Professional development programs provide employees career-enhancing opportunities

February 05, 2015

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • ARL is committed to providing opportunities to employees who seek to further their career within the Army
  • Developmental programs help make the connection between what researchers do at the bench level and how it translates into technologies and capabilities for the Soldier
  • Employees encouraged to pursue professional growth opportunities

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory are committed to providing opportunities to employees who seek to further their career within the Army. One such developmental opportunity is the Executive Officer Program at RDECOM.

Dr. Stephanie Piraino, a researcher from ARL, was selected for this program and began her assignment at RDECOM in February 2014. Piraino, who began working at ARL as a postdoc in 2003, was encouraged by leaders within her directorate to apply for the program and was selected by an interview panel.

"I was excited for a new opportunity and to learn more about how ARL fit within RDECOM and the Army. I appreciated the support that I received not only from ARL, but also from the RDECOM headquarters staff when I started," said Piraino.

By serving as the executive officer, more commonly referred to as an XO in the Army, to RDECOM leadership, the employee is provided a holistic perspective of RDECOM through interaction with senior leaders across the command, the Army and the broader research, development and engineering community. The goal of this program is to prepare individuals to serve as future leaders in the Army's science and technology community.

Part of this developmental program includes working in other staff sections within the command to get a better understanding of how the headquarters operates. Piraino started her detail at RDECOM headquarters as part of the Strategic Initiatives Group where she contributed to the formulation of RDECOM's strategic plan and organized the first RDECOM former commanders' forum.

"It was in the SIG [Strategic Initiatives Group] and during the strategy sessions where I really started to see the relevance of the research that I had been doing at ARL," explained Piraino. "To make the connection between what we do at the bench level, and how that translates into technologies and capabilities for the Soldier, is eye-opening."

The majority of Piraino's RDECOM assignment has been as the XO to Jyuji Hewitt, who is the RDECOM executive deputy to the commanding general. As part of the command group, Piraino supports Hewitt with operational and strategic planning and execution of the command's vision, mission, goals and objectives. Piraino describes the pace as "intense," yet "exhilarating."

"Stephanie's ability to understand the science and technology and communicate the importance of that work for senior Army leaders is commendable. Her communication skills have been an asset to RDECOM as she's interacted with leaders throughout RDECOM, AMC and ASA (ALT)," said Hewitt. "In a short amount of time, Stephanie has made great contributions to the command. This opportunity for Dr. Piraino will show even greater to the Army and RDECOM as she applies her gained experiences in future assignments."

Piraino has also had the unique experience of working for two directors — Maj. Gen. John Wharton and former director, Dale Ormond.

"Change is exciting, and working at the headquarters during the past year has been exciting and inspiring. Despite the many changes, one thing has remained constant—the commitment of the command's leadership to advocate for science, technology and engineering in support of the Soldier, the Army and the nation," said Piraino.

During her time at RDECOM, Piraino has traveled extensively. As XO, and in support of the command, her work has taken her to the Pentagon, many of the Research, Development and Engineering Centers, the Combined Armed Services Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, and the Army Materiel Command Headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama.

"The visit to CASCOM was particularly enlightening because of the thousands of Soldiers on the Army's installation. Somehow seeing the young Soldiers at the quartermaster school learning about technologies that RDECOM scientists and engineers have developed makes the science mean so much more. It has broadened my perspective and deepened my commitment to science and working for DOD," said Piraino.

Piraino said this has been an incredible assignment and encourages others to pursue professional growth opportunities like the Executive Officer Program at RDECOM.

"I never anticipated that this would be such a rewarding experience. I have viewed each day, each task and assignment as an opportunity to learn something new. I'm grateful for the experience," said Piraino.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is the nation's premier laboratory for land forces and is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it. For more information, visit, follow @ArmyResearchLab on Twitter and follow the lab on Facebook at


Last Update / Reviewed: February 5, 2015