I Am NGA: A.J. Frye
Wearing lederhosen and sporting a smile, A.J. Frye’s picture captures his easy-going, playful demeanor. Frye enjoys his job, his colleagues and life in general. And according to those who work with him at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Support Team in Germany, in addition to being a nice guy, he’s well regarded.
“A.J. Frye embodies NGA’s core values, exceptionalism in his work and always goes above and beyond his duties with the U.S. Army Europe and U.S. European Command NST,” said NST Deputy Chief, Tari Steele.
Frye is assigned to a Geospatial Planning Cell at EUCOM, home of the EUCOM Theater Geospatial Database, which Frye helps manage as a data steward.
According to John Hoffman, branch chief to the EUCOM NST’s Direct Mission Support division, this database program was created to fill the gap between NGA planned vector production and other critical vector data required by commanders, analysts, planners and systems.
“The [unit] is designated as the primary provider of GEOINT to EUCOM, making Frye’s technical expertise critical to NGA’s success here,” Hoffman said.
Steele and Hoffman said that Frye has developed such exceptional skill in his job as data steward that it allows him time to take on various other projects that impact the NST partners.
“He works hard to apply technology in ways that make access to data easier, increasing the innate quality of our work. This is even more important in the resource constrained environment that we now inhabit,” Steele said.
“Perhaps most exceptional is Frye’s ability to be honest and authentic,” Hoffman said. “He maintains a positive outlook, but he does not sugar coat reality. He is pragmatic about the present but idealistic about the future.”
Frye’s personality and realism stood out in Pathfinder’s interview with him.
“Work is fun,” Frye said. “I’d like to know who isn’t having the time of their life while toiling away in ArcGIS for hours at a time. In all seriousness, my job is important and I treat it that way.”
Frye said the hard work and challenges that his team takes on inspires him.
“I stay engaged and challenge myself, but when I see others learning and teaching and pushing the boundaries together, that’s the sweet spot,” Frye said. “Perhaps that sounds a bit cheesy, but I’d take the challenge of this job any day over a predictable mission with loafers and cynics.”
According to Hoffman, Frye’s character brings added value to the NST and beyond.
“Frye embodies unselfishness,” Hoffman said. “He works extremely hard to support his [unit] teammates, but he puts in just as much effort for his NST colleagues throughout Europe. He doesn’t say “no” to any project. He follows through on every promise due, in large part, to his remarkable work ethic,” Hoffman said.
Frye attributed his work ethic to his parents.
“They were both team players and hard workers. They dig ditches and string cable between telephone poles for US West, the phone company in Seattle. They even built our house themselves,” he said. “Watching [them] at a young age inspired me, even though I turned out to be a desk jockey. I think I pounded some nails into the wall with a Playskool hammer, so I like to think I did contribute to their hard labor.”
Leaving the plastic tools to his childhood, Frye went on to study geography and environmental resource management at the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating in 2009.
“I fell into the geography program after taking a cartography class as an elective and thought it was pretty nifty. Now, a few years later, I make maps for a living, Frye said. “I just wish I wasn’t constantly being asked by people who don’t understand GEOINT, ‘Hasn’t the world been mapped already, like, Magellan and Cortés?”’