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02 25 2020

NCI Agency staff spotlight: Six receive top NATO honour

NATO recently awarded six NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency employees its most prestigious honour – the Meritorious Service Medal.

The Meritorious Service Medal is given to staff members who go above and beyond the call of duty to deliver exceptional results in support of NATO's mission and its digital endeavour.

Each of the six awardees – stationed across five different Agency locations – coordinated challenging projects, inspired effective collaboration and delivered timely results. Two of them also directly supported NATO's operations by voluntarily deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kevin J Scheid, General Manager of the NCI Agency, gave the medal to the six awardees on behalf of the NATO Secretary General at an official ceremony in Brussels, Belgium, on 19 February 2020.

"We're NATO's single largest entity. If we're not successful at our work, NATO's not successful. Our support is critical to the success of the organization. Recognizing those who do extraordinary work is very important," said the General Manager.

"You are among the best experts in your professional field and you've brought a lot of dedication and initiative to your job. Perhaps more importantly, your character and your success are defined by going the extra mile," he continued.

MGEN Göksel Sevindik, the Agency´s Chief of Staff, said: "We really have talented and dedicated personnel at the Agency. I know that, as an Agency, we have challenges. But thanks to your hard work and dedication we can easily overcome these challenges."

Although all the awardees work towards the same mission, this recognition highlights their exemplary work across a variety of specialties and different Agency locations.

On this occasion, we interviewed the six of them to find out more about their work, inspirations, challenges and advice for achieving success.

Here's what they had to say. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Armando Lopes Duarte

Configuration Control Technician at Communication and Information Systems (CIS) Support Unit (CSU) Lisbon

Duarte is a very proactive person with high sense of responsibility. Duarte is an outstanding and careful planner and team builder, who demonstrated remarkable technical capabilities in his work for the Agency. Not only did he support the critical installation, configuration and troubleshooting of all networks of the new NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Academy building in Oeiras, Portugal, but he also supported the current operation of NATO's Local Area Network (LAN) and video teleconferencing services. His work was essential to the successful opening of the NCI Academy in autumn 2019.

What advice can you give someone who has to carry out a task of similar scale, complexity and importance as you did for the NCI Academy?

Despite my technical background, taking the lead of this project was the biggest challenge I had to face because of the great impact it has, inside and outside the Agency. Whatever the complexity of the project is, it should always be dealt with in a professional manner. Team success is more easily achieved when everyone's contribution is welcomed and discussed.

Dr Garry Hargreaves

Acting Dean of the NCI Academy

Dr Hargreaves joined the NCI Agency in April 2016 to manage the Agency's activities related to the new NCI Academy campus in Oeiras, in liaison with the Host Nation Portugal. His foresight, knowledge and understanding of NATO was pivotal in this pioneering multi-stakeholder project to open the NCI Academy. He unconditionally accepted and embraced the challenge. Thanks to his tenacious commitment to deliver results, profound dedication and selfless use of time, the NCI Academy reached Initial Operational Capability by 2 September 2019.

What advice can you give to someone who is working on a similar project that demands significant coordination among multiple actors?

You have to believe that the work you are doing is important to you. The challenges are just too big if you aren't convinced you are working towards something you truly believe in. There is simply no way the NCI Academy would have reached Initial Operational Capacity without the selfless, focused and relentless efforts of the team. You are going to have your motives challenged, your timelines disregarded by others or the support needed not there when you actually need it. So be ready, when essential, to speak truth to power.

Paul Hubble

Head of the Network Control Centre at the NCI Agency Operations Centre

Hubble has voluntarily deployed to support NATO operations ten times since 2010. He provided assistance and training to the Afghan Mission Network Operations Centre (AMNOC) and was the first civilian to become its director in 2014. Although Hubble leads the Network Control Centre, which is part of the NCI Agency's Operations Centre in Mons, Belgium, he has provided remarkable support to the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and NATO Mission Iraq. Hubble demonstrates exceptional poise, tremendous leadership and outstanding personal dedication to NATO's mission.

You have voluntarily deployed on ten occasions to support NATO operations since 2010 and, thus, demonstrated devotion to its mission. What significance does NATO's mission hold for you not only professionally, but also personally?

At NATO, I get to prove my skills in a high-pressure environment. My technical and managerial abilities are tested to the full and often stretched beyond where I thought was possible. Several of the deployments have placed me outside of my comfort zone, and being able to manage those situations has given me immense satisfaction. In addition, I have made lifelong friends, with whom it has been an honour to work with and to be able to call them friends.

Photo caption: Paul Hubble is currently deployed on a mission and was unable to attend the event.

Michael Jones

Head, Service Operations Branch at CSU Norfolk

Jones is a distinguished and driven leader, who always puts the needs of a mission first, regardless of the weight of the responsibilities placed on his shoulders. He made significant contributions to NATO operations during his time of deployment from his current position as Head of Service Operations at the NCI Agency's CIS Support Unit in Norfolk, United States. During deployment, Jones simultaneously took the role of a Staff Officer for Projects and Head of the Interim Deployable Network Operations Centre (DNOC).

During your time at the Agency, you have deployed to support crucial NATO operations. What significance does NATO's mission and its operations have for you in your professional life?

I am a firm believer that civilians working for the NCI Agency should deploy to support NATO operations in order to fully appreciate why we exist as an organization. Having served in support of NATO operations has instilled in me a far bigger picture of why we exist and in turn has lit a fire within to support NATO to the full extent of my abilities. While I normally serve as the Service Operations Branch Head for CSU Norfolk, I know that my actions also have a positive impact in the ability of NATO to succeed as a whole.

David Sampietro

Principal Project Manager for Service Support Business Applications

David Sampietro has demonstrated outstanding and enduring commitment to the success of the NCI Agency's Enterprise Business Applications (EBA) programme. Not only has Sampietro uted his professional role of Project Manager exceptionally, but he has dedicated himself personally to ensuring the success of this endeavour. Sampietro's rich experience, managerial courage and stakeholder coordination was essential for the EBA system to go live.

How do you coordinate work that involves many different staff members, departments and contractors, while ensuring that the team functions as a cohesive unit?

Only a strong team, working towards the same goals, with a clear vision of what to achieve could have delivered this. We composed a rather small core team, fully empowered, with one representative per area and with a mirror at the contractors' side. The core team further coordinate with their respective areas: finance, acquisition, asset management, human resources, travel, project management, technical, cyber, independent verification and validation (IV&V), and others. The work of this core team has been key for cohesion.

Adjudant Julien Verbail

Technician for Information Systems at CSU Ramstein

Adjudant Verbail has distinguished himself as an exceptional leader within the NCI Agency. In particular, his steadfast leadership and expertise of NATO's Air Command and Control System (ACCS) has been vital to the entire population of the NATO Alliance and Partners for Peace. Adjudant Verbail made outstanding contributions to the continued development and success of the ACCS Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) programme. His dedication to ballistic missile defence has directly supported critical upgrades to the systems and ensured continued success of the programme.

What drives you to not only accept such challenging and complicated projects, such as ballistic missile defence, but deliver results of very high quality?

I have met outstanding people over the course of my assignments. They taught me a lot. One of them displayed the motto of his old regiment to me: "Tu es l'ancien, sois le meilleur". (You are the oldest, be the best). I am neither the oldest nor the best, but I think it is important for me to always learn, progress and improve myself in all aspects of life. Working in such a diverse, multicultural, and operational environment has made me a stronger person.