USA — Face of Defense: Logistics Analyst Excels in Leadership Program

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — When Bet­ty Hoapili was select­ed to attend the Depart­ment of Defense’s Exec­u­tive Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment Pro­gram, she got the chance to walk in a warfighter’s shoes.

German Leopard II tank at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany
Bet­ty Hoapili trains in a Ger­man Leop­ard II tank at the Grafen­woehr Train­ing Area in Ger­many as part of the Defense Department’s Exec­u­tive Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment Pro­gram.
Depart­ment of Defense pho­to by Dave Michael
Click to enlarge

The 23-year civ­il ser­vice vet­er­an, a logis­tics pro­gram analy­sis offi­cer on the Defense Logis­tics Agency’s Air Force Cus­tomer Sup­port Team in the Oper­a­tions and Sus­tain­ment Divi­sion of DLA Logis­tics Oper­a­tions, was look­ing to com­ple­ment her career path when she respond­ed to the program’s call for nom­i­na­tions through DLA’s Exec­u­tive Devel­op­ment Pro­gram.

One of the pro­gram require­ments was to com­plete a staff study. Hoapili’s study focused on the Defense Department’s acqui­si­tion com­mu­ni­ty and its abil­i­ty to han­dle the impend­ing wave of retire­ments pro­ject­ed in the next five years.

“I looked at whether or not the [defense] acqui­si­tion career field is head­ed for … a ‘brain drain’ and devel­oped pos­si­ble cours­es of action,” she said.

Hoapili said she pre­pared her­self for the var­i­ous types of train­ing and tem­po­rary duty assign­ments, which took place one to two weeks each month for 10 months — a total of 95 days. She also need­ed to keep up with her reg­u­lar work­load, which she said helped her learn about jug­gling pri­or­i­ties.

At the pro­gram ori­en­ta­tion, Hoapili said, her instruc­tors told par­tic­i­pants they were lucky to have been select­ed.

“One of the things they said to us was, ‘You 61 peo­ple have won the lot­tery,’ [because] there were 600 appli­cants, she recalled. The par­tic­i­pants were split into six teams, includ­ing one mil­i­tary mem­ber per team, Hoapili said.

The first “deploy­ment” was to core train­ing at the South­bridge Con­fer­ence Cen­ter in South­bridge, Mass., where Hoapili said team mem­bers were chal­lenged phys­i­cal­ly, men­tal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly.

Team mem­bers had to com­plete a fit­ness test – sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups – to ensure they could safe­ly par­tic­i­pate in the program’s demand­ing activ­i­ties.

“[Ear­ly] the next morn­ing … those who had not passed any aspect of the phys­i­cal test­ing had to report to the gym area and were going to focus on addi­tion­al train­ing,” she said. Although Hoapili and her team­mates had passed the phys­i­cal test, she said she went to the gym any­way to help oth­er pro­gram mem­bers pre­pare for the re-test. It was a proud moment when those mem­bers passed the test too, Hoapili said.

Army Rangers' Malvesti Obstacle Course in Fort Benning, Ga
Bet­ty Hoapili crawls through the mud at the Army Rangers’ Malvesti Obsta­cle Course in Fort Ben­ning, Ga., dur­ing part of the Defense Department’s Exec­u­tive Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment Pro­gram.
Depart­ment of Defense pho­to by Dave Michael
Click to enlarge

At anoth­er deploy­ment, she vol­un­teered for a swim­ming chal­lenge at the Basic Under­wa­ter Demolition/SEAL School at the Naval Spe­cial War­fare Cen­ter in Coro­n­a­do, Calif. The chal­lenge involved swim­ming in full mil­i­tary gear out to a Navy SEAL posi­tioned in the ocean.

“It was very scary because of the sig­nif­i­cant under­tow and the crash­ing waves. … There was one point where I thought, ‘I won­der if I’m going to drown.’ [But] when I made it back to the beach and the rest of my team­mates were cheer­ing me, I knew I’d chal­lenged myself to do my best. That’s why I [vol­un­teered],” Hoapili said.

One of the program’s key tenets involves show­ing par­tic­i­pants they can do more than they’d thought, she said.

“That’s the start­ing point for any good leader, … know­ing your capa­bil­i­ties and push­ing your­self … to see what you can do when faced with a tough chal­lenge, … to go one step beyond what you thought you could do,” she said.

“How to adapt to chang­ing cir­cum­stances is part of the skill set that this pro­gram was teach­ing me,” Hoapili said.

After the swim­ming chal­lenge, pro­gram mem­bers were required to drag an inflat­able raft up and down the beach and then com­plete an obsta­cle course.

Despite being dri­ven to phys­i­cal exhaus­tion on that Cal­i­for­nia beach, Hoapili said, her biggest chal­lenge was yet to come at the U.S. Army Ranger School, at Fort Ben­ning, Ga. Stand­ing on top of a 75-foot tow­er and step­ping off to rap­pel down was more of a men­tal chal­lenge for Hoapili, one she wasn’t sure she could do.

“That first step took a lot of faith on my part, [but I had] con­fi­dence in my equip­ment and con­fi­dence in the instruc­tors that were there … assur­ing me they had my back,” she said.

Dur­ing times when she was less con­fi­dent in her abil­i­ties, Hoapili said, she repeat­ed a mantra to her­self.

“Lead­ers are tough; lead­ers are strong; lead­ers can do these things,” she said.

Still, Hoapili cred­its her accom­plish­ments to her team’s nev­er-end­ing sup­port.

“I was blessed with an amaz­ing team of peo­ple. We called our­selves ‘Team High Five.’ … Those 10 peo­ple became a fam­i­ly. … We were there for each oth­er. It goes back to work­ing on behalf of warfight­ers; [they] were my warfight­ers, and I didn’t want let them down, and we refused to leave any­one behind,” Hoapili said.

Each year dur­ing grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies, one class mem­ber is award­ed spe­cial recog­ni­tion. This year, Hoapili was award­ed that dis­tinc­tion and pre­sent­ed the Rose­mary E. Howard Lead­er­ship Award. She was unaware she would be receiv­ing the peer-nom­i­nat­ed award.

“To be nom­i­nat­ed by your peers is an extreme hon­or,” Hoapili said. “When I read the award’s inscrip­tion: ‘Based on Courage, Deter­mi­na­tion, Lead­er­ship and Pro­fes­sion­al­ism,’ I was very hum­bled,” she said.

Hoapili said she took two lessons away from her expe­ri­ence in the pro­gram. The first was a rein­force­ment of a les­son learned from her father.

“My dad is a retired Air Force chief mas­ter sergeant; he always taught me the back­bone of our armed forces is our enlist­ed corps,” she said. “That was rein­forced to me … because at every deploy­ment, the indi­vid­u­als who were teach­ing me, … train­ing me, … equip­ping me were all [non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers].”

The sec­ond take-away is the pow­er of team­work, she said.

“Not only did my team­mates have my back, but trained, amaz­ing warfight­ers had my back as well. [I val­ue] the whole con­cept of courage and com­pas­sion and com­pe­tence in terms of strong lead­er­ship and what’s expect­ed of us as future civil­ian lead­ers,” she said.

Gary Gonthi­er, a per­for­mance-based logis­tics pro­gram man­ag­er in DLA Aviation’s Strate­gic Cus­tomer Engage­ment Branch was also on Hoapili’s team.

“Bet­ty was a wel­come mem­ber of the team. … [She] is social­ly gre­gar­i­ous, which man­i­fests itself in the pre­cious atten­tion she paid to both orga­ni­za­tion­al and per­son­al details,” he said.

The com­bi­na­tion of Hoapili’s inter­per­son­al style, which includ­ed offer­ing praise and oth­er affir­ma­tions to par­tic­i­pants, set against a back­drop of struc­ture, sched­ules and order made her a com­pas­sion­ate leader, Gonthi­er said.

“She left no doubt when team mem­bers per­formed well, yet also made clear those instances when things didn’t go so well. Bet­ty always placed the con­cern of oth­ers above her own self-inter­est,” he said.

This year marked the first occa­sion that pro­gram par­tic­i­pants trav­eled to Kuwait. Though they spent just 72 hours there, both Hoapili and Gonthi­er agreed that the pro­gram instilled them with a greater appre­ci­a­tion for mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers.

Gonthi­er said the pro­gram pro­vides civil­ian per­son­nel with a hands-on approach to learn­ing what warfight­ers do on a dai­ly basis.

“The … mem­bers from each of the ser­vices are tru­ly ded­i­cat­ed to what they do and [are] whole­heart­ed­ly sup­port­ed by the fam­i­ly that fol­lows … them,” he said. “They are high­ly trained and ready to do what­ev­er it takes to defend this nation, includ­ing giv­ing their lives. We should nev­er for­get that.”

Hoapili agreed and said it’s an expe­ri­ence civil­ians rarely, if ever, get.

“It’s invalu­able in enhanc­ing my under­stand­ing of what our warfight­ers go through, the sac­ri­fices they make … on our behalf, and how impor­tant it is for us to do our jobs extreme­ly well so they can do what we’re ask­ing them to do,” she said.

Recent­ly, Hoapili found out she was select­ed for anoth­er train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty – the Indus­tri­al Col­lege of the Armed Forces. She cred­its DLA for giv­ing her the chance to dis­play her lead­er­ship qual­i­ties in the ELDP. At DLA, devel­op­ing employ­ees’ skills and abil­i­ties is a high pri­or­i­ty, so high it falls into agency Direc­tor Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson’s list of top ini­tia­tives.

“I’m anx­ious now to give back to DLA for hav­ing giv­en me this oppor­tu­ni­ty,” Hoapili said.

She added that she’s a “huge pro­po­nent” of the ELDP pro­gram and not­ed that as the Rose­mary E. Howard Award win­ner, she gets to go to ori­en­ta­tion for next year’s pro­gram and speak to incom­ing par­tic­i­pants.

“In so many ways, I do wish I was doing it again — not so much the crawl­ing through the mud, … but it’s a once-in-a-life­time expe­ri­ence,” she said. “I look at the pic­tures and think, ‘How did I do that?’ But you do it one day at a time and with a whole lot of help from your friends.”

Nom­i­na­tions for the DoD Exec­u­tive Leader Devel­op­ment Pro­gram are solicit­ed annu­al­ly around Sep­tem­ber through the DLA Exec­u­tive Devel­op­ment Pro­gram. Infor­ma­tion is avail­able on the EDP web­page at

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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