Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support aide de camp to the commander, Army Captain Martin Hunt, was honored during a promotion ceremony May 2 in Philadelphia.
The promotion of an ADC lieutenant to captain also signals a change in assignment. While preparing for his upcoming departure from the ADC role, Hunt shared his reflections and experiences at DLA Troop Support.
Public Affairs: Aide de Camp to a one-star general seems like it could be an overwhelming role for a lieutenant. How did you land the job?
Martin Hunt: January 2021, I get an email from my branch manager saying ‘Hey, you’re on a short list of consideration for an aide de camp job, are you interested?’ So, I said ‘Sure, why not?’
[Two of my leaders at the time] were both aides prior to coming to their positions, so I was able to pick their brains and see what good I could pull from the position. From my perspective, there weren’t many downfalls. I was going into my third year of being a lieutenant, and typically during that time, you’re sitting in somebody’s staff in a battalion or a brigade. That didn’t really interest me, so, I said ‘Yeah, let’s do a broadening assignment.’
PA: Tell me a little about your background. Did it help prepare you for the ADC role?
MH: I was commissioned after 16 years [of enlisted service]. Prior to my commission, I was military police. I had served four deployments: three of which went to Iraq, and then one to Afghanistan. At the very least I had Army knowledge on my side. I had Army experience on my side. I understood what it was like to be at the end of these supply chains, using the items that [DLA] Troop Support procures and provides for the warfighter, and I understood how important it is for [warfighters] to have it … and the problems that were created when you didn’t have it, or if you didn’t have good [quality] products.
In this job, you’re also talking to generals, colonels, Navy captains and lieutenant colonels every day, and you are always the lowest ranking on the totem pole basically everywhere you go. You have to bring a little bit of tact, a little bit of couth, a little bit of personality and then a whole lot of “can-do” attitude that my experiences for the last 19 years in the Army has given me.
PA: What were your thoughts on the assignment once you found out the location?
MH: I remembered looking at a bunch of my Army Service Uniforms, my first green Class A uniform from back in 2003 or so, and I remember seeing ‘DLATS’ on those, and I was like ‘I don’t even know what that is, but apparently, they make our clothes.’ I got on the Google box [computer] and started researching, and I was blown away by all the stuff that DLA Troop Support did. I thought, this is exactly where I should be.
I saw that anything that was being touched by a soldier – what they ate, what they wore, what they were using on the battlefield and then what they were provided for in medical equipment - came out of this organization. If I’m going to learn about logistics … strategic-level, global logistics – and logistics is something I want to do when I retire from the service – I couldn’t think of a better spot to be.
PA: Once you got settled in, how did your expectations of the job measure up to the reality?
MH: It was very much my understanding that I was going to be a conduit to the commander coming into this job, and that meant office time, emails and general office duties - and I was okay with that, because the trade-off was the wealth of knowledge and information that you have access to. Being able to sit next to a one-star general who has 28 years of experience and to have the opportunity and privilege to watch and listen to how he interacts with people was a first-class lesson in leadership.
Whether it was interactions with leaders up and down the Chain of Command, service partners parallel to his rank and authority, whole of government customers or the vast vendor base, I have a front row seat to a first-rate class in leadership, problem solving and messaging. It’s all extremely invaluable information, and I’m glad that exactly what I thought it would be is what it turned out to be, and then some..
PA: And what about what you didn’t expect?
MH: What I didn’t expect was to have such fantastic people like [Executive Officer] Lisa Magnotta and [Protocol Officer] Debbie Izes and Chief [of Staff] Ratner up in the headquarters to support me on the back end when I couldn’t physically do things myself. Because everybody needs help once in a while. I’m very, very thankful that those people exist up there and run the day-to-day and that they’re so welcoming every year to a new aide.
If you have people that are invested in supporting the [warfighter], it’s a good climate. Luckily, I came to an organization with that fantastic culture.
PA: As the ADC, you’re on call as the general’s right-hand man. What does that mean as far as life adjustments go compared to your other assignments?
MH: I can’t just go on leave for a week and have somebody else cover. My time is [Brig. Gen. Shirley’s] time. I’ve made it a point for this year to sacrifice my time to ensure that he, and by extension, [DLA] Troop Support, has my undivided attention so he can be as good of a commander as he can be, and I can be as good of a supporter as I can be.
I have a fantastic wife. I have an understanding six-year-old daughter who’s just happy to see me when she does, and we make it a point to go do fun stuff on the weekends and when the boss is out of the office on his own vacations to make up for the time lost. It’s not a bad difference, it’s just a difference.
PA: How has your time as the ADC prepared you for future assignments?
MH: I repeat this often: I feel like I have the cheat code to company command. Just being around Brig. Gen. [Eric P.] Shirley and the other senior leaders, they’re always dropping helpful hints and good tidbits of information. Talking to the boss – how he talks to people, how he looks at problems and how he goes about acquiring solutions, taking input from everybody.
Learning exactly what our supply chains can do for the warfighter in the Classes I, II, IV, VIII realms. I mean, that’s what company commanders worry about … making sure the food, clothing and gear for your people and ensuring everybody’s got medical supplies – that all comes out of [DLA] Troop Support, and now I have infinite tethers to pull on and reach back to this organization and say ‘Hey, we need your help. How can you help and us and what do I need to do to get this stuff?’
I don’t see a position in my immediate future that I won’t: one, be set up for elevated success in, and; two, have a problem that I can’t reach back to the [DLA] Troop Support team or those leaders to help solve.
I feel bad that not every lieutenant can get an experience like this.
PA: So, for those lieutenants on the fence about taking an ADC role, what advice do you have?
MH: There shouldn’t even be a fence. There should maybe be a speed bump, and then you just step right over it and accept the job. It doesn’t matter where you go. It doesn’t matter who you work for. You are going to be attached at the hip to a senior leader that embodies all the Army values, and if that’s your goal, to be that person and that leader in the future, then I don’t know why you would pass up that opportunity.
The amount of information you will gather in that role, wherever you end up, is all the information that’s out there on those topics. That’s worth understanding - how an enterprise works, how people as senior leaders and other agencies in the government work with the Department of Defense to support the warfighter. You learn where the hiccups are, about partners’ roles, you learn how all of these organizations work together across the joint spectrum, and its invaluable information.
There isn’t a job for a lieutenant out there … that could surpass the position of an [ADC] if your career aspirations involve rising to senior level leadership positions and really making an impact on the Army and DOD as a whole. So, if you’re looked at as an [ADC] candidate, then you need to run that to ground, put your best foot forward, and work to get hired.
PA: What’s the best takeaway, personally, from this assignment so far?
MH: What’s really been fun about the job is that everybody at [DLA] Troop Support has a fantastic personality … Even when things seem to go to ‘hell in a handbasket,’ … it’s comforting and motivating to be in a place where everybody has pleasant and amenable personalities, are really fun and really enjoy being around each other, and take their jobs and roles seriously, but also be personable. Everyone is focused on providing the best support possible for services members like me. When problems arise, if you can still have fun through the bad days, work doesn’t seem like work.
I was happy to see that I could bring my personality and humor to DLA Troop Support, and it was both accepted and shot right back at me by a bunch of these great Philadelphians and … New Jerseyans who work here.