Army Col. Larry Dean joined the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support as the new director of the Subsistence supply chain in July.
In addition to the daily challenges of supplying food support to servicemembers around the world, Dean is facing the unique challenge of coming on board to Troop Support during a global pandemic.
“We have 370-plus people right now in Subsistence. I may have met 20 people, total, face-to-face (so far),” Dean said. “Each time I meet one, I'm more excited about meeting someone else because they're awesome. Each time I meet somebody, I think, ‘Wow, you guys are as advertised. Your reputation precedes you.’”
The workforce can expect clear guidance, transparency and predictability whenever possible from him, Dean said. In return, he expects the workforce to continue their dedication to DLA Troop Support’s mission.
“Our civilian workforce is great,” he said. “They work the long hours, a lot of them are veterans, and they raised their hand and swore an oath. So I expect them to remain professional. I expect them to do what they've been doing, [which is] a tremendous job in supporting the mission. I want to make sure that I'm providing the best guidance and support for them.”
Dean’s goal as the Subsistence director is to provide the best support possible to every military member, as well as other customers such as the school children and Native American customers who receive fresh fruits and vegetables. One way to improve that service, he said, is to modernize how Subsistence serves its customers, from software to communication.
“I want to find areas where we can capitalize on modernization and even use artificial intelligence where [and if] possible,” he said.
In addition to a remote workforce and empty workstations, COVID-19 is still presenting challenges to DLA Troop Support’s vendors, Dean said.
“As we're on the backside of COVID with vaccinations, vendors are still having challenges rebuilding their workforce, and we are very cognizant of that,” Dean said. “Although there are contractual obligations that we intend to hold them to, we understand that we have to be good stewards with our industrial partners. There are times that we can work with them in event they can't meet challenges.”
Dean said that despite the challenges, many vendors have stepped up to help Subsistence provide support for unexpected demands, such as developing resources for items like Halal protein for Afghan allies.
“They are absolutely great partners and absolutely supporting us in what we need,” he said. “I'm confident the American spirit and work ethic will bring all our employees back to work, and we’ll get through this pandemic.”
The desire to serve his country started when he was a boy. Both of Dean’s grandfathers served in the Army, and his father was a Marine.
“I wanted to serve, it’s just that simple,” he said. “I was very proud of them and their service, and at a young age I knew I wanted to serve. It was a pretty easy decision.”
Being involved in the development and growth of junior leaders is something he has invested a lot of time in throughout his career.
“From officers to enlisted members and civilians, I’m very proud of how invested I am in others’ careers,” he said. “Seeing those who have grown up to become company commanders, become majors, become GS-15s, it is just unbelievable.”
A self-described extrovert, he enjoys getting to know people and learning new things wherever he can.
“That's one of the best parts of our service and the Department of Defense as a whole: we get to move around the globe to different places,” Dean said. “Each time you go somewhere, it's a new experience. I love that, and this experience at [DLA] Troop Support has been phenomenal.”
Dean said he doesn’t like “group think,” and prefers creativity and creative ideas.
“I like everyone to know that I'm always open for new ideas,” he said. “I'm always open to hear people's voices and to hear their opinions. Everyone has a voice.”
He also enjoys getting to know his team and their families, which has been more difficult in today’s more virtual world.
“That’s what I love. I want to know if your kid has a softball game, if your daughter plays soccer, or if your daughter plays football, or your son plays football,” he said. “That’s the people part of the job that I really enjoy. Unfortunately, COVID made us let go of that, but we’ll get it back.”
An athlete in his spare time, Dean said he and his wife are active together, running marathons and biking on weekends. He also enjoys traveling with his family, taking one big trip a year with their five adult daughters.
Dean, a Chicago native, and his wife are already taking in the culture of Philadelphia, visiting many of its museums and sampling local food. He said they tried the city’s two famous cheesesteaks stands, but they’re not fans of the canned cheese, or “whiz.”