FORT HAMILTON, N.Y. -- Amy Holmes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division strategic integrator, remembers being in college flipping through a course catalog when the idea of majoring in anthropology came to her.
“I thought I would go to school to be an interpreter,” Holmes said. “I was very strong at French, and I was learning German. I just randomly picked anthropology out of the course catalog when I was a freshman.”
Taking a class in archeology and volunteering in a lab helped to seal her decision to pursue it as a focus of her bachelor’s in anthropology.
After graduating in 1995, Holmes got her first job at an excavation project in east Texas where she unearthed prehistoric objects like stone tools and hearths. She participated in multiple excavation projects after that, eventually going back to school in 1998 to earn her masters in anthropology with a specialization in geoarchaeology.
Soon after, she worked as a geoarchaeologist in the private sector throughout the western United States. In 2007, a mentor told her about an open archaeologist position at the USACE Los Angeles District. According to Holmes, patriotism motivated her to apply for the position, thus beginning her career with USACE.
Holmes liked how the work was different at USACE because of the public service aspect.
“It was refreshing, because I remember thinking ‘It’s rewarding to work for something bigger than just a company making money,’” Holmes said. “Just really understanding what public trust was and contributing to something greater than yourself really resonated with me, so I was excited.”
Holmes was also intrigued by the training and professional development opportunities at USACE.
Since 2007, Holmes has worked for USACE Portland District, USACE headquarters, U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Europe in Belgium, and deployed twice to Afghanistan before coming to NAD in 2020. According to Holmes, her first Afghanistan deployment in 2010-2011 was a “heat experience” which broadened her into a USACE project manager.
As a strategic integrator, Holmes integrates programs and enablers to meet the NAD regional directors’ goals. She ensures the regional directors have what they need to operate effectively. Additionally, Holmes plans and coordinates the work of the regional directors’ office and supervises their executive assistants.
“North Atlantic Division is the first division office I’ve worked at,” Holmes said. “What I really like about it here is the mission and footprint. NAD’s mission is pretty unique. I’m interested in the work we do for other agencies and our partners in the United States and abroad.”
She also credits the caliber of the people at NAD.
“Everybody is so sharp, and they will bend over backwards to help you,” Holmes said. “When I came onboard during the pandemic, I was refreshed by how competent and nice people were. Their commitment to our mission is inspiring.”
Holmes reflected on her career so far, saying it’s remarkable how far she’s gotten.
“I never thought I would be here today. I never thought I would be on the East Coast. I never ever thought I would be in Brooklyn,” she said. “I think it’s because I’ve had really good mentors through the Corps of Engineers, and it’s afforded me the opportunity to study Army leadership and recognize career development opportunities. All of that has culminated in my interest in mentoring and helping people determine what their next career step is, how to update their resumes, and how to prepare for interviews. I’m passionate about developing people because others took the time to develop me, and I am so grateful. It really helped me, and it feels like a natural progression for me to want to give back in this capacity.”
Holmes’ husband, Joe Harris, has also been a strong supporter of her career.
“Joe’s always supported me, and it has been phenomenal,” Holmes said. “Even when I originally said, ‘Hey, I want to go to Afghanistan,’ he realized that was a step I needed to advance my career. We value our careers and supporting each other, and we felt we shouldn’t have to make a major [career] sacrifice for one or the other. I think it’s been a relationship of mutual respect, of what can I do to support him and his career and, likewise, how can he support mine.”
Looking forward, Holmes said she is excited for the opportunities that lie ahead. She was recently selected for the Defense Senior Leader Development Program (DSLDP), a two-year Department of Defense program that enables civilian leaders by providing structured learning opportunities with enterprise-wide perspective and by developing the competencies needed to lead people, programs and organizations in the joint, interagency and multinational environment. These opportunities include Defense-focused leadership seminars, professional military education and individual development activities.
She noted the application process was rigorous, but worth the effort. As a component of the program, this August Holmes will attend the College of Naval Warfare in Newport, Rhode Island, for 10 months to earn a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic studies. After that, Holmes will go on a one-year experiential assignment, most likely at the Pentagon. Her interests include defense strategy; installations, energy, and environment; and Women, Peace, and Security.
“For the last 10 years of my federal career, I’m looking forward to serving the American people as a DoD senior leader and possibly as a senior executive,” she said. “DSLDP will provide me with the tools and experience necessary to lead at the DoD Enterprise level."