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    It Takes a Community

    It Takes a Community

    Photo By Ellen Summey | Faces of the Force: Dan Napolitano... read more read more



    Story by Ellen Summey 

    U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center

    COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command-Armaments Center, and Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition
    TITLE: Project management officer, International Programs
    DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in engineering and Level I in program management
    EDUCATION: B.S. in general engineering, United States Military Academy
    HOMETOWN: Denville, New Jersey
    AWARDS: Army Commendation Medal for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom III (2005-2006), Army Commendation Medal for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom I (2003-2004), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Expeditionary Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Campaign Medal, 1st Armored Division Engineer Platoon Leadership Award (2004), United States Military Academy Superintendent’s Award (1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002), Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems Professional of the Year (2018), Commander’s Award for Civilian Service (2017) and Denville Pride Council Volunteer of the Year (2019)

    by Ellen Summey

    Dan Napolitano grew up in small-town America—the township of Denville, New Jersey, to be precise. He left home to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, then completed two tours in Iraq during his five years of active-duty service. It was there in Iraq, far from home, that he said he did a lot of learning and growing. Napolitano was a combat engineer, which would typically involve route clearance and explosives demolition. But in 2003 he was assigned to a community rebuilding project in Iraq. “They say it takes a community to raise someone—well, that community was raising me to understand a different culture and a different way of doing things,” he said. “That was the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career, so far.”

    The U.S. government had provided funds to rebuild structures in different parts of the country, and it was Napolitano’s responsibility to work with local community members to determine which projects would be most desired and beneficial. By hosting town hall meetings and discussing priorities with participants, he gained important insights. “People wanted the same thing, at the end of the day,” he said. “They wanted safety, they wanted security, they wanted improvements, and how we each went about accomplishing that was sometimes different. That experience also showed me that needs and wants can be different. Sometimes, getting to the true intent behind a requirement, can be a challenge.”

    After being discharged from the Army, Napolitano took that lesson back home to New Jersey. “I grew up here, and this was a community I loved,” he said. When he found a career opportunity at Picatinny Arsenal, “everything fell into place.” He began his acquisition career in research and development at Picatinny, first working as an engineer supporting the development of the Ground Standoff Mine Detection System in July 2007. Having just transitioned from active duty, his experience as a combat engineer was a major asset when working with the customer—his former engineer branch. As any acquisition professional will attest, understanding the customer’s intent is crucial to developing the solution.

    Today, Napolitano is employed by U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command – Armaments Center, but serving in a full-time role at Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems (PM CAS) as project management officer for International Programs, within the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A). He is responsible for international cooperative activities within the Conventional Ammunition Division for PM CAS, such as foreign military sales, direct commercial sales and project arrangements. He said that international cooperation benefits the U.S. warfighter through enhancing interoperability with our allies. “Allies often share the same requirements and need for a capability,” he said. “Pooling resources and sharing the financial burden for development allows efficiency and lower costs for the Army.” He said others are sometimes surprised to learn that multiple allied nations and organizations are often working toward the same common goal, but “without communication, they may be expending redundant resources on development and testing.”

    Napolitano is also serving in a developmental assignment until summer 2021, as the acting director of International Programs for PM CAS. All that, amid a global pandemic and extended telework with a young family—he and his wife, Amanda, are parents to an infant and a busy toddler. “My coworkers look a little different these days,” he chuckled. “There is always something going on in the background of my work calls.” (Working parents across the nation nod their heads in solidarity.)

    He credits his career success to the influence of his mentors, and he encourages junior acquisition personnel to focus on two things: developing long-term goals and seeking multiple mentors early in their careers. By prioritizing long-term goals, Napolitano said he is reminded to remain open to new opportunities rather than becoming stagnant. “It’s very easy to stay in a particular job when you’re comfortable there,” he said. “My recommendation to anyone junior coming in, is to seek areas outside your comfort zone, with the understanding that it will improve you as an employee and as a person, and you’ll be able to take on more responsibilities, expand your horizons and learn new things you may be interested in.”

    In fact, his first foray into the world of International Programs was at the suggestion of someone who has since become an important mentor to him—though Napolitano was not a willing participant at the time. A supervisor asked him to work a cooperative research and development agreement with Italy, and he reluctantly went along with the idea, while still expressing his objections. “I was kicking and screaming,” he said. Over time, however, he realized he had the skills to work in the field. “I’ve had some experiences that prepared me for this, I’ve been deployed, I can appreciate other cultures, and it was actually a great fit.”

    The Soldier who feels he was “raised” in part by an Iraqi community now encourages others to focus on community as well. He said the most important lesson of his career is that personal relationships are the cornerstone of professional effectiveness and job satisfaction. “By maintaining a network and leveraging other individuals’ past experiences, there is a team behind every individual.”

    “Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to



    Date Taken: 01.12.2021
    Date Posted: 05.06.2021 09:37
    Story ID: 395792
    Location: US
    Hometown: DENVILLE, NJ, US

    Web Views: 144
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