Leadership and Development
The new engineer leaders of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Public Health Service discuss career development, education and training, and preparing their engineering workforce for success.
Brig. Gen. Timothy S. Green, P.E., USAF, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, HQ U.S. Air Force
Rear Adm. Randall J.F. Gardner, P.E., USPHS, Chief Engineer Officer, U.S. Public Health Service
TME: Congratulations on your new position as your service’s engineer leader. What assignments in your career best prepared you for your new position?
GREEN: Every assignment has given me experiences, both good and bad, that have shaped who I am and the approach I try and take with our team. Each assignment added value and exposed me to some terrific leaders of all ranks I was able to observe and learn from. Like many others, I also picked up a lot of things not to do from individuals who led in a negative way.
Perhaps the most important assignments were the ones at base level, because everything we do is geared to providing expeditionary and garrison capability to enable the Air Force to Fly, Fight, and Win from our installations.
Starting out as an environmental coordinator in the early days of our journey towards environmental stewardship and then moving into design and construction management jobs connected me with many wing organizations, our talented engineers and project managers, as well as our design and construction agents and industry partners. I could not have asked for better opportunities to learn.
Assignments working on headquarters staffs allowed me to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by our service chiefs and combatant commanders and how engineers fit into their site picture. Without question, engineers are an essential part of the mission and the future, both in garrison and deployed. The challenge today is to balance all the combat support requirements as the services are forced to reduce both capability and capacity in different mission areas.
GARDNER: Thank you, I am proud of my role as a member of the Surgeon General’s team supporting the Public Health Service (PHS) mission of advancing and protecting the health of the nation. My vision for our service and the engineer category is to heighten our leadership in supporting safe and healthy communities in which Americans and all citizens of the world can live and prosper. Every position that I have held in the PHS has helped prepare me for my new position as Chief Professional Officer for the Engineer Category. My first assignment was a key factor. Without my introduction as a student in the Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program, I would not have considered becoming an officer in the Commissioned Corps. My experiences led me to believe in engaging students at all levels on the possible career opportunities available to them for their future. After that, as a junior officer my assignment to one of the PHS regional engineering offices helped me to become more focused and led to my desire of becoming more active in leadership opportunities. The work in the regional office required quite a bit of travel and independence. It also was my introduction to responding to natural disasters, which required additional skill sets.
Most recently, my current Operating Division, the Indian Health Service (IHS), has been an invaluable place to prepare me to lead the Engineer Category. As a member of the IHS Environmental Health and Engineering Program I have served as Aide de Camp for a Chief Engineer, program development staff for the Division of Facilities Planning and Construction, senior engineer consultant, and spent many years supporting the director of the largest engineering program in the PHS. Having the opportunity to work with Commissioned Corps leaders, civilian agency leaders, Tribal leaders, the administration and congress, flag officers, and the current Senior Executive Service Director of our office have afforded me many opportunities to learn.
TME: What do you see as the major challenges for the engineer workforce in your service?
GARDNER: Our engineering workforce is one of the most prepared and dedicated group of professionals in government. Assignments for PHS engineers range from traditional engineering disciplines to leadership roles, which have included Deputy Surgeon General of the United States. One challenge for us is to understand what our civilian leadership wants from the PHS engineering community and how it fits into the organization. Many times the engineering aspects of the mission are not highly visible and may not receive the opportunity for communicating the benefits engineers are bringing to the mission.
Another challenge is trying to understand whether the mission of Health and Human Services Operating Divisions can be done with less cost. Does the overhead of such a uniformed service pay off? This in practice is decided by the hiring organizations as the civil service and Commissioned Corps workforces are balanced by the human resources hiring processes. Many of the benefits of having PHS officers seem intangible, and unless there is a crisis, they are often unseen. Engineer officers must balance their need for training and experience to support deployment roles with daily assignment activities. This often leads to mixed signals about what takes priority. In my career, I have responded to requests to attend to natural disaster situations and often found the sense of helping communities respond to emergency situations rewarding and reinvigorating to my drive for public service. Returning to a duty station with renewed commitment to an assigned mission is difficult to quantify.
The third challenge is to increase the number of engineers in the Commissioned Corps, which is limited by the need for other health professionals in the PHS. We must figure out how engineering needs can receive higher levels of attention. The majority of engineers in the PHS are in support roles. This support, many times, is the foundation upon which health programs are developed. For example, the National Institutes of Health engineering program provides hospitals, laboratories, research buildings, offices, biomedical engineering programs, and other challenging infrastructure to support this essential research organization. Without the engineering community it would be a much different situation. Engineers rarely get to determine the value they have to the programs where they are employed. In my role I will continue to advocate for more engineers in higher leadership positions.
GREEN: One of our major challenges is to get out of the mentality of the last decade and focus on the “Rebalance to the Pacific” while taking the best of our lessons learned forward. In Iraq and Afghanistan our joint partners relied on us so much that the demand for engineers skyrocketed as stability operations became the face of coalition efforts. To meet these needs we constantly evolved our approach.
In 2005, we created a smaller, more capability-based Unit Type Construct. In 2011, the Air Force stood up three expeditionary Prime BEEF squadrons and an expeditionary Prime BEEF group in Afghanistan. And also in 2011 we modified the hub-and-spoke model with a focus on providing engineering effects across the entire theater. More than half of our Air Force deployments were in support of request for forces and working for the Army.
As we pivot to the Pacific, a future emphasis must be placed on ensuring Airmen Engineers can enable the Air Force to project power despite anti-access/area denial challenges identified within the Defense Strategic Guidance. Operating in such environments will require us to refine, and in some cases, re-learn air base survive and operate skills that made the Air Force so formidable during the Cold War. Engineers will need the capability to rapidly recover airfields while contending with the effects that a near-peer adversary could bring.
Another challenge we face is the current budget environment. Our bases are integral to enabling the air, space and cyberspace power that we provide to the nation. Installations—both enduring and expeditionary—serve as foundational platforms that enable Air Force enduring core missions. They are integral components to overall combat readiness. As we have stated time and again, the overall health, condition and sustainability of our installations directly impacts combat readiness. Air Force Engineers will keep our installations postured to meet mission demands by employing asset management principles to target our limited resources to those requirements that pose the highest risk to mission or risk to the Airmen that make that mission happen.
TME: How does your service support the education and training of your engineer workforce and what are the key areas that you see as needing emphasis for developing your future engineer leaders?
GREEN: Building a force of ready engineers and great leaders is one of our enduring responsibilities. From initial Silver Flag contingency engineering training to continuing professional education for military and civilian engineers at the Air Force Institute of Technology, and through on the job training and mentoring at our installations, engineers are constantly developing their skills.
Today we face an inflection point for how to properly organize, train, equip and employ our Airmen Engineer force for the future. Capitalizing on lessons learned over the past decade, as well as getting back to some of the basics that have long been a staple of what we do in a contingency environment, assures our engineers will continue to be agile, ready and flexible into the next decade.
One of the key areas we need to emphasize for developing our future engineer leaders is to take a good look at our Silver Flag Training. We need to ensure we are teaching the right perishable skills at the right frequency to both active duty and Air Reserve Component forces.
We also have observed that gone is the day that the majority of our Guard and Reserve Airmen are gained from trained Active Component engineers. We have to get this new breed of Citizen Airman trained to go to war.
With fewer military trained airmen coming into the Reserve Component, a strain has been placed on its successful Seasoning Training Program. It also has highlighted the need to find the right balance of Active/Reserve operational deployments to accelerate Reserve Component upgrade training and ensure mission capability is preserved.
Lastly, as our enlisted force development efforts continue to keep up with technology, we need to leverage industry more often to gain the skills needed to maintain, repair and sustain our infrastructure and facilities. Most of the facilities are still the same brick, steel and mortar of years past—but the electrical, alarms, fire protection, mechanical systems and energy initiatives require special skill sets that we cannot teach in our technical training schools.
GARDNER: The education and training of the PHS engineering workforce is primarily supported by the operating divisions or agencies that employ the engineers. Therefore, the training and education is focused on the current assignment, mission and performance requirements.
This can create a challenge for developing the workforce for future assignments since our assignments vary widely from traditional engineering disciplines, to regulatory, research and investigative positions.
A high percentage of PHS engineers return to school for advanced degrees in engineering, management and public health. Some are supported by their offices and others go back on their own during non-duty time through traditional or distance learning. The key areas I see as needing emphasis are communications skills, collaboration and formal leadership training.
TME: We note that each of you has a P.E. license. Congratulations. What is your view on the importance of licensing and credentialing for your professional workforce?
GARDNER: Licensing and credentialing are very important in public health engineering—not only because health practitioners are required to have credentials but also to represent the PHS with the highest level of competency.
Licensing and credentialing allow for PHS engineers to benchmark to a high standard of professionalism. Engineering billets require higher levels of professional development and progress toward management, leadership and technical competency goals. The emphasis on credentialing and licensing increases our credibility.
GREEN: Licensing and credentialing communicates that you view yourself as a professional and want to be viewed by others as such as well. The Air Force does not require it and airmen can certainly be highly successful without it.
In my case, as a captain in charge of a squadron design and later construction management elements, I believe it contributed to my credibility with industry partners and even squadron engineers, ultimately enabling me to be more effective.
TME: How has your involvement in SAME benefited your career and what advice do you have for young officers and civilians regarding their involvement in SAME?
GREEN: SAME has always been about the partnership between the military engineers and our industry partners, and my personal experience is no different. SAME has been an important avenue to build relationships with partners outside of specific contracts.
Those relationships have enabled me to have honest and open dialogue outside of specific acquisition efforts or contract execution.
Military engineers cannot execute our mission without industry support. SAME provides a great venue for dialogue, even friendships, that would not be realized from just sitting across a negotiating table.
GARDNER: As a junior officer in the PHS, I was unfamiliar with SAME. But a group in my office would attend Post luncheon presentations and present on the activities of PHS engineers. They took me along to the meetings. It was a way of staying connected to the engineering challenges and solutions of the uniformed services and the private industry that worked in the engineering sector.
It is no accident that education and training has continued to be a focus for SAME. In public health engineering, there is an expectation that officers are the most educated, experienced and trained in the work they are performing. I believe most industries would say those expectations are the same for their workforce and the opportunity to pursue training and knowledge with uniformed services counterparts is an added value of SAME. The opportunity to connect through SAME says a lot about the organization and its members.
If there is an organization you feel you can participate in, be heard, learn from, and contribute to, then you should consider joining and getting involved. The recognition of serving our country could not be clearer than through this society.
[article first published in the July-August 2014 issue of TME]
Brig. Gen. Timothy S. “Tim” Green, P.E., USAF, became Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, HQ U.S. Air Force, in April 2014. He was previously Director of Installations and Mission Support, HQ Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. Before that, he was Director of Installations and Mission Support, HQ Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Ill. Earlier in his career he commanded the 99th Mission Support Group, Nellis AFB, Nev.; and the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy. Gen. Green graduated from Texas A&M in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and also holds a master’s in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M.
Rear Adm. Randall J.F. “Randy” Gardner, P.E., USPHS, became the 13th Chief Engineer Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service in November 2013. He leads the Commissioned Corps Engineer Professional Affairs and advises the Office of the Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services on recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention and development of Corps engineer professionals. Among his career accomplishments, in FY2009, he served as Indian Health Service American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Coordinator. He also has served in disaster response planning and preparation assignments connected to Hurricanes Hugo, Isabel, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Hanna and Ike. Adm. Gardner graduated from Howard University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and also holds a master’s in Engineering Management.