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NEWS | Sept. 19, 2022

Orientation course prepares new DMA workers for success

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

New Virginia Department of Military Affairs employees completed the DMA New Employee Orientation Course Sept. 8, 2022, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. New Fort Pickett workers attended the orientation in person, while, for the first time, the course was live streamed so new employees at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia, could attend virtually. 

Retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, the DMA Chief Operations Officer, welcomed 26 new workers during the event, including 18 from Fort Pickett and eight from SMR. The course provides an overview of the organization, as well as specific administrative training aimed at making sure the new hires are ready to launch a successful career. 

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tim White, the DMA instructor and trainer, organized the event and explained why it’s vital for the fledgling employees. 

“The DMA New Employee Orientation training was conducted for new state employees to help them become familiar with the workings and structure of the DMA organization,” said White. “The training helps each new employee understand how their new position falls into supporting the big picture of state and federal missions and deployments.” 

The orientation marked the first time the training, which is conducted quarterly and required for new full and part-time DMA employees, was broadcast virtually for new workers elsewhere in the state, saving them time and reducing risks associated with travel. White said with the success of the virtual orientation, it will become a standard part of the training when needed moving forward. 

“Using this training method prevented new employees from having to drive up to three hours one-way for training at Fort Pickett. The math equaled five and a half hours of windshield time and four hours of classroom training for a total of nine and a half hours. Conducting and calculating risk assessments, especially in winter months, fuel cost and training value, we will continue to improve our methods of live streaming when needed.”

The course gives the new workers a detailed look at the complex structure of the DMA and Virginia National Guard’s missions and organization. In addition, they receive training in administrative tasks, overviews of different departments and presentations on “what right looks like.”

 “The agency feels that the ethics, safety and Human Resource training are key topics, so that each new employee will understand what is expected of them and the policies that guide them throughout their career with DMA,” said White. “The students always comment that pay and leave training are the most important things that they feel that they receive from the course. They are also interested in the mission of other departments, the chain of command and their functions.”

The course itself has improved and evolved since the creation of the DMA trainer position several years ago. It was born from a need for a more formal training approach, one which has improved since its inception, partly on the suggestions from course takers themselves. It’s culminated in a training standard which has received recognition at the state level. 

“The formal approach required conducting rehearsals prior to training, slide decks reviewed and updated two weeks prior to training and the usage of the Regional Training Institute classrooms that provided more of a school-learning environment, just a few of the key improvements,” explained White. “Some of the best improvements to training came directly from the student’s formal written After Action Reviews. The new employee comments were implemented as needed into the course to help retain/maintain the training value. The DMA New Employee Orientation Course was published in 2019 as a ‘Best Practice’ by the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management.”

Even with that recognition, the DMA staff is continuing to find ways to improve the hiring and training process. 

“With the addition of the new recruiter, Lindsay Glass, to the staff, DMA plans to incorporate more improvements to the overall new employee orientation process from start to finish,” said White.

 Ultimately, White said the training helps the new hires integrate into and learn about the organization they’ll be supporting with their employment. 

“The training allows the ability for new employees to network with others in the state,” said White. “It helps the new employee understand the importance of using the chain of command and identifying leadership and key personnel, and what they are responsible for in the Virginia Guard.” 

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