NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
William K. Holz, Defense Logistics Agency’s director of installation management for Distribution, is living proof that not all who serve America wear a uniform.
Bill began his career in federal service in 1984 when he accepted a position as an industrial engineer with U.S. Army Europe. Now, more than 35 years later, Holz is trading his corner office at DLA Distribution Headquarters for time with his family at their nearby home.
Though he’s only been with DLA for less than three years, Holz has left an impression on everyone who has worked with him. In a letter presented to Holz on his last day in the office, Navy Rear Adm. Kevin Jones, commanding officer, DLA Distribution, wrote “As you begin your well-deserved retirement, please take with you my best wishes for the future. You will be sorely missed by your supervisors, peers and friends at DLA Distribution.”
Touted by his co-workers as a kind and patient man who took the time to mentor others, Holz says the thing he will miss most about the job is the people.
“When I first got here Ms. (Twila) Gonzales (deputy commander of DLA Distribution) asked if I had any regrets about coming to DLA,” Holz said. “My answer was ‘my only regret is that I didn’t come here earlier in my career!’ What a great team I’ve had to work with here. I had lunch with my boss from Fort Belvoir yesterday and I said, ‘My team has made it easy. It’s almost like something’s wrong!’”
In a letter presented to Holz at his last staff meeting, Gonzales said the feelings he has for his co-workers are mutual.
“May you retire knowing that you made a remarkable contribution and touched the lives of your colleagues and friends in immeasurable ways,” Gonzales wrote. “Thank you for your tremendous service and know that we wish you all the best as you begin a new chapter in your life.”
Holz came to the central Pennsylvania base after three decades of posts that include northern Virginia, Saudi Arabia and more than 15 years in Germany—a place where he says, until recently, he considered home.
“I was born in Germany,” he said. “My father was in the service in the 50s and was born there. I’ve got family over there and, when I got married, we had our honeymoon over there and really enjoyed the time getting reacquainted with relatives. I said, ‘Maybe I should look for a job here.’ Then I got offered a job with the Army in 1984 and loved it so much we just stayed.”
Though his job titles and locations have varied over the years, one thing Holz said hasn’t changed is the progress of technology.
“When I began working for the Army, simulation centers became a big deal,” Holz recalled. “Now we’ve gone from chalkboards to videogames and it’s just unbelievable! I think that accounts for a lot of how well trained our forces are. Plus, they don’t have to go out into the woods and chew up the land with an M1 (tank) or whatever.”
Holz said he sees the future of DLA Distribution as one that becomes much more automated with improvements to how material is stacked, stored and moved. Recent staff visits to large commercial warehouses, he said, have resulted in plans for improvements to current procedures and future improvements to existing warehouses.
“It feels good for me to say we’ve gone from studying to starting the implementation,” Holz said. “If anything was going to tempt me not to retire it would be to see that finished.”
But, he added, while he sees automation as taking over more the physical aspects of distribution, he believes the heart and soul will remain the people who run the operation.
“There’s a quote from Elon Musk that I like,” he said. “When he started building Teslas in California, he tried to automate the entire Model 3 production line. After a year or so he made the statement that ‘human beings are very underrated.’ What he meant is that the flexibility is just not there with automated manufacturing and robots. It comes down to people, and this is the best group of people I’ve ever worked with, absolutely.”