A U.S. Strategic Command analyst was recently elected president of the Military Operations Research Society, or MORS, a nation-wide organization dedicated to enhancing the quality and usefulness of military operations research.
The MORS board of directors announced Pat McKenna, chief of USSTRATCOM Capabilities Analysis Branch, J8, as their new leader during the 74th MORS Symposium at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
McKenna and his team of analysts at USSTRATCOM are responsible for cross missions analysis, providing analytic support to assess command questions.
As president of MORS, McKenna is responsible for chairing society meetings and organizing events. In addition to their annual event, the society also holds topical symposiums throughout the year at different locations across the country.
The president also interfaces with senior leadership from each service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who sponsor the organization. “[I] see what direction they would like us to go and if there are problems they would like us to look at and work on,” McKenna explained.
“But the ultimate goal of every president [is to] give the society its direction and push for improvements to better the society as a whole,” McKenna said.
His climb to the top started in 1994 when McKenna was encouraged to attend MORS’ annual symposium, where he began giving presentations and participating in professional exchange. “The annual symposium is a three-day conference where something on the order of thirty different working groups are giving presentations in separate sessions throughout that [period],” he said.
Persons representing each military service, government agencies, contractors and academic institutions attend the symposium each year. Their meetings cover concurrent general and working group sessions and tutorials. General sessions consist of formally prepared papers or panels centered around a theme approved by the board of directors. The working groups provide for informal discussion and debate on specific issues, methods and applications of operations research. Tutorials expose participants to new concepts, methods and techniques in operations research.
The chance for education, career enhancement and to address relevant issues among his peers enticed McKenna. He soon became heavily involved in the society, co-chairing the arms control working group for the symposium. “I didn’t screw that up, so they asked me to be the chair for [that] working group,” McKenna said.
Working his way up the ladder, McKenna received the opportunity to organize his own symposium, which lead to his election to vice-president of professional affairs and then vice-president of meeting operations.
All the while, he balanced his work at USSTRATCOM with his MORS responsibilities. “I was fortunate because my bosses have always, and still do, support the activities, [which are] all voluntary,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on my own, but I also spend time from work and they support that. ”
A longtime member of MORS, Ray Valek, a USSTRATCOM contracted senior systems analyst, has known McKenna since he came to Strategic Air Command as an intern in 1988. “I was Pat McKenna’s supervisor back in my civil-service days,” Valek said.
Valek said the society made the right choice for their president with McKenna. “He’s one of the command’s best analyst in my opinion,” he said. “I’ll guarantee you the last four commanders we’ve had knew him by [his] first name. When they had a high level project, he was in on it. ”
McKenna has found that his participation in MORS not only provided the opportunity for professional exchange, but also built skills that expanded his career. “When I look at what the society’s done for me, the biggest benefit has been the mentoring of my career,” McKenna said. “Some of the responsibility that I was allowed to have in MORS proceeded the level of responsibilities that I was given in my job. MORS was training me to lead bigger and bigger projects. ”
With this knowledge, McKenna developed ideas for the direction in which to lead the society. He hopes to improve the development of analysts through mentoring, education and leadership opportunities during his tenure as president. “We’re trying to get [our juniors] involved in working groups because it’s very beneficial not only from an analytic side, but professionally from a management and organizational side. ”