'Eating an elephant one bite at a time': Lessons one proposal manager gained from the Army
Guy Saults is a Proposal Manager in Capture Operations and Excellence at Leidos. Before his civilian career, Saults served in the United States Army for 12 years. In this Q&A, Saults talks about his military service and how it has shaped his professional life.
Guy, happy Veteran’s Day and thank you for your service. First of all, tell us about your career in the military.
I served in the United States Army as a commissioned officer from 1985-1997. I became a second lieutenant in the Armor Branch after graduating from the University of Florida. After completing the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Ky., I served as a tank platoon leader and company executive officer in West Germany. I joined the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor of the 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized), in the Fulda Gap near the East German border. I arrived in Germany on the same day the world learned about Chernobyl. My daughter was born in Fulda. My family and I returned to the United States just one day after the Iron Curtain fell.
After graduating from the Armor Officer Advanced Course at Fort Knox, I joined the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Riley, Kan. as a battalion primary staff officer. On December 31, 1990, my unit, the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, deployed with the rest of the division to Saudi Arabia to fight in the Gulf War. My son was born at Fort Riley while we were still deployed. I learned of his birth over our tactical radio network, and started handing out cigars. I met him when we returned to Fort Riley a few weeks later. I then took command of D Company, 2-34 Armor, which was the highlight of my career.
In 1994, after my command time and additional training at other installations, I found myself back at Fort Knox for my third assignment there. I served as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) in Army Recruiting Command from 1994 until I left active duty in 1997. I was an Advertising Project Manager, producing television and radio commercials, print advertisements, and Recruiter Publicity Items (those little brochures you see in stores). I also earned a Master of Education from the University of Louisville. By this time, central Kentucky felt like home, so we stayed.
To sum it up: 12 years, five assignments, three duty stations, four moves, and a family. Four months in a combat zone, and 100 hours of combat. I never fired a shot in battle.
After I left active duty, I started working as a defense contractor for various companies supporting the Armor Center. I developed web-based training for the University of Mounted Warfare, participated in the development of the Mounted Battle Command on the Move (MBCOTM) platforms, and supported Joint capabilities development at the Mounted Warfare Test Bed (MWTB). Over the years, I became increasingly involved in proposal writing and development, until I found myself doing it full-time.
Wait a second, you just kind of brushed right over the fact about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Were you part of that?
Just before I arrived, the Red Army Faction terrorist group attacked my installation (Wildflecken Training Area) to try and break into the ammunition supply point to steal high explosives.
As a result, we had armed roving patrols walking all around the installation’s huge border, hoping to deter any additional attacks just as the radiation plume covered the region. We wore radiation dosimeters to track any radioactive contamination we might receive. Our barracks had been built by the Germans in 1942, using local stone which had a detectable level of background radiation anyway. We were never certain whether we were detecting Chernobyl fallout in our buildings, or whether it was the natural background radiation.
What was your greatest lesson-learned from your experience in the Army?
Make sure people have the resources they need, including training, information, equipment, and time. Leaders supervise to ensure that resources are available and used. Do this, and people can accomplish amazing things.
What did your service teach you that helps you in your career as Proposal Manager for Leidos today?
The Army taught me about strategic planning, and the backwards-planning process. Start with the final delivery deadline and work backwards toward your project start date. Backwards planning ensures that everyone knows when to start tasks.
I learned about working in dynamic teams, and that diverse opinions and points of view are a team’s strengths. In 10 years of proposal writing and management, every team has been different, so every experience has been different. I learned how teams can come together to overcome adversity. I learn from my teammates every day.
I learned how to eat an elephant (“One bite a time.”). This metaphor perfectly fits proposal development. Take complex tasks and break them down into manageable chunks, and soon those tasks are complete.
I learned that families serve too, and work-life balance is critical. I believe that Leidos’ leadership enthusiastically shares this philosophy.
What else would you like to impart on us today for Veteran’s Day?
I want to thank all veterans and family members for the sacrifices you made in service to our country. No words can express the debt this great nation owes you. I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a company that so strongly supports our Veterans and service members.