By Eric Durr
New York National Guard
LATHAM, N.Y. (1/29/13) - The New York Army National Guard won a first place honorable mention, and a $30,000 award, for its 2012 submission in the Army Community of Excellence program.
It was the first time since the 1990s that New York had submitted a full packet for review, so coming in 12th out of 38 states is a lot more impressive than it sounds at first, said Army Lt. Col. Christian Bradley, the New York National Guard’s deputy director of plans.
“Team members really took this to heart and really put a lot of time and effort in the project in a very short period of time,” Bradley said.
The process normally takes six to seven months, the New York team did it in four months, he said.
The Army Community of Excellence Program was created as a self-assessment tool for Army installations like Fort Drum or the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The ACOE takes seven criteria civilian industry and business use to assess their operations — known as the Baldridge Criteria for the Secretary of Commerce who conceived them — and applies them to Army installation management.
The Army National Guard took the ACOE program, and because each National Guard operates facilities across their states, applied the criteria to the overall way they do business, Bradley explained.
It’s not one state National Guard competing against another state, but each state looking at how they can do better at what they do, he said.
Army Guard elements using this tool can make sure they do things efficiently. That’s important as the defense budget contracts, Bradley added.
“ACOE allows the organization to capitalize on their strengths and justify obtaining additional resources,” said Army Lt. Col. Kelly Hilland, one of the ACOE team members.
New York’s first step in diving back into the ACOE program was to find Soldiers in the Joint Force Headquarters different directorates and get them trained on the concept.
Bradley’s planning directorate put together weeklong training sessions so New York Army Guard experts in personnel, logistics, operations, and other key areas understood the self-assessment concept and criteria. Those trained team members then went to work evaluating performance in each area.
The self-assessment involved looking at leadership, strategic planning, determining who the New York Army National Guard customer is, analyzing how well the Army Guard performs its mission, how the military and civilian workforce does its job, the processes used in getting work done, and the results the Army Guard gets.
“Since the National Guard doesn’t judge its success by the money it makes like a private business, the ACOE assessment is a great way to determine how well the organization is doing,” said Army Col. Rich Goldenberg, another ACOE team member.
Doing all of this took time, and wasn’t an easy task, said Chief Warrant Officer Paula Martinez.As the team got deeper and deeper into the task, it became apparent that program managers setting standards, and consistently gathering data about performance was critical, Martinez said.
“The organization spent a lot of time creating and improving its programs and processes, however, the progress was not documented correctly,” Hilland said.
Thanks to the ACOE process, that’s now changed, she said.
“ACOE lets our Army National Guard look at everything we do as one total process,” said Army Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo, who helped write the final report.
“We looked at many different areas, and determined how they all relate to one another. This helps us do everything smarter, and more efficiently in the future, Lombardo said.