From, left, Deidre Hooks, enhanced combat helmet team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command, accepts the Commander’s Excellence in Program Management Award from Col. Michael Manning, program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems. (Photo by Jim Katzaman/U.S. Marine Corps)
ALBANY — Deidre Hooks, Albany native and senior program analyst/team leader for Headborne Systems Team at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., has received the Commander’s Excellence in Program Management Award from MCSC for guiding the new enhanced combat helmet into production, officials with MCSC announced.
She is the daughter of Henry L. and Joyce Hooks of Albany.
Hooks was the senior program analyst who led the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH) team that navigated the equipment through qualification testing, initial production and fielding. In doing so, she worked with military counterparts and industry partners to meet newly introduced test criteria.
“This is the only helmet that has been tested and passed using protocols set by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation protocols,” Hooks said.
Officials say collaboration with the Army dates from March 2009 when the Marine Corps received a requirement which stated that the Corps needed to produce a helmet with enhanced ballistic protection from selected small-arms ammunition and fragmentation. The Navy joined the program the following year.
Meanwhile, the ECH had to maintain all other characteristics of the Marines’ lightweight helmet and Army’s advanced combat helmet. Officials say the new helmet also had to be compatible with other components of infantry combat equipment such as body armor systems, protective goggles, night vision equipment and a camouflage fabric helmet cover.
“We provide value for the taxpayer by buying helmets only for warfighters being deployed,” Hooks said. “The new test protocol also taught us many lessons on how to proceed on helmet production.”
She said the final ECH, now being fielded, is a marked improvement over current headgear.
“This helmet is above and beyond,” the Albany native said. “It was tested and passed using the old standards as well as the new protocols. The ECH surpasses anything we’ve had before.
“The ECH fully exploits the latest lightweight material technology, ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene materials. It provides increased small-arms ballistic protection above what is currently provided by the lightweight and advanced combat helmets.”
A graduate of Dougherty Comprehensive High School, she was her high school class valedictorian and went on to attend and graduate from Albany State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, a biography provided by Hooks said. She received her Masters of Business Administration in industrial management and leadership from Baker College while serving in the Army as a non-commissioned officer.
After leaving the Army, she was hired as a civilian Marine in the logistics field. While working as a training logistics element manager, she received her Masters of Science in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology. After three years of working in the logistics field, she shifted to program management and was certified through Defense Acquisition University, her biography said.
At MCSC, she has also managed programs for flame resistant organizational gear and the Joint Service Lightweight Nuclear Biological Chemical Reconnaissance System. She manages the allocation of funds ranging from $50 million to $150 million across a range of multiple million-dollar contracts.
An active volunteer, she is also an ordained minister at For Christ Ministry.