BATTLE CREEK, Michigan –
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.
Jeremiah Burns is a current member of Pathways to Career Excellence Group 40 beginning in 2020. For his second year, he is at the DLA Disposition Services site in Richmond, Virginia. He is set to complete the program as a Property Disposal Specialist, and is on target to become an Environmental COR after graduation.
Why did you first apply to the PaCE Program? Was it your first position with Defense Logistics Agency? (If not, how long have you been with DLA?) My first exposure to the PaCE program was through a fellow coworker. I had worked alongside him as a material examiner and identifier in Norfolk, Virginia. He was accepted into the program, moved to Battle Creek and we stayed in touch throughout his first year. After hearing many of his experiences, I wanted to try my hand and applied for the program myself.
What was your position before coming to the PaCE Program, if any? My first position with DLA was a material examiner and identifier in Norfolk, Virginia. It was my first government job and my way of “getting a foot in the door.” After several months on the job, I was starting to understand the importance of the disposal/reutilization process and became more invested in my day-to-day duties. I knew then that I wanted to stick with DLA long term.
What have been your favorite parts of the PaCE Program? My Group 40 teammates. All of us were different; but our backgrounds, ideologies, strengths and weaknesses made us a stellar group. Whether we were on telework or in the building, we were always interacting. I give a ton of credit for our successes to my teammates. This might sound cliché, but I could not ask for a better group.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the program (for current PaCERs, any favorite moments so far)? My director shadow with Mr. Cannon. He was being interviewed by a camera crew for DLA’s 60th and Disposition Services 50th anniversary as I was standing off behind the scenes. As he concluded the interview, he stood up, took the interviewer’s spot, and told me to sit in the chair he was just being filmed in. I thought he was joking, but the look he had on his face said otherwise. I nervously sat down and he gave me an on-the-spot interview on who I was, why I joined the PaCE program and what I expect to get from it, all while the camera was rolling! It was one of the most nerve wrecking things I’ve ever done, but I can say if I ever decide to audition for Hollywood, Mr. Cannon gave me some great experience.
If there was one thing that could’ve been different for you in the PaCE program, what would it be? Nothing comes to mind; but looking back, I do wish the program had more visibility than it does. If my coworker hadn’t went through PaCE, I would probably still be working as an ME&I. Not that it’s such a bad thing, but I wouldn’t have been exposed to the knowledge and opportunities ahead of me. I have a new appreciation for the mission and if I could, I would express to every WG across the workforce to apply for this program. It’s been life changing for me.
What would you say is the most important quality to succeed in the PaCE program? Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’re going to be placed in situations that aren’t your forte, whether it’s leading team members on a project or public speaking. You can either tackle head on or shy away. The PaCE program isn’t designed for you to fail, but what you’re able to take from it is the most important.
What background do you have? Do you have a lot of DLA experience, or were you a recent grad, or did you come from another field? Prior to joining PaCE, I had two years of experience with DLA as an ME&I. Before that I had four years of logistics experience with the Navy right out of high school. I have no college experience. Many people believe you need a college degree to be eligible for the program, which is definitely not the case.
What are your plans for your future in the agency? Do you hope to have a specific pathway/career field? Or a certain GS level? As of right now, I’m training to become an Environmental Contracting Officer’s Representative. I’ve never worked in this field, but I’m learning new things all the time and I really enjoy it. In the near future, I would be interested in becoming an environmental lead/supervisor. When I started with DLA in 2018, I told myself that at the end of my career I would be happy to retire as a GS-11. Four years later, in October, I’ll already be there, so the goal is constantly changing. It wouldn’t surprise me if I had aspirations to become a DSD in 7-8 years.
Read more stories about the DLA Disposition Services PaCE team and experiences.