Thirty-Year Army Vet Jesse D. Galvan Heads Centerra Protective Force Operations And Training Division

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Thirty-year U.S. Army veteran Jesse Galvan chats with the Los Alamos Reporter about his position as director of Centerr’a Protective Force Operations and Training Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Jesse D. Galvan, director of Centerra’s Protective Force Operations and Training Division. Managing some 300 folks that are both protective force and support personnel at Los Alamos National Laboratory is a good fit for the job which he took over last August.

Galvan recently retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army after 30 years of active service. He most recently served as the deputy director of the Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency in Arlington, Virg.

Galvan compares his job at LANL with some of the best jobs he had in the military which he says were serving as the provost marshal of an installation.

“The provost marshal is basically the chief of police and at some points in my career we had what were called open installations that the public had access to. All you had to do was show your driver’s license. That was always a challenge to me as the chief of police there – the provost marshal – working with my military police men and women and then of course other agencies who were assisting us in providing security and protection of those who live, work and play on those military installations,” he said.

Galvan said he equates that very much with what I’m experiencing here with this major thoroughfare going right through Lab property.

“The beauty is that we have the requisite amount of Pro Force personnel out and about watching and we try to impress upon those who work here on the Lab, if you see something, say something. You’ve got to let us know,” he said.

Galvan spoke of the interaction between Centerra and Los Alamos Police Department which handles law enforcement on site.

“In the very short time I have been here the need for law enforcement response has been very minimal. The first couple of weeks I was here we had issues with bears out in the technical areas. We respond to that but we’re not trained to handle the wildlife so we’ll get a hold of LAPD or Fish and Game Department personnel who will respond to situations like that,” he said.

Galvan said occasionally someone drives onto the site who is lost.

“We’ll help direct them and if they become belligerent, of course we’ll handle it accordingly and if they get out of control or over the top, then we’ll call LAPD and they’ll come and handle the situation. These types of situations are very, very minimal,” he said.

Galvan said it’s incumbent on those who work on site to be the voice that says something when something is not right.

“It’s difficult to do. It’s always after the fact when people think, ‘I should have said something – should have done something,’ but I think we’re getting better as a society on that. We’ve experienced enough that some of us are understanding that if we don’t take action, whether it is a phone call or informing somebody, what could potentially happen,” he said.

Galvan noted the presence of a very mature and professional workforce at Centerra.

“I’ve been very impressed. Some of them have been around a very long time. Not only do they know their job, but more importantly they know the Lab employees and that’s a good thing. We know our clients. We know who we’re responsible for protecting and securing and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Galvan said his challenge when he got on board was understanding the difference between the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy ways of doing things.

“There are obviously different intricacies there but the one constant is leadership. I don’t care if you’re leading a girl scout troop on a camping trip or you’re leading a major multi-million dollar corporation – leadership is the same and that’s what I’ve done for 30 years and I’m very comfortable with being here in this organization, bringing my experience here to Centerra and to the Lab,” he said.

Galvan said former Centerra general manager Ted Spain knew he was retiring and reached out to him about the job. Galvan and Spain had known each other since Galvan was a young major in the mid-90s. He also deployed to Iraq with former Centerra director Lennie Upshaw and worked with former interim director Marty Glasser when Glasser was a major and Galvan was a captain in 1993-1994.

“What appealed to me about this job was the fact that this is very similar to what I’ve done before. The comfort level of security, protection, the management of people – that was very appealing,” Galvan said.

On a lighter note, Galvan noted that although he worked on many military installations “out in the wild” he has experienced more bear sightings in the short time that he has been here than in the entire time he was in the military.

Galvan said he had 20 jobs when he was in the military.

“You would go from job to job to job and in the army, the more senior you got, the less time it took for you to figure out what you were doing because first of all, you were experienced, you understood the environment, the culture. Here it’s a different culture, a different vernacular so those have been my challenges on how we do business. What may not be such a big deal in the DOD may be a big deal here and vice versa. Staff have done a great job of educating and informing me,” he said.

He spoke two of movies shown at the Bradbury Science, one which explains why Los Alamos exists and the other about the modern day purpose of the Lab.

“That’s a big thing to me – the purpose, both for me as an individual and the purpose of the organization. I have to relate that to a young security police officer standing at a vehicle access portal at 2 a.m. going, Why am I here?’. Well, brother, you’re vital to national security. You’re the front line of defense. And you’ve got to relate that to why we exist which goes back to the protection and security of the site here,” Galvan said. “When people understand, it’s easier to lead those individuals along. As the movies show, this was a big deal and continues to be a big deal. We, as a protective force have an amazing opportunity to keep it secure on behalf of this nation.”

Assignments held by Galvan during his 30-year army career included: 40th Assistant Commandant at the U.S. Army Military School at Fort Leonard, Missouri;  1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Joint Readiness Training Center Camp; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and Provost Marshal, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/Military District of Washington, Wash. D.C.

He deployed into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 09-11 and during his tenure as the S3 and Executive Officer of the 95th Military Police Battalion in Mannheim, Germany, the battalion deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004-2005. He also served as a  U.S. Army Military Police Corps Regimental Exchange Officer to the United Kingdom based in London, England and as a platoon leader at Camp Casey, Korea.

Galvan holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U. S. Army War College, Carlisle, Penn., a Master of Science Degree in Adult, Occupational and Continuing Education was well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology with a minor in Correctional Administration.

His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (3rd award), Bronze Star (2nd award), Meritorious Service Medal (6th award), Army Commendation Medal (3rd award), Army Achievement Medal (2nd award), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Citation, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Parachutist Badge.

He is married to the former Sheila E. Daub and they have two adult children, Nicole, 27 and Jesse Jr, 25.