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Professional development.

This issue's professional development article is devoted to some the good things and good advice, professionally speaking, that emerged from the recent Professional Development Institute (PDI) in Cleveland and at other events. The first item, "Tom Ruckdaschel and the Master's Degree," represents the epitome of a professional development success story in that a person who actively seeks knowledge and is willing to work hard was rewarded in a most nontraditional way.

The second item, "Advice from Ernie," is good, down-home straight talk from a man who has risen to become Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management) and about the professional development opportunities available to members of the Army financial management workforce (and others), many of which are underused.

The third item features a new Senior Resource Managers Symposium announced by the Army.

Tom Ruckdaschel and the Master's Degree

Tom Ruckdaschel wanted to be the first person in his family to get a master's degree. He achieved that goal in March 2004, earning a graduate degree in public administration from Central Michigan University. Although most of the degree was earned pretty much like any other graduate degree, things got a bit more hectic toward the last three-credit course.

Therein lies the story--a story of how a Defense logistician taking a course in financial management was able to get the final three graduate-level credits to complete his master's degree with the help and cooperation of the American Society of Military Comptrollers, Syracuse University, and the American Council on Education. It is a textbook case of the postsecondary education system in America operating at its best.

Tom Ruckdaschel is a pretty unique fellow and is prone to understate both his drive and his accomplishments. He works as a GS-15 for the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics in the Office of Property Plant and Equipment Policy, an organization set up to better account for the billions of dollars' worth of equipment and facilities owned by the Department of Defense (DoD). He and his wife Marybeth live in Fredericksburg, Virginia (with their Manx cat, Felix), and enjoy the pleasures of good literature, gardening, and the occasional European vacation.

Tom likes to read and is very interested in leadership, mentioning Daniel Goleman's concepts of "emotional intelligence" as an approach he favors. (Goleman is the author of Working with Emotional Intelligence and other books.) In fact Tom states, "If I were king for a day (or a year), I'd bring Goldman into the Department to help all of us. He has broken the code as to when and how to apply different leadership styles and has a lot to teach us."

Tom makes a sharp appearance in person and is obviously physically fit and trim. When I asked him about workouts, he confirmed this impression, stating that he likes to get to the gym almost every day and is trying to alternate strength building and aerobic workouts on alternating days. Tom says, "Good health is an appreciated asset." And, just to make sure we FM types understand, "I'm no good to my boss if I'm having a triple bypass!"

His goal as a recent member of ASMC was to become certified as a Certified Defense Financial Manager and to earn the master's degree. He achieved both.

Sometime last year, while preparing for the Certified Defense Financial Manager examinations, Tom discovered that the DoD, in cooperation with the American Society of Military Comptrollers, sponsored the 41-hour Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course. It sounded like it would help with the preparation for the examinations, so he enrolled and did well on the course tests.

He also learned that the course had been reviewed for award of college credit by the American Council on Education (ACE). Indeed, ACE recommended the award of three semester hours of credit, which could be applied at the undergraduate level or at the graduate level if an appropriate research paper was also completed. Tom wasted no time in following up on this opportunity.

Tom called me at ASMC and gained agreement on his research topic and began his paper. It was highly technical, dealing with policy changes that he felt were necessary to improve the way DoD manages property. After several drafts and several weeks, the paper was finished (over 50 pages), and it was sent for grading to Dave Berg (Col., Ret.), who directs the Army MBA program at Syracuse University. After the grade was received, this information was transmitted to both Central Michigan University and the Office of College Credit and Credentials at the ACE, which transmitted documentation of the successful completion to Central Michigan University. Since this was a first for the university, the ACE followed up with a phone call and a local visit to make sure all was well. And indeed it was!

As an added bonus, many of Tom's recommendations are in the process of being reviewed by the DoD for inclusion in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. (We hope to print a synopsis of the recommendations in an upcoming issue of Armed Forces Comptroller.)

Tom also holds a membership in the National Property Managers Association (NPMA) and is one of only a handful of ASMC members who are also in NPMA. He is very perceptive in his conviction that property managers must understand principles of DoD financial management in order to be fully effective. He is now starting to try to build links between the two organizations. He says, "All knowledge is pointless unless you can apply it."

Tom has had 20 years of federal service. When asked what he would like to be doing 10 years from now, he replied, "I'm concerned that many senior people are leaving, and I would like to be in a leadership position where I can mentor those coming into the field, to bridge the knowledge gap for them."

I have a feeling that he will succeed.

While Tom's story is unique, we at ASMC fully expect that, over time, many more of our members will follow in his footsteps, writing research papers and gaining the academic credit for what they have learned as financial managers in the Department of Defense.

For more detailed information, visit the ASMC certification Web site at, or call John Raines or John Bunnell at ASMC headquarters at (800) 462-5637.

Advice from Ernie

The Department of the Army has an outstanding program of professional development for the entire Army financial management workforce, both military and civilian. This program is managed and funded centrally (at $4 million) by the Army Comptroller Proponency Office, located on the staff of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management). Recently at the Mount Vernon chapter PDI, Ernie Gregory himself explained the Army programs and exhorted those present to take advantage of them.

He spoke of Army's success in bringing in new interns and the Army's need to grow an expert workforce. He also spoke emphatically regarding his feelings on professional development: "The best and only career developer is you! Take 'no' off the table! I'll help you as long as it's for the good of the Army!"

Regarding certification, he was succinctly blunt: "Just get it!" He continued, "Are you too old to work, are you breathing?"

Later, at the Cleveland PDI, this advice was reiterated by LTC Mike Shaffer in his presentation to approximately 200 attendees at the Opportunities in the DoD Financial Management Education and Training workshop: "Let us be the ones to say no! We want all of you to apply for this training!"

It is obvious that Army stands ready and waiting to help its workforce. The rest is up to you. To check out the Army programs, visit proponency/acpo.asp.

Army Senior Resource Managers Symposium

The Senior Resource Managers Symposium (SRMS) is a new, one-week, executive-level symposium funded by the Department of the Army and presented three times a year at the Syracuse University Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mountain Lake, New York. The purpose of the symposium is to examine current issues in resource management, to better understand the Department of Defense and the Army's changing resource management environment, to provide a venue for senior resource managers to discuss issues and share solutions, and to develop solutions to resource management issues.

About 90 senior Army financial management professionals at the levels of O-5 and O-6 and GS-14 and GS-15 are selected to attend each year. The Department of the Army centrally funds tuition, per diem, and travel costs for CP-11 and FA-45 careerists. Other military departments and Defense participants are welcome at their expense. Point of contact is Mr. Aaron Polley (aaron.polley@hqda. or (703) 614-4409).

The class, offered three times per year, is limited to 30 participants in each class.

Class dates for the SRMS and the suspense to PO follow:

* November 15-19, 2004; October 15. 2004

* April 4-8, 2005; March 4, 2005

* May 23-27, 2005; April 22, 2005

Share Your Professional Development News

As always, ASMC welcomes your input and professional development news. Send items to John Raines, CGFM, Associate Director for Professional Development, ASMC National Headquarters, 415 N. Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2269 or e-mail The toll-free number is (800) 463-5637.
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Publication:Armed Forces Comptroller
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
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