BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
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.
Nathan Gambrel is a current member of the PaCE Program. He began the program in 2021 in Group 42, the most recent group, and is currently at DLA Disposition Services headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan. He will be going to Fort Lewis, Washington, at the end of his first year.
In your own words, how would you describe the PaCE program, and what can you gain from it?
The PaCE program is a unique developmental opportunity offered by Disposition Services, that seeks to build future leaders in the organization. To accomplish this, in their first year, PaCErs are briefed on the various directorates and branches that comprise DLA Disposition Services, taken on visits to field sites, and spend shadow weeks with current leadership. In their second year, they are assigned a permanent duty station, often, field sites, while continuing to learn about the organization and its mission.
Why did you first apply to the PaCE Program? Was it your first position with DLA?
I have been with DLA permanently since 2019, and first applied for PaCE in 2019, and didn’t make the cut that year or in 2020. However, I took feedback on my interview skills, continued to work on them, and was ultimately selected for the program in 2021.
What was your position before coming to the PaCE Program, if any? (If not DLA, what were you doing before/what pathway did you come to DLA through?)
Prior to PaCE, I was an environmental protection assistant in the hazardous waste contracting branch.
What have been your favorite parts of the PaCE Program?
The opportunity to gain a more holistic view of the agency, meeting subject matter experts from the branches and divisions we are learning about, and shadowing our leadership, including Director Cannon. Additionally, I like that we work as a team.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the program (for current PaCERs, any favorite moments so far)?
Thus far, it has been seeing the growth in a PaCEr that I worked with a prior role when our group was on temporary duty. Despite always being an asset to our organization, seeing the growth and strides he’s made professionally in just a couple years since being selected as a PaCEr, was impressive, and I hope that I can make similar strides myself.
If there was one thing that could’ve been different for you in the PaCE program, what would it be?
I do miss having dedicated roles in day-to-day operations of the agency. I know that we don’t because the program is demanding, and any tasks we perform should also be for our benefit, however, I feel that having one or two roles that rotate quarterly between areas, particularly those most relevant to the field, would help provide a greater sense of supporting the agency’s mission while we are participating in the program, create more networking opportunities, and give us a more ground level view of the branches and directorates we are rotating through.
What would you say is the most important quality to succeed in the PaCE program?
There are a lot of traits that help, however, many of those are also traits the program helps you develop into competencies and strengths. I think the most important things are that you are driven, dedicated, and want to serve a larger role in the agency in support of its mission. If you have those three traits, I believe you’ll be successful in both the program and in your career.
Where are you assigned to next year? Where was it on your list?
I am in year 1 currently and I will be making my Permanent Change of Station to Lewis. It was my top choice, though I’ll admit it was difficult to choose between Lewis and Meade.
What your plans for your future in the agency? Do you hope to have a specific pathway/career field? Or a certain GS level?
There are areas I think I can serve our agency best long-term, some roles I’m aware of that I believe I can provide a great deal to DLA and our mission in the future; however, part of being assigned to the field is I will be assigned to where they need duties performed and see me as being the best fit, and that will influence my pathways forward. Outside of that, while I have ambitions, I am not chasing a specific GS level, though many of the roles I see myself in nearer-term following the program would be GS-12 and 13 positions. I’m going to be looking at roles I’m a good fit for, as well as where I can best support our mission, make a difference, gain experience and build my skillset.
Read more stories about the DLA Disposition Services PaCE team and experiences.