News | Jan. 5, 2022

Employee Reflection: Don Helle

By Kelly Burell DLA Disposition Services

Don Helle

Process Reengineering
Battle Creek, Michigan


Can you tell us about yourself? I have my own personal ethos of pride, passion, professionalism and persistence. I also like to read policy, manuals, and instructions

Man standing outside
DLA Disposition Services Business Support Directorate Process Reengineering employee Don Helle
DLA Disposition Services Business Support Directorate Process Reengineering employee Don Helle.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 220104-D-D0441-211
because I hate being wrong – I find it embarrassing. I spent 17 years at field site locations, moving from GS-05 environmental protection specialist to a GS-12 North-Central Zone manager, where I had nine sites to coach and mentor. When I started, we were Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service and Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service – International. We had 2,400 employees worldwide, we wrote our own sales, took our own photographs, ran scrapyards and operated our own material handling equipment. I have been in Battle Creek, Michigan, for 12 years and I shake my head a lot at the issues and challenges we face that have withstood the test of time.

Describe your job in a sentence or two. What do you do specifically? Like most, I wear a few hats in the capacity of process reengineering. I am documenting each of the 169 identified processes at DLA Disposition Services headquarters. It all starts with identifying the process, process owner and the swim lanes that our process workload crosses as it moves from beginning to (in most cases) a financial end. I am also the process owner for the Employee Suggestion Program and proud member of the Culture Action Team.

How long have you worked for the federal government including military service?  On Aug. 14, 1985, I was sent to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, to join the U.S. Navy. I currently have 37 years dedicated in our effort against all enemies foreign and domestic.

How long have you worked for DLA Disposition Services? I started at DRMO Sagami on Nov. 2, 1997.

What is (are some of) your favorite memory(ies) with DLA Disposition Services?  The people I’ve worked with and the wisdom I’ve gained. One of my favorite memories has to be the monthly radio broadcast I hosted on AFN Radio (Yokota AFB) in Japan. I was in the Reutilization, Transfer and Donation office at the time; the first Thursday of each month I hosted a radio show called “DRMO Don” from 7:00-8:00 a.m. where I would walk listeners through the RTD webpage, special programs, and generally doing business with DRMS. The first show was such a hit with listeners searching our RTD webpage, it nearly crashed our servers - we weren’t expecting that. Needless to say, our reutilization numbers were always good in Japan.

Man standing in front of cow statue with drink
DLA Disposition Services Business Support Directorate Process Reengineering employee Don Helle
DLA Disposition Services Business Support Directorate Process Reengineering employee Don Helle.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 220104-D-D0441-210

What aspect(s) of your current job gives you the most personal satisfaction and why?  Working for DLA Disposition Services is the most noble job a person could have outside of wearing a military uniform. What gives me the most satisfaction is physically showing people “how” we’re all connected through process, from DSR work in the field, ETID, transportation, receiving, eDOCs, warehousing, scrap, landfill and sales, to the Service Level Bill, from field site work through Battle Creek. I genuinely enjoy peeling back those layers and weaving maps together to show the direct connection from those very first interactions in the field to the Service Level Bill and HQ financial perspective. I firmly believe the more each person understands what happens from the left to the right and why, the better we’ll become as an agency.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?   That’s tough.  I’ve learned so much from the field and Battle Creek, but nothing compares to the financial advice of getting out of the Thrift Savings Program G Fund and moving into the C and S funds. It’s a deeply personal topic that nobody feels comfortable discussing, which shrouds the topic in mystery for financially illiterate folks like me. Once I became informed and involved in my own financial future, things really gained momentum.

What would you say has been your major contributions to your organization this year in your job? Mapping progress in Operations (Receiving/HW/Transportation).

Where do you see yourself five years from now? Retired from federal service, a “TSP Millionaire,” and teaching, because that’s what I love to do.

What was your first job? Shoveling horse poop at a riding stable.

Who’s your biggest influence?  My Dad. I learned that extra effort and attention to detail will carry you far in this world, both personally and professionally.

What are some of your passions outside of work? Riding my motorcycle, teaching, photography, shooting guns and leading by example.

What is your favorite quote? “Son, your mouth is writing checks your body can’t cash.”- Full Metal Jacket.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A cowboy.