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Meet the commander: An interview with DLA Troop Support's newest leader

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MARCOA Media
Story by Shaun Eagan on 07/30/2019
The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support started its newest chapter in supporting service members worldwide as Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence returned to his hometown to assume command on June 25.

Following an assignment at the Pentagon, Lawrence, a Roslyn, Pennsylvania native, is serving his second stint at the Northeast Philadelphia warfighter support organization, having served as an Aide-de-Camp the first time around.

In the following interview, Lawrence sat down with the DLA Troop Support Public Affairs team to discuss his expectations and goals for the organization under his command, his leadership philosophy and some insight into what it means for him to return home to Philadelphia.

Public Affairs: You've been here for about a month now, sir. Do you feel settled in?

Lawrence: I will tell you from a personal standpoint, it's absolutely great to be back in Philadelphia. As you know, I grew up in the local area and graduated from high school about a 15-minute drive from the DLA Troop Support headquarters. So from a personal perspective I feel absolutely at home! Professionally, I am learning every day. Although I served here once before, I continue to be amazed by the expanse of what DLA Troop Support executes day in and out to support our Warfighters and our whole of government partners.

For example, it was not until I took command that I became aware that in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, DLA Troop Support provides fresh fruit and vegetables to children in 47 states through the federal school lunch program. I didn't know that our Construction and Equipment supply chain procures firefighting and emergency services equipment for our nation's wildland firefighters through the Fire and Emergency Services Equipment's tailored logistics support program. I am learning every day in this job about the breadth and depth of what we do here in Troop Support. It's just absolutely amazing to be a part of it.

You are coming from the Pentagon where you served at the top level within the Army. How was that experience, and what was your reaction when you found out you were coming back for your second time to Philadelphia?

Working in the Pentagon as part of the Army G-4 was a great experience. I had the good fortune to work with phenomenal professionals focused on enhancing the readiness of our Army. Here at DLA Troop Support, we serve as an integral part of the nation's combat logistics support agency, the Defense Logistics Agency. Our efforts here support not only the Army, but also our Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, 10 combatant commands, federal agencies and allied partners. I feel incredibly blessed to be part of an agency that is providing this level of service.

Let's talk about your assignment now. What can the DLA Troop Support workforce expect from you as their commander?

They can expect leadership focused on meeting the readiness needs of our Warfighters. I firmly believe that the American taxpayer wants our military to be the best fighting force in the world. In order to maintain a premiere and ready fighting force DLA Troop Support must focus on developing responsive and innovative solutions across all of its supply chains.

Are there any specific goals that you have for the organization while you're here?

I want us to look at ourselves and focus on making sure we are being as effective and efficient as possible. We need to look at our internal processes, and, wherever possible, modernize what we are doing. I want us to be the warfighters' first choice when it comes to supply chain solutions. When there are needs or requirements that deal with any of our supply chains, I want one of the first things for our customers to think about is "that we need to talk to DLA Troop Support as the subject matter experts to get a solution."

What expectations do you have for the employees? Are you comfortable leading a primarily civilian workforce?

The majority of my assignments prior to this have been in primarily uniformed Army organizations. But, I think there's not much difference in terms of the way you treat a soldier and the way you treat a civilian employee. At the end of the day, people want to be treated with dignity and respect. It's about living by the Golden Rule and treating others as you want to be treated, being inclusive and embracing diversity within the organization.

At the town hall, you talked about the "Five C's of Leadership." Can you elaborate on why this philosophy is important to you?

To me, the "Five C's of Leadership" are compassion, character, commitment, competence and courage. These are five leadership aspects that I feel are basics that leaders and members of an organization need to create a healthy and productive work environment. These five aspects are tenets that have served me throughout my career. It is why I talk about them in terms of being the five fundamental tenets to move us from being a good organization to a great organization.

It starts with focusing on people and showing compassion for others. Treat others how they want to be treated - with dignity and respect, being inclusive and embracing diversity. That's what makes any organization and, to be expanded, our nation, great. Then there is character, which is the expectation for everyone who serves: honor, integrity and selfless service to the organization. Then there is a commitment to do your best every day. We all have different pieces to play, especially at an organization as diverse as we are. So everyone has to work hard and commit to work hard and win every day. That goes hand-in-hand with competence, which requires being an absolute master of your craft. Finally, there is courage. That is having the resiliency, as an organization, to be able to adjust as things change in the operating environment and having the personal resilience so that we can be the best that we can be.

Going back to the beginning, what made you want to join the Army?

I joined the Army with no aspirations of making it a career. I was a pretty good football player in high school, and I was recruited by the United States Military Academy to play football in college. That is what essentially started my military career. They say, however, that military service becomes an affair of the heart. So it was for me. I have been fortunate to serve in great organizations with phenomenal leadership where I had the good fortune to serve with young men and women who, just like me, raised their right hand to support and defend the Constitution. So this esprit de corps, this culture of service to nation and others - I fell in love with it. What I thought would be a short commitment, turned into a career. Here I stand, 24 years later, and I love what I do. That's why I continue to serve. I love being a soldier and a member of the U.S. Armed Services.

After 24 years in the military, I'm sure you have a ton of memories. What has been your favorite point of your career?

I think it's the little things. In the Army, you train hard at your home station to maintain a level of sustained readiness for a worldwide deployment or rotation to one of the combat training centers. You work hard completing individual and collective training, and then you go out into the environments and see your soldiers perform at a high level. For me, that is a gratifying experience. It is also a phenomenal experience to return from a tough deployment and witness your soldiers reconnect with their families and loved ones at the welcome home ceremonies. It's giving recognition to soldiers for what they've done and recognizing their contributions to their families. To me, that is the awesome part of what I get to do.

What is one thing that you've accomplished that is not in your biography that makes you proud?

I'm a proud husband and father. I've been very blessed to have a wife that's been at my side for 23 of my 24 years in service, and I'm proud of my children growing up to be responsible young men and women doing great things in their own right. I take great pride in that.

What do you like to do on the weekends? What are some of your hobbies?

I'm a diehard sports fan. I am going to take full advantage of my time here to take in the local sports scene. I already have preseason Eagles tickets, and I'm going to try to take in some Phillies, Flyers and 76ers games while I'm here. There's also so much history in the Philadelphia area as well. I had the opportunity to participate in the Fourth of July events, and give the oath of enlistment to approximately 47 new soldiers in front of Independence Hall. What an awesome experience it was to do that at the birthplace of our nation! It does not get any better than that. After the ceremony, we visited the Constitution Center and Liberty Bell. We plan to make time to take in all the history and culture that Philadelphia has to offer.

You played offensive line for Army. I bet you are excited for the Army versus Navy game. Are you going this year?

Absolutely, and I predict an Army victory. You can put that on the record (chuckles).

Thanks for your time today. We know you have a busy schedule, so we appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us. We hope things are going well for you during your transition, and we are excited to have you here as the new DLA Troop Support commander.

I am excited for this second opportunity to be part of the DLA and the DLA Troop Support team. I don't mean for this to sound clich at all, but sometimes I have to pinch myself at the opportunity I've been given. To come back to your hometown and lead an organization like this is special. To me, this is a very special place with an extraordinary workforce. When you have an organization where people serve 20, 30 or even 40 years - I think that says something about the culture of the organization and the people that are part of it.

Another piece is that we're also part of the Philadelphia community. Troop Support is the largest federal employer in this area. We pride ourselves in being proud members of the Philadelphia community, so coming back here to serve our nation and contribute to the Philadelphia community, my hometown, is awesome.

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