identity as a Green Beret, being the operations guy, being the ‘hammer,’ if you will. All I thought about was the next deployment, getting my guys home, getting myself home—it’s a primal existence and it wears on you, over time.”
Sidman knew he had to make a change. He applied to transition out of special forces and into acquisition, and it has been everything he hoped for. “I feel like a normal guy again,” he said.
Today, Sidman is living his best life. As the assistant product manager for Precision Fires and Mortars, Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems at the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition, he brings a depth of operational experience to his work. “We focus heavily on artillery munitions and mortar weapons and fire control. Right now, I’m primarily working the next-generation high explosive rocket-assisted 155mm artillery projectile, the XM1113 ER,” he said. “The number one modernization priority for the Army right now is long range precision fires, so we’re a piece of that pie.”
Because of his experience as a Green Beret, he can offer insights about the importance of acquisition in the grand scheme of the Army mission. “I work with amazing Army civilians who have poured 30 or 40 years into [research, development testing and evaluation], and program management, and giving us the best equipment in the world as America’s Soldiers,” he said. “I tell them, ‘You may not hear this every day, but I’ll tell you, as a former pipe hitter (a term for an elite operator) who got all the best equipment—I didn’t realize all the work that went into it—but what you do matters. It all matters.’ ”
He shares two pieces of wisdom that he has learned during his Army career. First is a saying he picked up in special forces training. “Humans are more important than hardware.” Second, relationships are the foundation of effective teams. “Relationships are the most important focus I have when I’m trying to accomplish work with my teams,” he said. “I focus on communication, empathy, humility, trust and integrity more than anything else. If the relationships are good and teams are functioning well, I believe that acquisition professionals and industry leaders can do amazing things for America’s military.”
Recently, Sidman has applied those skills to the Army’s Nickel Rotating Band effort, which is a crucial step to enable testing for the new Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA). “Most artillery shells throughout the Army’s history have had a copper rotating band. That band is an alloy that’s welded onto the outside of the shell, and it basically bites into the spiral inside of the cannon, and it kind of melts and conforms to that spiral and allows the shell to get the spin and muzzle velocity required when it comes out of the cannon during a fire mission,” Sidman explained. “With the new ERCA tube and the new propellants, the environment is much more violent than the older self-propelled howitzers, so we needed to figure out a new alloy and figure out how to weld that alloy onto existing shells, so we could continue testing. We had huge success with that, it was really about stakeholder management and leadership.”
The best part of his job, according to Sidman, is the team. “I love working with Army civilians and contractors. I spoke at a team member’s retirement recently, and I told them, ‘I don’t see any difference between your service and mine.’ Not everyone can be active duty, whether because of the physical demands or anything else, but these civilians and contractors are all still serving the nation, and it’s an incredible honor to work with them,” he said. “I just really appreciate this side of the Army and I feel so honored to be a part of it. Ever since getting here, I’ve loved it.”
What comes next for Sidman? He has a few more professional and educational goals in mind, but one thing is for sure—he has nothing left to prove.
“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/.