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06 18 2020

Meet Captain Demetrist Booker, Asset Management and Supply Branch Deputy Commander

When the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency instructed the majority of its staff to work remotely due to the coronavirus outbreak, many support units outside the headquarters became crucial in maintaining business continuity.

In order to set up home offices, staff needed laptops, monitors, keyboards, mice and other hardware equipment. The Agency's Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Sustainment Support Centre (CSSC) in Brunssum, Netherlands, was tasked to prepare and ship all the required CIS equipment to more than 15 countries as quickly as possible.

United States Army Captain Demetrist Booker was one of many who made sure the necessary equipment reached their destination so Agency staff members and other personnel across NATO could work from the safety of their homes.

Meet Captain Demetrist Booker, Asset Management and Supply Branch Deputy Commander

What do you do?

I am the CSSC's Asset Management and Supply Branch Deputy Commander. I oversee the daily activities of the "warehouse" and ensure the proper management of all NATO-owned CIS equipment. We procure and supply CIS hardware and perform maintenance, for example: testing, upgrading, repairing and shipping the equipment to where is needed. I also serve as the United States Senior National Representative for all US personnel in the CSSC.

What did you do before joining the Agency?

Before working at the Agency, I proudly served in the United States army as an airborne paratrooper (trained to parachute into an operation) among other roles. I was deployed four times and spent 30 months in imminent combat zones. I also served as the Company Commander in an air defence artillery unit for soldiers and their families. It was very rewarding to counsel and mentor junior soldiers and see them grow.

How is the NATO work environment different from what you experienced with the US army?

It is very different, working with a large number of civilians mixed with military personnel, all from a variety of Nations. The atmosphere at NATO is definitely much more diplomatic, but ultimately, your objective is the same at NATO as it is in the army – it is about accomplishing the missions and tasks together through talent management, people care and cohesive team building. Since working for the Agency, I've also had the opportunity to visit historical sights, learn and explore multiple cultures, and I've been able to improve my phonetics in several foreign languages. My family and I adapted quickly and we look forward to discovering more of Europe in the near future when the restrictions in place to deal with the coronavirus crisis are lifted.

What are your most recent achievements?

As we all went into lockdown, teleworking became an imperative for everyone across NATO, and we had to make sure that staff had the proper equipment to work from home comfortably. So I coordinated with our internal personnel to conduct analyses and determine if the equipment was currently in stock. When it wasn't, we had to determine the best method to procure and deliver any missing pieces. Much of this initiative came from the General Manager and his delegates. By shipping essential CIS items to several Agency CIS Support Units (CSUs), the CSSC became vital in supporting multiple NATO entities indirectly. One of the first and most challenging tasks was shipping laptops from Mons, Belgium to Norfolk in the United States, to support Allied Command Transformation (ACT). The agency that usually does our physical shipments was unable to support us and we had to get creative so we coordinated the shipments ourselves. The CSSC shipped around 450 pieces of equipment in the first five days in order to enable teleworking. We had to work a bit more vigorously and deliberately prioritize urgent tasks above other "normal" business.

What are your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge is to continue working to meet urgent requirements with only 30% of the physical workforce present while the rest is working remotely. Personally, the most challenging thing right now is to follow not only Dutch and Agency regulation, but also US Army directives. The latter forbade us to travel or cross any national borders during the height of the coronavirus and gave us a curfew from 22:00 to 5:00. I usually wake up at 4:45, exercise and start working just before 7:00 so the curfew doesn't affect my work. It mainly ensures that US personnel doesn't engage in unnecessary social activities. The restriction of not being able to cross borders has been more complicated because we live in the Brunssum area, where Germany is only five and Belgium less than 20 minutes away.

Why is your work so important for the Agency and for NATO?

The CSSC is the only depot-level logistical hub in all of NATO. My team conducts all of the so-called "from cradle to grave" logistical actions of the CIS equipment. Not only do we coordinate the logistics of the equipment procurement, we also take care of the logistics of the maintenance and proper disposal of all CIS assets when they are no longer in NATO use. This includes the equipment that was used to transmit classified data. When we receive the hardware that needs to be serviced, we hand it over to our technicians. After everything is in order, we make sure the equipment is at the right place at the right time, every time.