Employee Spotlight Featuring Peter Smith

Transatlantic Middle East District
Published Jan. 12, 2024
Updated: Jan. 12, 2024
Peter Smith and Mikayla Shanholtzer review contracts.

Peter Smith and Mikayla Shanholtzer review contracts.

Peter Smith, a contracting officer for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) in Winchester, Va., said one of the things he learned early in life was to always be open to the next opportunity. It’s that philosophy that led him to his current job and that he followed when offered a yearlong assignment in with Kuwait. 

Born in Russia, he and his older sister were adopted by a couple in Fairfax, Va.  Growing up he was active in sports playing football, baseball, basketball, and wrestling. That passion led him to West Virginia University’s (WVU) coaching and performing science degree program. The program however, was not what he expected as it focused more on biology, anatomy, and nutrition than coaching. In time, he decided this program was not the right path for him.

Smith decided to leave WVU and attend George Mason University (GMU) to study business management with a focus on entrepreneurship. While attending school, he started his own mobile detail business. He learned how to manage a business and workforce. Prior to graduation, he sold the business and had to figure out what his next professional steps were.

Coming from a family who work in federal and local government, they encouraged him to look at USAJobs, the federal hiring website, for positions. Smith said, “I knew I did not want a desk job, but I wanted a stable job.” He actively applied to multiple listings. A job offer came from Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. He decided to drive up to N.J. to get a feel for the area.  On his way, he received a temporary job offer from TAM as a contract specialist.  Smith said, “I had no idea what TAM did, or even what a contract specialist does, but the opportunity to stay close to home made this an easy decision. I turned back from N.J. and accepted the offer from TAM.”

Smith began his career at TAM in an internship that is now called the Army Fellows program. According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History website, “This program is designed to attract, recruit, and hire top civilian talent. The 2-year fellowship is developmental in nature and blends progressive and sequential work assignments, formal training, and self-development as individuals' progress from entry-level positions to more advanced key positions within the workforce.”

Smith said, “I appreciated the program because I rotated through the different departments and learned about what TAM does. I also gained multiple people’s perspectives on the mission and the work.”

Smith’s decision to join TAM paid off and he recently took on an acting section chief role.

“This experience gave me the opportunity to grow my leadership skills. I enjoy challenging my team to figure out the why of what we do. Instead of just being told to do something one way, I encouraged my team to be curious and ask questions to determine if that is the best way to move a contract forward. It’s been a highlight to help empower and build the contracting team,” he said.

That role also helped prepare Smith for his next opportunity when he applied for a 12-month temporary assignment as a Contract Specialist for the Transatlantic Expeditionary District (TAE) in Kuwait.

“Currently I work with pre-award contracts. In this position I will get to experience the post-contract period, overseeing construction and doing contract modifications. I know being on site will help me understand the whole process of contracts to construction better. I look forward to this learning opportunity and expanding my skillset to become a more effective employee.”

Eric Caruso, contracting section chief & contracting officer, explains what an asset Peter is to TAM, “As a contracting officer and leader, Peter represents all 7 of the Army’s core values. His personal and professional success is directly attributed to his willingness to tackle challenging tasks head-on and never shying away from growth opportunities. I know he’ll make the most of his TDY and come back as an even stronger asset to TAM.”

TAM and the TAE execute USACE’s construction and related support services across the Middle East providing their unique expertise to the U.S. military and allied nation partners.