LOOK OUT FOR DRONES
by Ellen Summey
- TITLE: Director, Acquisition & Resources Division, Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) supporting the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-sUAS) Office (JCO)
- COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: JCO/RCCTO
- ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Program management
- YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 13
- MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Military
- YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 23
- AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and information systems acquisition
- EDUCATION: MBA, James Madison University; bachelor’s degree in finance, Lehigh University
- AWARDS: Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (fifth award), Army Commendation Medal (fifth award), Army Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Basic Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Ranger Tab, Army and OSD/Joint Staff Badges
- HOMETOWN: Hagerstown, Maryland
(March 10, 2021) -- Col. Gregory Soulé wasn’t really set on an Army career when he signed up for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at Lehigh University, but he needed a way to pay for college so he decided to give it a try.
“Once I got there, it really grew on me,” he said. That was 27 years ago. “I fell in love with the culture and the camaraderie while I was in ROTC, and then my first assignment was in Italy, so I don’t know how you can’t fall in love with that, too.”
The young infantry officer would go on to serve in platoon and company leadership over the next couple of assignments, before taking on a new position where he could help others like himself. “I wanted to give back to the Army by teaching ROTC,” he said. Soulé was able to earn his MBA while teaching ROTC at James Madison University. “I saw where we were headed with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he recalled. “Some of the young kids coming straight out of college were going to basic officer training, and in some cases, joining their units that were already deployed.” That was much different than his experience, years earlier. “I wanted to do what I could to give them a leg up, so they were as prepared as possible.” During that assignment, he saw nearly 100 cadets graduate and begin their active-duty careers—his proudest professional achievement yet.
After finishing his MBA, he knew where he wanted to go next—acquisition. “I got my first taste of acquisition as a company commander in Baghdad,” he said. He had been involved in contracting with local vendors for different jobs around the base in Iraq, sometimes dealing with millions of dollars and “developing rapid agreements.” Ultimately, the work fascinated him and he hoped it would allow him to contribute to the Army in new ways. “During my infantry experience, we would sometimes get equipment that wasn’t exactly what we needed or was fielded without a robust training package.” But he’s doing his best to make sure that’s not the case in the future.
Today, Soulé leads the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO)’s direct acquisition support to the Army-led Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-sUAS) Office (JCO). In layman’s terms, it’s all about drones. “Most people outside the military don’t think about the threat and nefarious purpose of drones,” he said. “They also don’t realize how large drones can be, that they can deliver kinetic effects, or attack in swarms. When I explain this, and that my job is trying to deliver a capability to protect our forces, our allies and home bases from those elements, I think it really opens their eyes.” According to Soulé, DOD classifies drones on a scale of 1 to 5, based on their size, airspeed, flight altitude and payload capacity. “Class 1 is like a hobby drone—some are micro, like the size of a book, and others are bigger. Once you get to about a class 3, they can be up to 20 feet across, or it can be a fixed-wing plane that can hold a lot bigger payload, and go farther and higher. Class 5, those are the ones with a 60- to 80-foot wingspan,” (like the MQ-9 Reaper or RQ-4 Global Hawk). The joint C-sUAS initiative is bringing an enterprise approach to the counter-drone class 1-3 capability area across the services, and the RCCTO is the assigned materiel and acquisition lead in support of the JCO.
“I’m trying to find a balance and the best middle ground that gives everyone what they need, while reducing duplication,” he said. “For years the different services have made decisions on what to field based on their own service priorities and requirements.” While that was effective at the time, today’s explosion of drone technology creates new risks, and “we’re bringing a departmentwide enterprise approach to countering this increasing threat. Drone technology is a problem we really need to get our hands around—it could ultimately change the way we and our adversaries fight, so we have to build a robust suite of offensive and defensive measures.”
What advice does he give to young Soldiers? “The most routine advice I’ve given is if someone asks if they should take an assignment at the Pentagon,” he said. “When I worked there, I quickly found that it was very different than being in a project office.” Though he said it was challenging to be somewhat removed from the project office and the Soldiers in the field, “you have to remember people are relying on you down the line. It’s a critical role and you have to maintain focus.” He said an assignment at the Pentagon is beneficial in the long term, because you can gain new perspective on how the Army operates at a higher level, how the budget process works and how Congress functions. “It will make you a better officer and a better project manager.”
In addition to being a good officer and a good project manager, Soulé has another goal as well: being a good leader. “I reflect back on what my dad taught me, which was the golden rule. ‘Treat others like you would like to be treated.’” He said that life lesson impacts him daily, and influences the way he interacts with his team. “In my opinion, there’s usually not a reason to raise your voice. If something happens and it’s stressful and you start to raise your voice, that doesn’t help anyone.” He knows that his team is looking to him for leadership in those kind of challenges, so he tries to lead by example. “You just need to figure out how you’re going to fix it and go from there.” Treating others with respect makes them feel like valued members of the team, which will contribute to the success of the mission, he said. And whether that mission is in the infantry, contracting, teaching or countering drones, he has always focused on that goal—solving problems for Soldiers.