SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY

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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, Aberdeen Test Center
TITLE: Senior test officer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 10 years
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in test and evaluation, Level I in engineering and program management
EDUCATION: B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez
AWARDS: Department of the Army Civilian Service Commendation, 2020 and 2021
HOMETOWN: Mayagüez, Puerto Rico


 

Edwin D. Martinez-Vega

 

by Ellen Summey

 

“From a very young age, even before the age of 6, I knew I wanted to be an engineer,” Edwin Martinez-Vega recalled. “I never had any doubts about that.” Like many children, he had a fascination with airplanes and he wanted to know who was responsible for building them. “Somebody said, ‘Planes are built by engineers,’ and so I decided right then that I would be an engineer, no question.” And though the path wasn’t always easy, he kept his eyes on the goal.

He breezed through high school, before applying to and being accepted into the engineering program at the University of Puerto Rico. Once there, he said, he struggled to keep up with his peers academically. “I never had to study before, so it was difficult for me. I definitely wasn’t the smartest kid anymore—my class, entering the engineering program had 110 students, and I believe 109 of them were smarter than I was,” he said. His grades suffered and he couldn’t see—even while studying engineering—how he would ever reach his dream of building planes. “I was lost,” he said. And then two things happened that changed the course of his life. He found some other airplane enthusiasts, and he met a girl. “I heard about this engineering competition team that built planes, and they had a chapter at the school, so I went to talk to them. That really gave me a sense of direction—I finally could see how the dots connected, from what I was studying to where my goal was.”

And about that girl—the girl, actually—when Martinez-Vega took a job working the front desk at a nearby hotel, he met his future wife, Alondra, and the remaining puzzle pieces began to fall into place. “She worked the midday shift and I was on the night shift. I started arriving earlier, she started leaving later.” The connection was immediate, and they married in 2011, after he had taken a job at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and she had moved to New York for her doctorate.

Since that first Army job 10 years ago, he has found a string of opportunities at Aberdeen. Today, he works as the senior test officer for U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, Aberdeen Test Center. “I am a senior test officer in charge of automotive and fire control programs. We test systems that are either legacy, new programs of record or technology demonstrators. Testing addresses safety and performance concerns to provide the data for evaluation and action by oversight and decision-makers,” he explained.

“There are very good opportunities—always jobs opening on the installation. I believe now, it’s up to 20,000 civilian and contractor positions. There are big organizations here, and they keep adding more, so yes, there’s a wealth of opportunity.”

When he is asked for career advice, he has two suggestions for junior acquisition professionals. “I have received a lot of advice throughout my career, giving me much to pass along to others,” he said. “One piece of advice that applies more generally to the acquisition world is that every program is different and its differences must be considered when applying standard practices.” His second tip for colleagues—always know why things are done the way they are. “That it is always done this way should never be the answer. The reason for a decision or action matters as much as the action itself,” he said.

It was a love of airplanes that got him into the world of engineering, but it’s the love of his family that keeps him focused on his work. In fact, he said, having a family has fundamentally changed the way he approaches his job. “I optimize tasks to make sure my team does not lose long weekends or have to spend more hours at work than they should,” he said. “Family also makes my drive for Soldier safety stronger than ever.”

He recalled seeing a poster on the walls of his office building several years ago—an image of a Soldier with two young children, as a reminder of the importance of safety. “Being a Soldier is a dangerous duty—there’s no way around that fact—but a Soldier should not fail to return home to their family because their equipment was unsafe or did not work right when they needed it to,” he said. “When I’m doing my job, in a situation where I have a decision to make—am I going to speak up or not? Am I going to be that person right now, or not? I think about those kids and I think about my kids, and it makes the choice really easy.”

Throughout his career, Martinez-Vega said, that is the most important lesson he has learned—staying true to his standards. “I learned that when I was younger but I’ve applied it continuously through my career,” he said. “If I do not compromise my values, I will not regret my decisions, even if the consequences are difficult.” He has also stayed true to his original dream of working with airplanes, though he hasn’t achieved it just yet. “I don’t work with aircraft, which is, I guess, a left turn I took.” But he’s still working toward that goal. “I am currently part of the Academic Degree Training program to earn my M.S. in aerospace and aeronautic engineering,” he said. “It was a life goal—an expensive life goal—more than a career goal. After I’m done, perhaps I’ll move to an aviation position, but I’m not sure yet what the future holds. Maybe I’ll pick up a hobby after that.”

   

“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/.

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