Accidental Author, Serves Army and Air Force, Offers Advice
David Falvey with his fellow soldiers in Kuwait, just prior
to heading north into Iraq
From October ’07 to June ’08, Capt. David Falvey ’04 (political science) of Billerica, MA, served a tour of duty in Iraq. During that period, he received a package of letters and drawings from a 4th-grade class in Long Island to which he responded. Later, with the encouragement of a family friend, he turned the letters into a children’s book, Letters to a Soldier, which is getting some great reviews.
“I’m sort of an accidental author,” says Falvey who, besides being a captain in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, is an acquisitions program manager for the US Air Force at Hanscom AFB. “I responded by email to the teacher, answering all the questions—and there were some great ones! I knew my family and friends would get a kick out of them, so I shared. One, who works in children’s book publishing, brought them to her editorial board, and Letters to a Soldier was born.”
Falvey dedicated the book to Sergeant Scott Miller, a platoon member who, during the deployment, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Says Falvey, “He had already beaten the disease once during the unit’s previous deployment in 2002 and had fought hard to rejoin us. He had such an incredibly strong spirit. That his family was so touched by my dedication means a lot to me. He sure means a lot to us!" Watch a Fox interview about Letters to a Soldier. The book is available through Barnes and Noble.
Asked if he sees another book in the future, Falvey says, “I would love to compile letters home to family and friends into an adult book. In the Army, deployments are always on the horizon, so another tour would give me new material, perhaps for another children’s book too.”
Meanwhile, Falvey continues with his two jobs. “In acquisitions you ‘acquire’ new systems and technology for the government, in my case the Air Force. I work on a program called JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System). This fleet of 707 airplanes flies over hotspots such as Iraq and Afghanistan and emits electronic signals to map the landscape, giving information to the troops on the ground. My program seeks to put better engines on the fleet.”
Falvey works closely with the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, as well as people in contracting, finance, legal, test, and engineering to ensure that all requirements of the acquisition cycle are met and documented. He negotiates proposals and addresses questions from Congress or the Pentagon about projected costs.
In the Guard, Falvey typically serves one weekend a month plus two weeks a year, unless his unit is activated. As company commander, he leads about 170 soldiers and briefs the brigade commander. “Our unit is anticipating deployment in 2010,” he says, “and, above all else, I ensure the company is prepared and has met all the Army requirements. I’m in charge of all the equipment, company training, and the soldiers’ morale, health and welfare.”
His civilian job, Falvey says, is a result of his military experience and government security clearance. But it took some patience. “For three years after college I was working in dead-end sales jobs while doing my time in the National Guard. And then our unit was deployed. I gained lots credentials and experience, and it showed. Only two weeks after my return, I landed a position as a government contractor and a year later switched to being a federal government employee. I love my work!”
Admittedly though, life balancing isn’t always easy, particularly because Falvey has a natural desire to get involved in everything. “I got my first lesson in balancing when I was a senior at UMass Amherst,” he says. "Besides being on the track and field team and in Army ROTC, I was also an SGA senator, in the Republican Club and part of the Boltwood Community Service Project. I was actually too involved and noticed that I wasn’t excelling in anything. So I prioritized, focusing on ROTC and track and field, cutting back on campus politics. I became a much better cadet and captain of the track team. Prioritizing is key.”
Students, Falvey thinks, should use their college experience to learn and grow as much as possible. “A great quote from Into the Wild is ‘The core of a man’s spirit comes from new experiences.’ My openness to new experiences began at UMass. From multiple student organizations and sports teams to being situated in a tremendous college town—plus a great education at a reasonable price—UMass offered so much.”
In regard to his career choice, Falvey offers advice. “Acquisitions is an exciting, lucrative and secure field, particularly if you like traveling around the world and are interested in working with the military. Because it is such an in-depth field, employees come from diverse backgrounds, including finance, contracting, legal, project management, logistics, and engineering. Having military experience goes a long way, but it certainly isn’t a requirement. Various internships allow students to work in acquisitions…and that’s a great way to break into the field. I can attest that once you have your foot in the door and make a great impression, you’ve gone a long way to solidifying a career for yourself. Look into these internships!”
November 12, 2009