WHEN TERRY L. MARTIN JOINED THE MENTORING PROGRAM in the Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center campus at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, he had no idea it would lead to an opportunity to participate in the Executive Officer (XO) Program in Edgewood, Maryland.
“This was the first mentoring program offered at Rock Island, and throughout the program I kept hearing about the XO detail in Edgewood and how the program was designed to enhance leadership skills,” Martin explained.
Chemical Biological Center Director Eric L. Moore, Ph.D., and the late William Klein, Deputy Director, Engineering Directorate, attended the graduation in Rock Island and that was when Martin had the opportunity to really learn about the XO program. When the call for applications for the developmental assignment came out in August, Martin discussed the opportunity with his wife, who agreed that it was a great opportunity and encouraged him to apply. “If Mr. Klein would not have come and taken the time to talk to me, I would not have applied. I’m grateful for him taking the time with me,” Martin said.
Martin, a system administrator in the knowledge and data management branch, began serving a six-month detail in November 2019 as the XO to Engineering Director Suzanne Milchling. A typical day for him could range anywhere from participating in planning meetings; assisting the engineering director and deputy director by preparing, coordinating and maintaining presentations, schedules and minutes; serving as gatekeeper for specified and implied tasks to compiling data for Milchling to aid in her decision-making process. Using his information technology background, Martin enhanced the scheduling of Milchling’s workforce engagements and the consumption of the data she received from surveys.
Throughout his time at Edgewood, he’s been to Aberdeen Proving Ground Senior Leader Cohort briefs, leadership courses, one of the senior executive service classes where Milchling was the speaker and a local STEM event. He recalled one meeting that stands out in his mind. “It was one of the first meetings I participated in, where the WILE-E team was briefing Ms. Milchling. At the end, Ms. Milchling and Mr. Lowry Brooks, associate director of engineering, gave their thoughts and then she turned to me and said ‘Terry, what are your thoughts?’ This made me feel like part of the team, like I had something to offer and was also a reminder to always pay attention, stay engaged because you never know when someone might ask your opinion.”
Another unforgettable moment for Martin was scheduling a two-day tour for a VIP from Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas – the Center’s major Army command. Working with the operations staff and other XOs, the center-wide tour was a great “show and tell” moment that provided the new headquarters a look at the Center’s capabilities.
Spending time with senior leadership throughout this detail has made him see things through different lenses. “My focus and views are different,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of work being done at the senior level. It’s been reassuring to see that senior leaders are genuinely concerned about people. They worry about completing the mission, but they take a lot of time working to develop people and looking for future leaders.”
The biggest challenge for Martin was being away from his family for six months. Although, being away from his family is not entirely new to him as he retired from the Illinois Army National Guard after serving 25 years, which included a 2010 tour in Afghanistan. He has a wife, Tricey; two adult children, Terell and Tiara; and two grandchildren, Kyrie and Kinsley. “Thank goodness for technology. Being able to FaceTime them has been helpful. We also have a Ring doorbell at home and my grandson loves to press the doorbell at our house so it shows up on my phone and I can talk to them through there.”
Martin says he hopes to inspire others in Rock Island to apply for the XO Program. “I hope they can get past being away for six months. It is a great opportunity to grow and learn.” His advice to those considering the program is to “take the opportunity if it presents itself. You’ll be better for it, become a better person and get insight into leadership at a senior level that most people don’t see, especially for those at Rock Island to be able to experience and learn the culture at headquarters.”
When Martin returns to Rock Island in May, he plans to use the skills that he learned and developed during his assignment. “I learned that I like taking care of people. I want to look for opportunities to do that. I also learned that not everything works for every person. As a leader you must figure out what motivates your people to get the best out of them individually and collectively. That’s leadership, providing an environment and encouraging everyone to be their best.”