HUNTSVILLE, Alabama--Christina Freese, the business director of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, was recently chosen to participate in a succession management program federal agencies use to identify and prepare aspiring senior executive leaders.
Freese was selected to participate in the 2019 Veterans Affairs Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program.
Since the Army doesn’t currently offer an equivalent development program, Freese sought options with other federal agencies and because the VA is an important Huntsville Center stakeholder, she said she felt the VA program was a great opportunity to learn more about the Cabinet-level agency that provides benefits and services to eligible U.S. military veterans around the world.
“I am pleased to participate with the VA,” Freese said. “The services the VA provides our veterans are essential and, since the VA is also an important stakeholder with Huntsville Center, this appeared to be a great opportunity for me to learn more about them.”
According to the Office of Personnel Management website, an SESCDP is designed to further develop SES candidates’ competencies in each of the Executive Core Qualifications. Graduates of SESCDPs who are certified by OPM’s Qualifications Review Board may receive an initial career SES appointment without further competition.
QRB-certified graduates typically start their SESCDP with experiences normally obtained at the GS-15 level, or equivalent. However, some agencies open their SESCDPs to individuals at the GS-14 level, or equivalent. Note that QRB certification does not guarantee placement in the SES, and SESCDP participation is not required for selection into the Senior Executive Service.
Freese was one of only two Army-employee candidates selected for the competitive program which seeks out individuals possessing the qualities and abilities needed in executive leaders across the federal government.
When Freese received notification of her selection, she said she was excited, honored and thankful.
“I knew the process would be very competitive and that only a small number of applicants would be selected, especially from outside the VA,” Freese said. “So I was thrilled the selection panel found my career potential worthy for the cohort group.”
Although SESCDP is challenging and requires considerable effort including developmental assignments outside Huntsville Center, Freese will continue in her role as the Center’s business director during the 18 to 24-month program. Freese said her personal career approach has always been to continued growth and development.
“I don't shy away from difficult challenges and opportunities that stretch the bounds of my expertise because I feel that what I learn through those experiences makes me more effective,” Freese said.
“The potential future opportunity to serve in the Senior Executive Service is something I want to equip myself for, should it occur,” she said. “However, I can use the skills and experiences I gain to be a better leader no matter what role I’m in.”
Broadening experiences like SESCDP always expand the professional network and grow technical and leadership soft skills, and Freese said she envisions her participation will reinforce many things including the Army values, the essential skills in collaboration and partnerships, as well as strengthen her strategic understanding of complex planning and operations.
“The experience will enable me to better take care of our people and lead positive changes within the Center,” Freese said. “Improving the Center ultimately helps position the Army to revolutionize how we operate to ensure a modernized Army that's fully ready to fight and win our nation's wars.”
Col. John Hurley, Huntsville Center commander, said Freese’s selection is another example of the talented people that the Center employs.
“Her selection is a reminder of how competitive and sought-after USACE employees are among the Army family,” Hurley said.