By Lindsay Emery
Dabren Wills was working for a small business supporting FEMA efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2010 when PAE called him to manage projects in Africa and the Middle East.
“I decided it would be a really good opportunity to get on the ground and see not just about how we operate but the needs in terms of the people that we were helping and supporting from some of those countries,” Wills said. “That helped me get some perspective on the mission and a reminder of what we’re doing on a daily basis.”
Now a senior director of International Logistics and Stabilization, Wills helps track peacekeeping operations, logistics, international development and capacity-building for various efforts, including COVID-19 testing for the Southeastern Conference. Wills helps oversee day-to-day operations and growth of 10 PAE programs, which are valued at up to $350 million annually and span across more than 20 countries.
ILS supports various clients from the USAID, State Department and the Department of Justice through stabilization efforts and combating persistent security threats.
Despite the diverse requirements of a variety of federal customers, Wills makes time to support members of his team and demonstrates the importance of upholding values important to him and the company.
“The work that we do is not to be taken for granted. You don’t just get to wake up and say I’m supporting the most important foreign assistance missions around the world,” Wills said. “People don’t get this opportunity every day - we provide stabilization support to the world’s most vulnerable populations in conflict, we must uphold those same values every day leading the way by example for our local counterparts in the field.”
Wills’s reliability and dedication to his team earned him recognition as a PAE Values Champion for the value “Have Integrity.” Wills is now a two-time Values Champion winner after previously being named a Values Champion for “Be Innovative.”
“Innovation is great and to recognized for that was awesome. To be able to innovate with integrity is the icing on the cake,” Wills said. “It speaks volumes to the team and everybody who’s working with me.”
Everyone from interns to other leaders need to see the shared values that keep a business moving in the right direction, Wills said, explaining that as a leader, your personal value are as important as the company’s.
Wills was nominated by an ILS team member, Operations Manager Mickelle Rodgers Rodriguez. She highlighted Wills’s outreach and guidance for an intern last summer in their nomination.
“The feedback that I received from our intern was that he not only appreciated the workplace knowledge he gained from being in an ‘office setting’ for the first time, but also the personal conversations he had with Dabren and the mentoring he received, that helped shape his overall positive experience,” Rodgers Rodriguez said.
Wills’s team and the people that ILS supports through its contracts are what he enjoys the most. From diversity of race to religion to background and experience, Wills said that the varied experiences influencing his team often makes it better equipped than the competition.
“I think our business reflects the clients that we service, and our business reflects well when we go to market and help the countries that we support,” Wills said.
Wills enjoys working to support vulnerable populations in countries where he helps manage PAE programs. At locations in Africa and the Middle East where people are genuinely looking for help, he feels treated like family.
“But more than that, I’ve got friends that I still talk to that I worked with there and that used to be in government there and we still talk from time to time and they ask about my family and I ask about theirs,” Wills said. “It’s just that genuine relationship you wouldn’t think you would get and that was kind of a surprising part of the job was building those lasting connections.”