An Exceptional TWI Experience with a Global Company

BY KARLA GABEL, OFFICE OF SUPPLY CORPS PERSONNEL
NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND

The Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Training With Industry (TWI) program provides junior officers with a great opportunity to spend one year of service with a Fortune 100 corporation. Each year, there are four TWI opportunities available to lieutenants and lieutenant commanders at ExxonMobil, FedEx Express, Starbucks, and The Home Depot.

2016-2017 TWI Fellow

Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Ceaser is the Navy Supply Corps 2016-2017 TWI participant at FedEx Express worldwide headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Before coming to FedEx Express, he graduated with a Master of Business Administration in Supply Chain Management from Texas A&M University, Mays Business School.

According to their website, FedEx Corporation “provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $58 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand.”

FedEx Express provides an opportunity for junior officers interested in developing leadership skills and learning about all facets of global supply chain management.

Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Ceaser standing next to the original FedEx van.

TWI Program Cohort

Since the early 1980s, FedEx has participated in the TWI program with four branches of the military. This experience brings together a cohort of service members from the Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Army. Ceaser is one of 11 TWI Fellows currently at FedEx Express.

All TWI fellows are located in the same area of the workplace while at FedEx Express, where they literally sit next to one another. In the past, the fellows were spread across the organization in different divisions and rarely interacted. This new approach allows them to work together and share experiences related to operations and logistics.

The cohort model also allows the TWI fellows to gain an even greater experience while at FedEx. In the past, a fellow may have been part of only one division and one project for the entire year. With the cohort model, they are now exposed to many different opportunities throughout the entire FedEx Express organization.

Prior to the cohort sitting in a central location, few of their civilian counterparts knew about the TWI fellows in their midst. The cohort has developed an intranet page, where other FedEx Express employees can read about the projects with which the cohort is involved, and can even request to have fellows work on projects with their team.

According to Ceaser, “There is power in numbers,” and “we’re able to use the teaming concept to maximize our time with industry leaders. This allows us to get a better understanding of each division’s contributions to the grander scale of FedEx operations.”

FedEx Military Fellows program participants 2016-2017.
Front row left to right: Major Michael Johnson (USAF), Capt. Jill Owings (USA), Capt. Blanca Frazier (USA), Major Benjamin Lawless (USMC), Major Michael Rowe (USA) Back row left to right: Chief Warrant Officer 3 William “Billy” Tyson (USA), Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Ceaser (USN), Major Anthony “Tony” LaMagna (USAF), Lt. Cmdr. Josh Bacca (USN), Cmdr. Robert “Butch” Smith (USN), Chief Petty Officer David Gearhart (USN)

Uniform Recycling

Ceaser led a uniform recycling market analysis and implementation project during his time at FedEx Express. He worked closely with the director of sourcing and the sourcing specialist from the sourcing and procurement division at FedEx Services. Without a recycling program, uniforms are tucked away in closets or even donated to thrift shops. This increases the likelihood of a uniform being reused inappropriately, such as by someone impersonating a member of the military or a FedEx delivery person. Recycling uniforms also keeps them from landfills or being incinerated.

Currently, the Navy has no plan to implement a uniform recycling program. Ceaser explained that there is a real opportunity for the Department of Defense to take lessons learned from the corporate world about managing the recycling of branded uniforms. “We must think past acquisition, and consider what happens after a uniform is no longer serviceable,” he stated. “Closing the supply chain loop is not only environmentally responsible, but also a safety and security consideration given the threats to national security.”

Ceaser has been researching the uniform recycling industry throughout the United States and the rest of the world to discover who does recycling and what types of products can be made from the recycled materials, all while protecting the FedEx brand.

Because of Ceaser’s efforts in this endeavor, FedEx Express is now in the contract evaluation stage of the uniform recycling initiative. Perhaps the next Navy Supply Corps TWI participant at FedEx Express will have the opportunity to continue this important work.

Ceaser will carry the strategies used by FedEx Express in their sourcing and procurement efforts to his next assignment as a contracting officer at NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support Philadelphia.

Training and Leadership Development

At FedEx Express, the training emphasis is on leadership, where employees learn about leadership traits and styles, how to be an effective leader, and how to overcome conflict. There are numerous leadership conferences and courses available to military fellows through the Global Leadership Institute at FedEx Express, both on and off campus.

“One of the things I find interesting about FedEx Express is the level of detail given to leadership development,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ceaser. “There’s a lot of study within the FedEx Fellow cohort of how FedEx Express develops its leaders and comparing that to the similarities and differences in approach of each of the branches of the military. I believe people assume members of the military are natural leaders, of course some are. However the vast majority of them develop their leadership skills over time by virtue of the positions they serve in, the situations they encounter, the training they receive, and the leadership observed of others.”

Rugby ball presented to Lt. Cmdr. Ceaser as an “MVP award” for his contributions to a class at the FedEx Global Leadership Institute.

During a course on emotional intelligence and leadership styles, Ceaser was awarded the Class Most Valuable Player award – a rugby ball – signed by his classmates. The class is based on the movie “Invictus,” about Nelson Mandela’s leadership style in uniting his divided government and country, during the events that took place before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Advice for JOs

Show your interest in the TWI program early on, in your fitness reports, and have your reporting senior officer endorse you for the program. Be willing to accept challenging assignments and sustain superior performance to make yourself competitive, not only to the TWI Board, but to any selection board where your record is competitively screened.

To be successful in TWI, you must be able to shift from a government approach toward business to a for-profit focus. The primary drivers in a for-profit market are speed, cost, and return on investment. Understanding how these three drivers correlate is useful in developing and evaluating approaches to Navy contract and fiscal strategies.

The exposure to business you gain in the TWI program increases your decision making ability and helps you to think differently about how you approach projects and strategies within the Supply Corps.

As a junior officer (JO) considering the TWI program, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I help the Navy, specifically the Supply Corps?
  • How can I help FedEx Express (or other TWI partner company)?
  • How can I help myself?

“If I were counseling a JO, I would tell them the TWI program is a unique opportunity to work with a Fortune 100 company to see how they operate,” stated Ceaser. He added, “It gives you a real opportunity to put into practice the skills developed and the education gained to this point in your career toward non-DoD challenges. You will realize the challenges faced by the DoD and our civilian counterparts are nearly the same and the paths toward resolution require the exposure and understanding that such a tour can provide.”

Although you no longer need to apply for TWI positions, you can show your interest by sending letters of endorsement from senior Supply Corps Officers to the Supply Corps Career Counselor
at supplycorpscareercounselor@navy.mil. Additional information can be found on the Career Counselor page on the Navy Personnel Command website at: http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/careercounseling/careercounseling/

May/June 2017