OAA's Most Valuable Person for July 2017

OAA’s July MVP is John Wolfrey, an IT Specialist System Analysis, Publishing Tech Division, for the Army Publishing Directorate. Wolfrey was recognized by his peers in the 2016 Climate Survey for being a subject matter expert and ensuring everyone understands the information they need. He’s a straight shooter who is not going to “blow smoke” at anyone, and is seen to work through difficult tasks while supporting the Warfighter extremely well.

Wolfrey has a remarkable career in publishing and began working for the Department of Defense in June of 1993 with was then the United States Army Publishing and Printing Command (USAPPC), serving as a printing specialist. He later transferred to the role of Electronic Print and Publishing Program specialist in May 1999.

He served as the Electronic Library Branch chief and was a major contributor to the development of the Army Electronic Library (AEL) and the Army Publishing websites. Prior to joining the civil service, he enjoyed a career in commercial printing and publishing, serving his family owned business and other large commercial printers within the greater Washington metropolitan area.

He was employed in commercial positions for 17 years and trained staff in graphic and lithography roles as plant manager, production manager, pre-press manager, layout design, forms design, hot-type setting, photo-typesetting, binder operations, press operations, chief estimator, customer service representative, and printing sales executive.

He is an enthusiastic printing and publishing professional who enjoys sharing his expertise and knowledge in supporting our Soldiers, which is evident from the comments his peers left about him in the 2016 Climate Survey.

OAA Key Shop Team Unlocks Army Headquarters

Rick Karas (left) and Lonnie Ford manage the physical security of dozens of Army headquarters organizations in the national capital region.

Lonnie Ford and Rick Karas may be just two of OAA’s Army Headquarters Services employees, but their physical security mission expands across 50 different Army Headquarters organizations across the National Capital Region.

They are the guys who ensure buildings and rooms are physically secured by managing every master key system, tracking every different kind of key.

Ford, who created the shop that’s located in the Pentagon, said he and Karas track more than a thousand tickets, or customer requests, and always do their best to manage their time to ensure excellent customer service.

“We try to be very efficient with time,” said Ford. “Like just this morning we had a lockout, so we had to be flexible and change the schedule.”

In addition to ensuring all customers have keys and access at any time, the team also does dozens of site surveys, along with having many other physical security responsibilities. And those customers who rely on the security experts are speaking highly of the team.

Recently OAA adapted the Interactive Customer Survey, or ICE, to continue and improve customer service across the board. Ford and Karas received much positive feedback from their many customers for being timely, alert to needs, and having a positive attitude.

“We’re always on the move!” exclaimed Karas.

Congratulations June OAA MVP Rich Lawson!

Rich Lawson, an analyst with the OAA Executive Services, was recognized by his peers in the 2016 Climate Survey for many excellent qualities, including being a team player, a great coach, teacher, mentor and an extremely positive influence throughout OAA. For those who know and work with Rich, they also know he has a dry sense of humor and is not keen on talking about himself. However, here’s a little bit more about one of OAA’s great teammates:

What is your career background and highlights?

I spent 22 years in the Army as military intelligence and force management with job assignment highlights in the 82nd Airborne; Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe; Army Intel Center and School; Joint Readiness Training Center; Headquarters, G8 Force Development; G8 Program Analysis and Evaluation; and Headquarters G3; along with deployments to Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Out of my career, the accomplishment I’m most proud of is completing Ranger School, which, of course, prepared me for the combative rigors of being an OAA analyst.

Any advice for others?

One of the best things about working here, is I think OAA employees genuinely seem to care. If I had any advice for other employees, it would be to help each other out whenever you can.

Army headquarters emergency relief drive for Soldiers, Families exceeds goals

SFC Kristina Moreno (holding sign), OAA AER campaign coordinator, and the Human Resources and Management Directorate team highlight OAA's contributions.

The Army Headquarters raised $96,744 for the Army Emergency Relief fund, exceeding its goal of $70,290 by about 27 percent, and OAA joined the 22 of the 29 HQDA organizations that individually exceeded, raising $4,606 from its $4,500 target. Great job OAA Team!

AER celebrated 75 years of empowering the Army’s force to help Soldiers through a fundraising campaign that ran from March 1 through May 15.

Army Emergency Relief has faithfully helped the Army ‘Take Care of its Own’ for since 1942. Its primary mission is to provide interest-free loans, grants and scholarships to promote readiness and relieve financial distress of Soldiers and their Families. AER has provided more than $1.8 billion in assistance to over 3.7 million Soldiers and their Families.

This generous contribution by OAA and HQDA will help the AER campaign continue the legacy of caring: Soldiers helping Soldiers in time of need for another 75 years and beyond.

Four OAA teammates receive DoD’s Spirit of Service Award

Congratulations to the following OAA employees who were awarded the DoD’s award for demonstrating extraordinary contributions to the Nation in pursuit of serving others.

Laverne Berry, from DEEO, managed the HQDA organizational climate survey execution. Her devotion to service excellence, profound ability to build expedient relationships, resourcefulness, and attention to detail helped ensure mission success.

Kelly Diggs, from DMA, volunteered to support multiple organizations throughout OAA in addition to her normal workload. She stepped up when five different organizations needed help completing personnel actions and hired 50 key positions. She significantly impacted the capability and productivity of HQDA.

Frederick Hunter, from HRMD, interpreted and applied business rules and regulations in all correspondence and SACO-related actions in the most thorough and efficient manner, always seeking ways to encourage team cohesion, which set everyone up for success. He maintains key essential duties to support OAA and HQDA and is instrumental in building positive relations with other organizations.

Deborah Gantt, from CASA, helped to greatly improve the CASA program by increasing the diversity of the nominees under consideration for these prestigious positions. She led the revision of the Army regulation, coordinating it and ensuring it reflected both the Secretary's intent for diversity and the CASA term changes.

OAA's May MVP positive force, mentor for others

Congrats to OAA’s Most Valuable Person for May: Christie Smith! She’s a 29-year government civilian veteran who serves as the Army Headquarters Services chief of staff. She was recognized by others in OAA during the 2016 Command Climate Survey for her mentorship and being positive force who imbues dignity and respect for others. She embodies the characteristics that an OAA and Army leader should always be.

Career Highlights and Accomplishments:

I started my career as a GS-12 working in Army intelligence as an operations research system analyst, almost 30 years ago, and have held positions in resource management, installation management, health affairs, and real estate. It’s given me a broad management perspective that I apply daily as the chief of staff, a position I’ve been in since January 2016.

In addition to my positions, I’ve also taken advantage of many educational opportunities that have really enabled my career. I was an Army senior fellow (a part of the Army SETM program). Prior to starting and finishing the Army War College, I had an interest in health affairs. I developed a senior-level (GS-9 through GS-12) internship program for five areas at Office of Secretary of Defense Health Affairs – information technology, human resources, financial management, management analysis, and health systems. It was a lot of learning, especially since I didn’t have a human resources background, but it was a great project. The interns were recruited out of graduate school, and I wanted to capture that fresh talent for the agency, which was filled with older retirees. The first group is now wrapping up, and I hope it it’s made a positive impact -- or will make one.

I’ve also completed the Harvard University Senior Executive Fellows Program, the George Washington University National Security Studies Program, Federal Executive Institute Leadership for a Democratic Society and the Brookings Institute Executive Education Certification Program in Public Leadership.

What I love about being CoS:

I love my job! Every day is different. I refer to it as being a firefighter, with many of the challenges becoming patience building opportunities. We have eight different directorates within AHS with all different issues, and everyone is important. I have to deal with personnel challenges, especially with assignments, and even act as a negotiator sometimes between the directorates. There’s also a major customer service aspect to the job that I love. It’s similar to when I was the Real Estate and Facilities – Army Director, and we had a lot of people we supported. Now, our directors are my customers. Everyone wants to feel valued, heard, and for us in leadership to recognize their concerns. And they want to know that we’re working to get their issues resolved.

Advice for other OAA employees:

You should always read. Build relationships. Be flexible. Make sure you have the facts before making decisions. Listen. Have a positive attitude. Do the right thing. Always find ways to yes … And most importantly always do your best and have fun doing it! The overwhelming majority of the senior level programs I’ve been in and many leadership positions I’ve held, I would be the only black civilian female in my class or at the table. These are the characteristics that helped me succeed, and I hope, helped create that path for others.

Army’s Travel Services Supports DoD Missions Around World

Liniece Cannon (left) and Dolly Fugate sort through hundreds of visa applications at the DET headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Liniece Cannon (left) and Dolly Fugate sort through hundreds of visa applications at the DET headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army’s directorate that ensures all Department of Defense employees can travel throughout the world to accomplish their global missions was recently recognized with a dedicated plaque of appreciation from DoD and Army senior leadership.

OAA’s Directorate of Executive Travel, or DET, processed more than 200,000 official passports along with more than 15,000 visas for DoD civilians, military members and their families from the secretary of defense to the private heading on his or her first deployment last year.

“The visa and passport executive agent operation supports DoD national security missions world-wide and it’s executed with skill and a focus on the customer time and time again -- almost 200,000 times a year!” said Gerald O’Keefe, Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army who dedicated the plaque that held his along with the previous secretaries of defense and Army coins.

“I’m extremely proud to present this plaque to the Directorate of Executive Travel in recognition of your high standard of excellence,” he added.

Steve Morgan, DET Travel Services chief, Edmund Snead, and Gerald O'Keefe, AASA, at the recognition of service plaque.
Steve Morgan, DET Travel Services chief, Edmund Snead, and Gerald O'Keefe, AASA, at the recognition of service plaque.

Every service member, civilian and some contractors who deploys or travels outside the United States relies on the services DET provides. The trim team of less than three dozen OAA Soldiers, employees and contractors are responsible for executing about 75 percent of all U.S. State Department requested official passports, according to DET’s Travel Service division chief, Steve Morgan.

Veronica Meadows, program support specialist, helps answer a customer's questions about an official passport application.
Veronica Meadows, program support specialist, helps answer a customer's questions about an official passport application.

In addition to working directly with the State Department, on any average day, the team visits dozens of the 123 embassies throughout the Washington, D.C., area as they process the thousands of visas a year, Morgan said. From United Arab Emirates’ average six-week process, to other countries with more immediate digital processes, the DET team must navigate every country’s policies and immigration laws to ensure a smooth and timely admittance for all DoD personnel to every nation.

Although the mission is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, the team is also responsible for supporting more than 1,000 passport agents throughout 550 acceptance centers, including those in 23 foreign countries in support of employees and service members already overseas.

“When the president announced in 2014 on a Friday that DoD was sending troops to Africa to support the Ebola response, we were already working with those countries and affecting policy to get the new visa process running by Monday,” said Morgan. “That’s just one example of the importance of the mission and speed in which we operate here.”

The DET Travel Services team in front of the plaque after AASA's Gerald O'Keefe's dedication.
The DET Travel Services team in front of the plaque after AASA's Gerald O'Keefe's dedication.

AASA O'Keefe hosts former D.C. NG commander's retirement ceremony

The Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army Gerald O’Keefe hosted D.C. National Guard's former Commander Maj. Gen. Errol Schwartz’s retirement ceremony March 19, 2017, on behalf of the Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer. It was the closing of his more than 40-year service to the country and was attended by virtually all of the District's leadership and his family as well as the D.C. Guard's Airmen and Soldiers.

Mr. Gerald B. O'Keefe and MG Errol SchwartzMr. Gerald B. O'Keefe and MG Errol Schwartz

USDA recognizes RS-W's food drive contributions

RS-W Feds Feed Families team

OAA’s Resources Services-Washington, or RS-W, was recognized as a Group Silver Hall of Fame donator by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for rallying to collect 148 pounds of food during the Feds Feed Families drive.

The department of Army’s coordinator also recognized the effort and thanked the RS-W team.

“Because of your personal efforts and the amazing generosity of our federal employees, the Army achieved new levels on the amount of much needed foodstuff in support of this annual campaign,” Richard Fafara stated.

The food collected will help restock depleted food banks and pantries and significantly benefit needy families throughout Army installations and local communities.

Former AHS deputy takes reins at Arlington

Mr. Gerald B. O'Keefe and Ms. Kate Kelley

The former chief of staff for OAA’s U.S. Army Headquarters Services was inducted into the Senior Executive Service, or SES, as she took the reins as Arlington National Cemetery’s superintendent March 2, 2017.

The Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army Gerald O’Keefe officiated the ceremony.

“It’s a great day for Kate. It’s a great day for Arlington National Cemetery. And it’s a great day for the Army,” said O’Keefe. “You get promoted not based on past performance, but on future potential. Kate has shown that in so many different jobs.”

O’Keefe said he predicted early on Kelley’s eventual promotion to SES, stating she is professional, well-informed, calm, and ready for everything. She anticipates questions, anticipates problems, and her instincts in problem-solving make her a total package.

While thanking those in attendance Kelley said, “The reality is, no senior leader does anything without their team and without the group and the people who are out there doing it every day. And that’s what I see here today. It’s people who help make it happen.”

“There are three lessons I have learned throughout my career: One, be the kind of person who gets things done. Be a doer. Results matter. Two, look for the hard jobs. Don’t be afraid to take the tough ones,” said Kelley. “And finally, three, look around for mentors and people you want to be surrounded by.”

Kelley, a native of Sheffield, Massachusetts, is responsible for the complete operations of Arlington National Cemetery, encompassing 624 acres, nearly 3.5 million annual visitors, 180 primary staff, more than 7,000 annual burials, $25 million in construction, and a $71 million operating budget.

“I am absolutely humbled to be in this job, I am grateful to have this job, and I am absolutely honored,” said Kelley.

AMVID Soldier artist, immigrant highlighted

As a child, OAA Soldier Spc. Zee Leung dreamed of a being an artist. He came to the U.S. from China in 2006, earned a fine arts degree, and now uses his talents for the U.S. Army as a Multimedia Illustrator.

See Spc. Leung tell his story here.

Army secretary recognizes OAA teams for outstanding accomplishments

The outgoing U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning personally recognized three OAA teams during a small Pentagon ceremony Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, that have directly contributed to his and the overall Army mission.

Referring to the administrative assistant offices across DoD as the “unsung heroes” of the departments, he picked the Army OAA’s Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army program, the professionals from the U.S. Army Center for Military History, and the Political Transition Team as those who he greatly relied on during his Army secretarial tenue.

As the curators of the Army’s vast art and artifacts, the Pentagon CMH historians helped create an environment for the secretary that felt “more connected to the Army,” Fanning said.

Under his guidance, the CASA team took on the challenge to greatly improve the diversity and reach of the program to better reflect the Army. “I see a new batch (of CASA appointments) that will help tell the story to the Army and the citizenry,” he said.

As a leader who is experiencing his third political transition, he highlighted how extremely important and challenging it is to deliver a smooth transfer of power. He lauded the OAA political transition team, which has been working tirelessly to support the mission.

“Having to take something as big and complex as the Army … and have to translate that ... is no easy feat,” he said. “It’s amazing how seamless it’s been. And nowhere in the country is a seamless transition needed than in DoD,” he added.

After the secretary’s recognition, the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, Gerald O’Keefe, echoed the sentiments.

“We have excellent individual and team performances recognized today,” said O’Keefe. “We also have tremendous efforts across the 70 to 80 other teams throughout OAA that contribute to the Army mission every day.”

The full list of individuals who received awards:

Center of Military History:

  • Dr. Michael Rouland (Senior Historian) – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • Mr. Mason Farr (Senior Historian) – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • Dr. James Kelly (Supervisory Curator) – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • Ms. Roxann Showers (Curator) – Achievement Medal for Civilian Service – not present
  • Mr. John A. Paschal (Curator) – Achievement Medal for Civilian Service – not present

Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army:

  • Ms. Angie Ritz – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • Ms. Deborah Gantt – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • Ms. Cheryl Arnold – Commander’s Award for Civilian Service
  • SFC Irving Cortes-Ortiz – Army Achievement Medal
  • Mr. Roger Combs – Secretary of the Army Coin
  • Mr. Kyle Kalman – Secretary of the Army Coin

Political Transition Team:

  • Ms. Deb Cusimano – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • Mr. Steve Wallace – Superior Civilian Service Award
  • MSG David Lewis – Army Commendation Medal
  • Mr. Joseph Newman – Achievement Medal for Civilian Service