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    Coming home to support the warfighter

    Coming home to support the warfighter

    Courtesy Photo | Rickey Gillam, Defense Contract Management Agency San Diego information technology...... read more read more



    Story by Matthew Montgomery 

    Defense Contract Management Agency

    SAN DIEGO - Imagine Rickey Gillam’s shock when, at age 27, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure — the leading cause of hospitalization of people older than 65. The disease, which affects more than 650,000 annually, forced Gillam out of the Navy and disrupted his plans to make military service a career.

    “It was a pretty devastating event, and a trying time in my life,” said Gillam, Defense Contract Management Agency San Diego information technology specialist. “I spent the next 18 months on active duty basically in limbo; not knowing what my future held in store for me as far as my Navy career or my life was concerned.”

    Gillam said his faith, a strong command and support system, as well as a fiancée who stayed by his side through the journey, helped him cope.

    “I knew I was sick, and I knew it was serious, but I also knew God had preserved me here for a purpose,” said

    “My fiancée helped me deal with what was going on around me,” he said. “She was my nurse when no one else was around or could be found … love and support like that is very rare.”

    As a Navy petty officer first class, Gillam was responsible for supervising and training a team of professionals in the expertise of computer repair and troubleshooting any potential network outages or problems. Before his diagnosis, Gillam was poised to make a big step in his military career.

    “I had orders to go to the USS Blue Ridge, home-ported out of Yokosuka, Japan. It would have been a major accomplishment in my naval career reporting to staff duty as an E-6, well on my way to becoming a chief petty officer,” said Gillam. “After my diagnosis, the Navy cancelled my orders and placed me on a light limited duty status, which made me non-deployable.”

    As Gillam was undergoing treatment for his condition at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, he inquired about VA programs and connected with Jennifer Reichard, a VA representative who introduced him to the “Fulfilling the Commitment – Coming Home to Work” initiative.

    CHTW provides an opportunity to military personnel going through the final phase of military separation to work for organizations and learn job skills while still on active duty.

    According to the VA, the program is a comprehensive intergovernmental and public-private alliance that helps separating Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans have employment opportunities when they return home. Participating organizations must have a mentor in place and a plan for how veterans can succeed in the office.

    John Levanduski, DCMA Palmdale quality assurance director, was the liaison for Gillam and provided him with the guidance and resources for success.

    “John was vital in deciding to take a chance on me, giving me an opportunity with the organization and bringing me on board. He has my utmost respect and sincerest gratitude,” said Gillam who started his DCMA career at the Palmdale office. “John also placed me with the resident subject matter expert, Charles Waterford, who served as my mentor and trained me on becoming a software specialist in software acquisition. Charles is one of the good guys and the ultimate professional. I’ve learned a lot from him in my time here, and it has been a pleasure working with him and picking his brain.”

    Gillam wasn’t familiar with DCMA prior to entering the CHTW program, but has gained an appreciation for the work the agency does.

    “My experience has been unique and rewarding here with DCMA,” said Gillam. “I have a technical background, so it was a bit of learning curve to shift gears to assume more of an administrative quality assurance role in acquisition in comparison to that of the hands on technical expertise that I utilized in daily operations during my military service.”

    Gillam said his favorite responsibilities with DCMA are engaging with the customer and participating in testing events where he can call upon some of his traits and skills from his military experience. He references his “astute attention to detail and keen troubleshooting instincts” as adding to the overall quality of the product provided to warfighter.

    “The feeling of accomplishment in knowing that you have a direct impact on the quality of life and/or mission readiness of your fellow shipmates, and your military sisters and brothers, is unparalleled,” said Gillam. “Knowing that you really make a difference in the broader scope of things is very rewarding."

    Today, he has more than four years with DCMA. He credits CHTW and DCMA for giving him the opportunity to successfully transition from military to civilian life during a very difficult time.

    “I think the CHTW Initiative is a remarkable program, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be one of the pioneers in that program with DCMA,” said Gillam. “My hope is that the example DCMA has set will inspire other companies to continue to tap into one of our country’s natural resources — our military veterans.”

    Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of articles highlighting DCMA Palmdale “Fulfilling the Commitment – Coming Home to Work” participants. Make sure to read the other stories featuring Jacklyn Sanders and Martin Jimenez.



    Date Taken: 05.16.2014
    Date Posted: 05.22.2014 13:57
    Story ID: 130804
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

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