FORT STEWART, Ga. - Two Third Infantry Division Soldiers are spending the next year in the corporate world, learning the ropes of their profession from some of the best at Fortune 500 companies.
Major Vinston Porter, the former 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Officer, left Fort Stewart in June and moved his Family cross-country to Mountain View, Calif., where he is working with the Global Communications and Public Affairs office at Google, Inc.Sergeant First Class Kimberly Green, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, is leaving Hunter Army Airfield at the end of the summer to join the team at the United Services Automobile Association in San Antonio, Texas.
These Soldiers are just two of 75 who were accepted into the Army’s Training with Industry Program, a work-experience program that is meant to provide Soldiers with an extensive exposure to managerial techniques and industrial procedures within corporate America.
“The Training with Industry Program provides the selected Soldiers with a training opportunity that isn’t available to them within the Army,” said William DuPont, the Chief of Training at the Army Public Affairs Center, who manages the TWI program for Soldiers in the public affairs career field. “The best practices that they gain in working in industry, and some of the things they are introduced to, can’t be replicated in the military.”
The TWI program was initiated in the 1970s in response to the Army’s critical need for officers with state-of-the-art skills in industrial practices and procedures not available through military or civil education programs. The program has changed drastically since then, when the Soldiers participated exclusively in programs which supported the development of material acquisition and logistic-management related skills. Today, the TWI program has evolved to include training programs which support marketing, public affairs, artificial intelligence, physical security and finance " just to name a few. In 2011, there are 75 TWI opportunities within the Army, DuPont said. Additionally, the program is now open to officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers who meet various requirements.
The Army’s main objective in sponsoring the TWI program is to develop Soldiers who are experienced in higher-level managerial techniques and who have an understanding of the relationship of their industry as it relates to specific functions of the Army. Once the TWI student is integrated back into an Army organization, they will ideally use the information learned to improve the Army’s ability to interact and conduct business with industry.
“I want to bring back to the Army all of the things I am exposed to and see so that we can improve the way we do public affairs operations,” Maj. Porter said.
One of the benefits of the TWI program is that it is win-win: the Soldier gains knowledge he or she can use in his career both in and beyond the Army, and the Army gains a Soldier who has a greater wealth of knowledge in his career field.
“The idea is that, after a year, we’re assigned somewhere we can utilize our new skills and share them,” Sgt. 1st Class Green said. “What I hope to learn (at USAA) will not only help me, but the Public Affairs branch as a whole.”
For Sgt. 1st Class Green, this isn’t her first foray into the corporate world " before she joined the Army at age 27, she was in the hospitality industry for seven years, as a hotel corporate sales/reservations agent. She said she’s looking forward to getting her feet back into the corporate world and evolving her public affairs skills.
She is the first enlisted Soldier to be selected as a TWI fellow with USAA; previously, there was only one slot allotted to an officer, but this year an NCO slot was added for a promotable staff sergeant or sergeant first class.
“The NCO remains the backbone of the Army and we recognize that we’re asking more of our NCOs today than we ever have before,” DuPont said. “These training opportunities not only give them the chance to gain additional skills, we believe it adds to retention in our career field.”
In addition to USAA and Google, Fleishman-Hillard and Siemens Corp. both participate in the program for Public Affairs Soldiers. The Public Affairs branch has been involved in TWI since 1981, with the first NCO in the career field integrated into the program in 1999.
The corporations do not pay their TWI fellow a salary " the Soldier retains their military pay and their housing allowance is adjusted to where they move for the one-year fellowship.
In just his first weeks at Google, Maj. Porter has already seen how his one-year fellowship will benefit his career " and the public affairs community.
“I’ve seen a lot of similarities, and I’ve also seen some things they do that I think would integrate well into Army public affairs,” he said. “You do a lot of growth and development in the military in respect to your MOS [military occupational specialty], but to see how it works on the outside in the civilian sector is definitely an eye-opener and prepares you for life after the Army. Seeing the way they do business here is only better equipping me to pursue this field after I retire."
Following the one-year tenure with the company, the Soldier is placed in a validated utilization assignment for two years, and for every day in industry, he or she owes the Army three days for utilization.
The application deadline for the 2012 TWI program is Sept. 30. Currently, the TWI program is offered to Soldiers in the areas of artificial intelligence, aviation logistics, communications-electronics, finance, marketing, ordnance, physical security, procurement, public affairs, research and development, systems automation and transportation.