BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Hillary Casari is currently the operations inventory branch chief for Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services. She participated in the Intern program before it was renamed as the Pathways to Career Excellence Program between the years of 2007 and 2009. She also was the PaCE Program manager for two years.
In your own words, how would you describe the PaCE program, and what can you gain from it?
The PaCE Program is an opportunity to explore all facets of DLA. It provides a unique opportunity to observe and learn the entire logistics process. By doing so, you have the chance to focus on an area of interest which can bring greater satisfaction to your career field.
Why did you first apply to the PaCE Program? I was looking for a career that offered stability with flexibility. Working for the federal government would allow the opportunity to advance in many different career fields while offering the flexibility and long-term benefits.
What was your position before coming to the PaCE Program, if any? I was working for Walgreens as the Southwest Michigan district pharmacy training coordinator.
What was your favorite part of the PaCE Program? My fellow classmates have become some of my best friends professionally and personally. I was able to make new relationships and have the opportunity to learn every area of Disposition Services during my training. The best parts were when we got to work on special projects. During my time, I was able to travel to Tucson, Arizona, to help start the processing of F-14 material.
Do you have a favorite memory(ies) from your time in the program? My favorite memory is when myself and fellow intern, Kelly Cuel, traveled to Fort Lewis for a four-week rotational assignment. While there, we got to drive a forklift, load a conveyance, examine foreign military sales property, work environmental, and travel on a disposal service representative visit for receipt in place property. We became a part of the team and made lasting relationships we still have today. One of the team members even made the jewelry I wore on my wedding day.
If there was one thing that could’ve been different for you in the PaCE program, what would it be? There was a lot of down time during the program that I think could have been utilized with more field visits. Much of that has changed since I went through the program to allow for that.
What would you say is the most important quality to succeed in the PaCE program? Communication, accountability and timeliness. This program is essentially a two-year interview process. You will be introduced to many different managers and programs which will leave an impact. The program will teach you the processes, but you must be willing to learn and accept mentoring.
Please describe your current position in a couple of sentences, and how being in the PaCE program affected you in that position. Currently, I am the operations inventory branch chief in Battle Creek, Michigan. I manage a unique group of peers who are responsible for our operational inventory, system error reconciliation and review of property to ensure the protection of the public from the unsafe release of material.
What have you done since you finished with the PaCE Program?
When I graduated from the program, I was placed in the strategic business area. I became the “unofficial” point of contact for presentations outside of DLA Disposition Services. My biggest presentations was the annual review to the DLA Director. During 2010, I re-invented the presentation style and was awarded as one DLA’s Top Ten Employees of the Year. I then managed the PaCER Program for two-years before joining the Organization Management Team as a team lead overseeing the position, performance, and personnel of Disposition Services. After four years, I was asked to manage the Civilian Deployment Program. This was my most memorable position thus far. It held the biggest impact I had felt to the organization. I had the honor to support civilian deployers and ensuring they were supported during their commitment away from home. I made more professional connections during that position than even in the PaCER program itself.
Where did you see yourself going when you first started, and how does that compare to where you are now? When I graduated, I thought I would manage the PaCER program one day and present at the “big table” in the command conference room. I had 28+ years to make that happen. In one year, I was presenting and preparing briefings to senior management in that command conference room and in four years I was selecting my first PaCER class as its manager. I’ve had to adjust my goals a little and learn to reach a little further.
I’ve since taken leadership courses through DLA which has shown me more of my strengths in leading than I previously thought I had. It has given me the confidence to pursue higher goals within the organization and focus on developing future leaders.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective PaCERs? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask a lot of them. Be open-minded and ready to learn. Be proactive and be yourself. Always have a notebook with you.
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.