Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr. and others bid farewell to Army Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Manley, former DISA senior enlisted advisor, or SEA, after 35 years of service to the nation, during a retirement ceremony held on Fort Huachuca Jan. 11, As the DISA SEA, Manley was the principal advisor to the director and to the staff in developing policies on morale, welfare, health, training, discipline and on the use of the agency’s assigned enlisted personnel.
“It’s a team effort across the board when you’re looking at DISA — versus other organizations I’ve been at,” said Manley. “With the agency, it’s truly a global team effort.”
He credits much of his success as DISA SEA to the agency’s senior enlisted leaders.
“I was tasked to go out and find out what goes on in all the different organizations, bring that information back to leadership, and from there try to figure out how to make it better for the whole,” said Manley. “I had 18 senior enlisted leaders globally dispersed who are all E-9s from their services, so they’re the top of their services, as well. That made my job very simple — only to provide guidance and mentorship.”
Manley spoke about the morale boosting importance of taking the time to see people, talk to them, and ask them how they are doing.
“That goes a long way — just asking a person each morning, ‘how are you doing today?’” said Manley.
During his career, Manley has served as a command sergeant major at every level from battalion to three-star organization. He has held key positions at all levels and has made a difference in each organization in which he served. Manley has reached the three highest pinnacles that a signal senior enlisted advisor can get to: he was the Network Enterprise Technology Command command sergeant major; he was the SEA to the Army’s chief information officer-G6 at the Pentagon, the most senior signal enlisted billet in the Army; and he was DISA senior enlisted advisor.
“[When the DISA SEA position came about,] the Army asked me to represent them because each service had to give a representative to come to compete for the position,” said Manley. “As I thought about it, I realized that for 32 years, I have impacted and served Soldiers; taught, mentored, and guided Soldiers; but I never had a joint assignment … What leader would not want to close out their career [with the chance to] impact the future leaders of tomorrow for all the services?”
When he came to DISA, Manley said it was a learning curve for him because he had to learn the culture of every service.
“I know the Army culture; I’ve been doing it my whole career,” said Manley. “But I had to learn the Air Force culture; I had to learn the Marine Corps culture; and I had to learn the Navy culture.”
For this task, he had a great deal of help from DISA’s senior enlisted leaders. He learned from them and challenged these experts to develop, mentor, and give guidance to the service members not only across DISA, but also within their services.
“When I look across my career, I had a great career,” said Manley. “I was not at DISA long. I had a lot of people to help me get here, to help develop me, that I’ve learned from … and hopefully I have impacted a lot of people’s lives, as well, not only here these last two-and-one-half years at the agency, but across the 35 years in service to our nation. And it’s been enjoyable.”
Manley is still deciding if in retirement he will do something in the civilian government sector, in the contracting sector, or something different from communications, such as teaching history at the college level.
Manley is also excited to spend time with his family in retirement. His wife, Georgia, retired from the Army in 1999.
Manley had many thank yous and best wishes to everyone at DISA. He thanked the workforce including the DISA team and the young service members. He also wished his replacement well.
“To Sergeant Major Antonio Vizcarrondo: I wish you all the best in this assignment. I hope you enjoy this assignment. I wish you and your family the best, and hopefully they have many more successes.”
“To everybody: best of luck. Continue doing what you’re doing — taking care of the nation. Remember, communications plus teamwork equals success.”