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Leadership: From Active Duty to DHS

Each Veterans Day, we honor the men and women who have given so much to protect our freedom and liberty. We remember their courage and dedication and thank them for their sacrifice.

Many of the missions of the Department of Homeland Security align with the deep sense of service and security that is fundamental to those who serve in our armed forces. We are proud to have more than 54,500 veterans—nearly 28% of our entire workforce—at the Department of Homeland Security.

In October, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke kicked off Leadership Year, a year-long initiative to encourage leadership at every level of the Department. In honor of Veterans Day, and in conjunction with the Leadership Year, we asked veterans serving across the Department to share their thoughts on leadership and discuss how the values and principles of leadership learned in active duty apply to a career at DHS.

Below, we feature four veterans who are continuing their service to our country at DHS. Here are their thoughts on leadership:

Jimmie Jaye WellsJimmie Jaye Wells

Jimmie Jaye Wells (Major General, USA, Ret.) is celebrating 1-year of civil service and 37 years of federal service and is the Deputy Federal Security Director for the Transportation Security Administration in Honolulu.

  1. What does “Serving People, Serves Mission” mean to you?

    To me, serving people is an honor—our stakeholders, traveling public, airport and carrier management, elected officials, and especially our officers. In my role, that is for officers in 4 time zones of the Pacific from Guam to Samoa and across the Hawaiian Islands.

  2. How have you taken lessons about leadership from your active duty service and applied them in your DHS career?

    My most vital lesson from my decades of military service was to become a servant leader. We face challenges of vast vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Character, competence and commitment loom large as the most critical functions to help me transition to our TSA values of innovation, integrity and all important team spirit and meet these challenges.

  3. What have you learned about leadership now that you are a DHS employee?

    I have learned that TSA officers, like Soldiers, love our nation. They have an incredible desire to be good and faithful stewards of our citizens’ trust in them. As TSA and DHS are young organizations, we need to double-down as leaders to earn their trust. The 2018 theme of Leadership is spot-on.

  4. What is your favorite quote about leadership that reflects these values?

    My favorite quote about leadership that reflects these values is as follows: “Standards Based, Data Driven, People Focused.” If I follow these six simple words, everything falls into place.

Brandie JacksonBrandie Jackson

Brandie Jackson (Sergeant, USMC) is celebrating 8 years with DHS/ICE/HSI and is the Special Assistant to the Acting Deputy Director, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  1. What does “Serving People, Serves Mission” mean to you?
    As a Marine, and now as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Director, I have always lived by “People first…Mission Always”! Taking care of each other as coworkers, supervisors and subordinates; it has always been instilled in me to take care of one another, as we are all here to support the Mission. You cannot be successful in completing the mission, regardless of what it is, without taking care of your PEOPLE!
  2. How have you taken lessons about leadership from your active duty service and applied them in your DHS career?
    The Marine Corps taught me the importance of knowing myself and seeking self-improvement. There is always room to grow no matter the level you reach in your career, both in Active Duty and Civil Service. It takes loyalty, decisiveness, unselfishness, knowledge, initiative, and many other traits to be a LEADER.
  3. What have you learned about leadership now that you are a DHS employee?
    Your subordinates are a direct reflection of your leadership. Leading by example and taking care of your people is what gets the job done effectively and efficiently. Effective communication is key!
  4. What is your favorite quote about leadership that reflects these values?
    “Leadership is intangible, hard to measure, and difficult to describe. Its quality would seem to stem from many factors. But certainly they must include a measure of inherent ability to control and direct, self-confidence based on expert knowledge, initiative, loyalty, pride, and sense of responsibility. Inherent ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be developed. Other ingredients can be acquired. They are not easily learned. But leaders can be and are made.” -General C. B. Cates, 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Marecus B. MatthewsMarecus B. Matthews

Marecus B. Matthews (USMC) is celebrating 9 years with DHS and is a Supervisory CBP Officer for US Customs and Border Protection.

  1. What does “Serving People, Serves Mission” mean to you?
    Our mission is people – protecting people within our borders and protecting our way of life.  “Serving People Serves Mission” means that as public servants, our mission of anti-terrorism and protecting our borders is directly correlated with serving the American public.
  2. How have you taken lessons about leadership from your active duty service and applied them in your DHS career?
    There are many parallels between the military and Customs and Boarder Protection. Some of the lessons I have carried over about leadership revolve around leading from the front, never asking people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, accomplishing the mission but taking care of the people that accomplish the mission, setting the example, always seeking knowledge and self-improvement, and having high but manageable expectations for your people. I apply these to my duties every day. CBP has some of the best and brightest people in the Federal government, and these people need to be fostered in the best manner.
  3. What have you learned about leadership now that you are a DHS employee?
    You have to be willing to make the hard decisions as well as the easy ones. You have to be willing to bear responsibility for failures as well as successes. Leadership is a privilege.
  4. What is your favorite quote about leadership that reflects these values?
    “In other words, don’t expect to always be great. Disappointments, failures, and setbacks are normal part of the lifecycle of a unit or a company and what the leader has to do is constantly be up and say ‘we have a problem, let’s go and get it.’” Colin Powell

Christopher A. HumphriesChristopher A. Humphries

Christopher A. Humphries (USAF) is celebrating 15 years with the Federal Government and is the Associate Center Director of the Texas Service Center for US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  1. What does “Serving People, Serves Mission” mean to you?
    If you put people first, they will take care of the mission. The mission cannot be carried out without the people you are expected to lead. Surround yourself with great people and empower them to accomplish the mission.
  2. How have you taken lessons about leadership from your active duty service and applied them in your DHS career?
    At the end of the day, we all want to be valued and respected. Break the golden rule by not treating people how you want to be treated, but instead treat them how they want to be treated. In the Air Force and DHS I have learned to put rank and grade aside and see the person first. Place value on the individual first and you can't go wrong.
  3. What have you learned about leadership now that you are a DHS employee?
    Leadership transcends everything that we do, across all walks of life. It’s a calling that many have undertaken and have made their way into our history books. We don’t get to hear about all of the success stories that take place in DHS.  Trust me they happen, stop look and listen for them.  You don’t have to look far.
  4. What is your favorite quote about leadership that reflects these values?
    You never know how the little things you do can make a big impact on others… Like it says in this quote “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen” – John Wooden
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