Why We Serve
Military Police Officer, U.S. Army
VP Operations, Infrastructure Engineering Division at NCI Information Systems
As a military police officer (non-commissioned officer) in the Army, Steve Gruden and his partner served together: lots of combat missions with Special Forces, provided protection for multiple political conventions, and supported the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division and 4th Infantry Division in Iraq.
“Even though we were assigned the 18th Military Police Detachment at Fort Huachuca, AZ, we were attached to both 1st Cav and 4th ID while overseas,” Gruden remembers.
One of Gruden’s fondest memories of service was “every single day for three years” with his partner. “We were also awarded with combat spurs from 1st Cav, which is a great honor for both of us.”
Gruden’s voice breaks when he mentions his partner: “Damn, I miss that dog.”
And yes, his partner was a canine. His partner’s name was Gizmo.
Gruden served in the Army from April 2002 to April 2009, and his first three years were as a traditional Military Police Officer. “But my supervisor thought I was ready for a bump up, so he put me in to be a dog handler,” Gruden said. “It was a great honor, and probably the best part of my career. Well, other than my current job at NCI.”
“I was the first person in my immediate family to serve,” Gruden said. “Being in Cleveland, at that time, it was a rough job market. One of my best friends worked in the Army, and he came home once and told me about it, and it sounded like something I would be interested in. I talked to a recruiter, and heard them out, and what struck me was the camaraderie, and it sounded really great, and it sold me. In three weeks, I was on a plane for basic training. It was not long after 9/11. It was an honor to serve.”
Gruden laughs, thinking back to those days.
“I made some great friends, it was a truly exceptional experience.”
Gruden is the VP Operations for the Infrastructure Engineering Division at NCI, and he loves it. “Lots of our projects support the Army providing, cybersecurity engineering services, command center IT and AV upgrades, and a variety of other network infrastructure modernization. We work with military treatment facilities, military hospitals, dental, veterinary clinics, whatever it takes, all over the world. It is amazing and fascinating work. Love it.”
And some lessons that he learned from the Army helps him every day at NCI. “Leadership is a key for sure, as is understanding the need to rely on others is a critical one,” he said. “In civilian life it is easy to rely on only yourself but working as a team, with trust, is huge. You need to rely on your people and have them rely on you, and that is what makes us successful.”
And while NCI has many projects that involve artificial intelligence, Gruden and his team work on different projects. “We do more traditional IT and AV work, and every time someone from another part of NCI comes out here [to Arizona], they're always impressed by how close we are and how well we all work together,” he said.” I think a lot of that stems from the fact that myself and my deputy, Daryl Jackson, and many others on my team were also in the military, and we all gained certain experiences, like relying on each other, every day, and I think that our own NCI culture mirrors that in a lot of ways. One of the many reasons that I enjoy it so much.”
Gruden remembers his service fondly, and he celebrates Veterans Day and Military Families Appreciation Month the same way each year. “I celebrate with my family, we attend a parade, and observe the time with my family,” he said. “We like to hang out and relax – probably BBQ, we have some nice weather in Arizona in November – and enjoy our time with other veterans that I am friends with. We celebrate the things we accomplished, and how proud we are to be veterans.”
He mentioned his youngest son: “It is important to me to honor the things that vets need to go through and endure while they are serving, and give them that respect. It is a different world now than it was when I served, which is now 12-13 years ago,” he said. “They need to endure throughout their service, celebrate what they go through, and it is important to me to teach my son, who was only two years old when I got out of the Army, to understand what it is like to serve. It is important to show him what it means to be a veteran.”
Steve Gruden and Gizmo
Whitney and Steve Gruden