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The Language
of Leadership

Written by Pamela Alstead

"Every job, every career has its own set of terminology, acronyms and catch-phrases," states retired Army Col. Cheri Provancha (D.B.A., Management, candidate) - soon-to-be Dr. Provancha. "I’m learning to translate my military skill set into the language of business."

Retired Army Col. Cheri Provancha (D.B.A., Management, candidate)

Retired U.S. Army Col. Cheri Provancha headed the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa.

That translation will require United Nations-level skill - and a lot of time, considering Provancha's wealth of experience and accomplishment. After a beribboned 30-year career in the U.S. Army, Provancha is entering the world of corporate America, primed for executive-level leadership.

Provancha's last duties before retiring in 2013 were as director of logistics at Fort Hood, Texas, supporting 56,000 U.S. service members in Fort Hood and Afghanistan. That must have felt like a relaxing vacation from her previous post at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Penn. There, she was depot commander.

“That’s similar to being a CEO of a $1.7 billion company,” she remarks. It is also comparable to the combined roles of mayor and city manager, considering the depot's population of more than 2,800 service members and families and their civilian support staff.

"I’m learning to translate my military skill set into the language of business."

Letterkenny Army Depot builds, maintains, modifies, and delivers equipment such as armored vehicles, mobile kitchens, radar equipment, and much more. Another capability is the repair and de-militarization of missiles.

"The military industrial depots function like a business, generating returns and profits," Provancha explains. "Logistics, personnel management, production, supply chain, vendor relations, marketing, and financial management are all part of the job.”

Provancha joined the Army back in the 1970s, shortly after the Women's Army Corps was dissolved, allowing women's full participation in the U.S. Army. Her military career includes several tours in areas of conflict, including Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, two tours for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“Taking America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way is a heavy responsibility," she says. Recalling her deployment to Iraq as a battalion commander, she says, "I had 700 soldiers in my unit and odds were that some would get hurt or worse. In circumstances like that, resources are thin and you have to very quickly figure out how to get the best use of all your people, so that you can bring home as many possible."

“Taking America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way is a heavy responsibility."

Of those 700 soldiers, 46 were wounded, "But every one of them came home to their families," she remembers.

Now in the civilian sector, Provancha is working toward the highest degree in business, the Doctor of Business Administration. The D.B.A. focuses on applied business management, a logical fit with her experience and goals. NCU is another logical, in part because "the admissions team really knew their stuff," she notes. "Every question I had about military benefits and conditions, they knew the answers. They didn’t have to say, ‘Well, I’ll look into that and get back to you.’ That was impressive.”

The research-oriented Ph.D. track is definitely not for her, she maintains. “I can take a business process and make it better all day long," she laughs, "but coming up with a theory and model all on my own? I don’t think I could do that!”

Provancha is now back in Visalia, Calif., for this next chapter in her life. Though nominally retired, she keeps herself more than busy, volunteering with community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

"I've become a Lion!” she adds. Her local Lions Club has put her to work shepherding community projects such as running an election poll, supporting the high school band review competition, and making repairs to the Adult Literacy Center. In her free time, Provancha and her wife, Diana Compo, are remodeling their home. “It’s a hobby,” she shares. “My dad was a general contractor, and I got my love and knowledge of it from him.”

"The D.B.A. will help me learn business so that I can apply my military experience and hopefully serve my country in other ways.”

Provancha plans to put her D.B.A. to work in the field of consulting. She expects her clients to be large and, especially, small businesses - a significant change in scale from her previous positions.

She relates this new focus to her history of service to the country. Small business, she states, "is what America is built on. The restaurants, the stores, that’s what makes America strong. The D.B.A. will help me learn business so that I can apply my military experience and hopefully serve my country in other ways.”

Provancha really doesn't need to "learn business," of course. In any setting, she speaks the language of leadership - no translation needed.