BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Marci Gardner is currently a property disposal specialist at Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services in Anniston, Alabama, and works with the Demilitarization and State Agencies for Surplus Property Programs. She participated in the Pathways to Career Excellence Program in 1989, when the program was known as the Corporate Intern Program.
Why did you first apply to the PaCE Program? Was it your first position with DLA?
This was my first position with DLA. Before home computers, you went to an employment office to retrieve a copy of the job announcements you were interested in. Then you would type up a SF171, mail it in and hope to hear back. It was almost four years before I received an offer from DLA. I was waiting for an interview and received a phone call with an offer to move to Battle Creek, Michigan. I accepted the job with Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service as an intern for their marketing program. I moved about six-weeks after I received the job offer.
What was your position before coming to the PaCE Program?
After graduating from Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia, I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and was working for Toys-R-Us as a store manager. I hoped to work in their Headquarters Inventory Department, splitting trucks of materials using states and analysis. I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and worked second shift, closing the warehouse at night. I was in a dead-end job, and I was making less on second shift than my counters-parts on first shift. I wanted something different and exciting in marketing and advertising - my major in college.
What have been your favorite parts of the PaCE Program?
Traveling and learning a lot about the military. Although I have not worked overseas, I have met many people and learned about different parts of the world that work with our organization. Learning how to help our customers, the military and contractors perform their job is my favorite part. I am a people person.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the program?
I enjoyed when our group spent time together after work and on weekends. One of my favorite memories was a trip to Canada and Michigan’s upper peninsula. Another intern and I made that trip over a long weekend. I have friendships that have lasted the test of time. We may not talk every day, but we always know how to find one another to ask for help or just to chat and catch up. The snow was not one of my favorite things about being in Michigan.
What would you say is the most important quality to succeed in the PaCE program?
A willingness to learn. I already moved away from my family, and I was wanting a career - not just a job. When I started, I was lucky to get a government job and it took me several years. After my first year, I was fortunate to go back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to be closer to family. It was there, I met a wonderful mentor that took me in and pushed me out of the nest to be a chief, now referred to as area managers. Listen to others, share information, and be willing to admit when you are wrong and learn how to correct the action to keep it from creating problems in your future.
Describe your current position in a couple of sentences, and how being in the PaCE program impacted you in that position.
Currently, I work at the DEMIL Center in Anniston. I am a subject-matter expert in the disposal program and assist in all areas. I was very lucky to work in the warehouse, the Reutilization, Transfer, and Donation program, inventory, information technology, sales and marketing, and the office of the chief.
What have you done since you finished with the PaCE Program?
I have worked at several field offices. My intern year was in Philadelphia, then I moved to North Kingstown, Rhode Island, as an area manager. Later I moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, then onto Montgomery, Alabama, as a Defense Reutilization Marketing Office type III chief – now referred to as a field site manager. After five years, that site was closed, which is how I ended up at Anniston. Additionally, I have helped locate specific property for underwater diving projects in South Carolina and worked on the Defense Distribution System deployment. Currently, I am working on the Warehouse Management System software deployment. I was fortunate to work in IT for several years. While there I removed keypunch machines, installed the first office computers and communication lines for the office in Philadelphia.
Where did you see yourself going when you first started, and how does that compare to where you are now?
I was not sure when I first started my journey. But here I am, 34 years later and I have a career that I love what I do - helping the military customers and my co-workers with finding information. I have been very lucky to have such a great work experience and learn all about disposal and logistics - from bolts to nuts, vehicles to tanks, trainers to weapons.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective PaCERs?
In every room, there is a conversation that can change my life, I only need to talk with people to find it.
Editorial Note: The Pathways to Career Excellence Program for DLA Disposition Services is a two-year program that takes PaCERs through all of Disposition Services and its processes to learn as much as possible about the directorate. The first year takes place at DLA Disposition Services Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, and the second year either takes place in Battle Creek for Contracting PaCERs or at an assigned field site for Property Disposal PaCERs. PaCERs begin as general schedule 7s, move to GS-9s at the end of their first year, and graduate the program as GS-11s. There are multiple pathways to becoming a PaCER, including being hired internally, as a recent graduate, or from military service.