TITLE: Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) energy manager
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: AMCOM G-4 Engineering
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Engineering
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 10 years
MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Civilian
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in engineering, member of the Army Acquisition Corps EDUCATION: M.S. in geography and B.S. in environmental science, University of Alabama
AWARDS: Commander’s Award for Civilian Service
HOMETOWN: Huntsville, Alabama
LaDonna M.C. McCann
by Ellen Summey
LaDonna McCann said she’d never work for the Army. “That was not on the radar at all,” she said. Having grown up in an Army family, the daughter of a retired Soldier, she envisioned a dramatically different life for herself. As a teen, she informed her parents that she would be moving to the Pacific Northwest after college, where she planned to work as an environmental journalist. “I told my dad that I would not work for the Army,” she laughed. But no plan survives contact with the enemy, as the saying goes, and McCann’s plan was no exception. “In my first job out of college, I was working with AMCOM (Aviation and Missile Command) as a contractor in our environmental organization,” she said. When that position transitioned to a government job, she jumped at the opportunity to become an Army civilian, right there at home in Alabama.
Fast forward 11 years to 2021, and McCann is now the energy manager for AMCOM, a role she describes as a sort of energy policy liaison between the command’s headquarters and its depots. “I think that the title ‘energy manager’ conjures various ideas, but once I describe my role as a liaison and as someone involved in brainstorming, then people get it.” Her day-to-day work is to ensure the AMCOM energy program complies with Army and Army Materiel Command directives. She provides management assistance, guidance and support for ongoing energy projects carried out at AMCOM depots. What kinds of energy? All of them. “We’re looking at the whole energy picture,” she said. “Particularly with our depots, our installations, it’s a question of how they can carry out their essential duties in an energy-efficient way.” Beyond that, McCann said the program also looks at quality of life issues, green spaces, potential renewable energy projects and more. “It is really interesting to me—we’re not just looking at energy-efficient lighting, or how much power a particular process is eating up, it’s a much bigger picture.”
She has seen some major changes in the AMCOM environmental and energy work since she first started. “When I first came on, the environmental team was kind of seen as this separate entity—kind of like its own side project. They would call us when they had to. There were laws mandating that we had to be involved at certain points of a project, so that’s when we were brought in.” But over time, McCann said she has seen a greater awareness of and appreciation for environmental and energy expertise, and she believes they have become more thoroughly integrated into the spectrum of Army projects. “It’s been exciting to be a part of that. It’s not just, I get called with it’s time to do that part of a project, now I’m being integrated into all layers and levels of the project, from initiation all the way through application and completion.” Though she has only been working in the energy program for a short time, she said the evolution has been exciting to witness. “I can see now that energy and environmental definitely have a seat at the table, and that’s exciting to me.”
McCann was intentional about making connections across the workforce, building alliances and demonstrating the benefits of energy efficiency to help reassure any skeptics that she encountered in the early days of her career. “We’re at a place in history now where you can have energy-efficient equipment, energy-efficient buildings, and still do what you need to do. We can still complete the mission without taking away any of the capability.” She said some of the early reluctance she encountered was because of a perception that ‘green energy’ means lower quality or less power, but she is pleased that the Army is learning that is a misconception. “I’m glad to see that we’re progressing past that. I don’t get the side-eye as much anymore when I show up to a meeting,” she chuckled.
Outside of work, McCann seems to surround herself with even more challenges. She is an and self-described aspiring author, who has now written and self-published two books—and she is working on her first novel. She has also been teaching geography at a local community college since 2005, and she considers herself a “professional encourager” as well. How does she keep track of it all? A very detailed daily planner. “My planner is my happy place that keeps me on task,” she said. “It helps me prioritize and manage my time, so that the work does not manage me.”
With her affinity for teaching and organizing, and her experience pursuing a litany of goals and interests, she has become an informal mentor to many of her friends and colleagues. When asked for career advice, McCann said she always encourages others to take charge of their own careers. “One thing I learned early on, and it’s a mantra you hear but it’s so true, is that nobody is going to manage your career but you. We’ve all had some good supervisors and some not-so-good supervisors, but ultimately, the role of a supervisor is to assist you and help you meet your goals. You are responsible for establishing those goals and deciding what you want in a career.” She said she has learned over time that defining a career goal doesn’t always need to involve the hot pursuit of a promotion or new assignment. “As long as I’m developing professionally every year, learning a skill that I didn’t have previously, and just charting my own path, I see it as managing my own career.”
But when the time comes to pursue that next big thing, McCann said it’s important to have courage and take the leap of faith. “I encourage people to step out of their professional boxes. Even if you are scared, do it scared.” She said she doesn’t always get it right, but she tries to “fail forward” and follow her late mother’s advice to treat every stumbling block as a stepping stone toward success. And it seems to be working for her so far—her career has grown to be something she could never have foreseen. But because she remained true to her passion and had the courage to take on new challenges, her work is arguably more impactful today. Instead of traveling to the “green” Pacific Northwest, she’s harnessing her considerable skills at home in Alabama, building a greener Army.
“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/.