Profile: Robert Allen, Supply Officer

Career Field:
Transportation, Supply and Logistics
Navy Reserve
More from the Navy Reserve:
Purchasing, Supply & Logistics Careers

Most people join the Military young and then have a civilian career later. I think that’s the difference with me — this is my second career. I finished my first career with a large shipping company. I’d been there almost 10 years and had worked with a variety of logistics providers, so I moved over into the Supply Corps world here in the Navy.

I’m what they call a direct commission officer. They look for folks who already have a master’s degree and who have some experience in the civilian world that the Navy can rely on. I started out as a Reserve supply officer and then recently went to Active Duty. I think it’s been a really good thing because I’m able to leverage the civilian experience that I’ve had in my military position.

When we come into the supply program, we all go through the Basic Supply Course School, which is in Athens, Ga. Reservists take the program through correspondence, with visits down to Athens to take tests. I consider the workload equivalent to getting an MBA online or taking courses at night. It is kind of a challenge, but it really gets you up-to-speed.

Right now, I’m a supply officer at a mixed Reserve and Active Duty command of about 3,000 people. I manage the financials and the warehousing operation. All our supplies — all the things our folks need to work in the field — are issued from my warehouse here in Williamsburg, Va. On top of that, I manage our budget. We’re about a $15 million command, and I make sure our money is properly spent and accounted for.

I enjoy going to work every single day.

I have seven people in my financial shop and 25 in the warehouse, plus an additional 10 contractors who work for our uniform provider. So there are about 40 people working for me, which is a good-sized department and bigger than what I had in the civilian world.

We do a lot of equipment management for the supplies that our folks need when they deploy. The Haiti earthquake was right up our alley. Food and relief supplies — it all has to come off an airplane or a ship. We've also been involved with the mobilized reservists. We outfitted them with all the gear that they needed, and we got them on airplanes and flew them down there. A lot of different people are involved in the chain, and it’s a big logistics coordination effort to get it all done.

My next job will be at a Construction Battalion (CB, also known as the “Seabees”). I’ll be the lone supply officer, so I’ll have lots of responsibility. That group deploys all around the world for different missions, and I’ll be going with them.

The real difference between the civilian management style and the military management style is that, on the military side, we manage the whole person. You’re on duty 24/7, and as managers, we’re concerned about your life 24/7. It’s just a different mindset. It also means that we take care of our Sailors a lot more than a boss would in the civilian world.

When you’re in the Military, there’s lots of support from the community at large and from within the Military itself. You really feel that your decisions and what you do make a large difference on a day-to-day basis. It is something that people can be proud of, and I enjoy going to work every single day.

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