Helping to shape the Army’s vehicular backbone

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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center; assigned to the Joint Program Office for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support
POSITION: Mechanical engineer; power and mobility engineer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 9 years
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in engineering; Level I in program management and in test and evaluation
EDUCATION: Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a concentration in thermal sciences; M.S. in mechanical engineering with a concentration in solid mechanics, dynamics and vibrations; B.S. in mechanical engineering with concentrations in automotive and mechanical systems engineering, all from Lawrence Technological University
AWARDS: David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award, 2013 and 2015; Federal Executive Board for Exemplary Civilian Service; Achievement Medal for Civilian Service


Helping to shape the Army’s vehicular backbone

by Ms. Susan L. Follett

“When I tell people what I do, they’re often also surprised by all the things a DOD engineer does.” For Dr. John Putrus, mechanical and power and mobility engineer with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the average day might include holding a design review, writing a multimillion-dollar contract, driving trucks, testing vehicles under extreme conditions or briefing a general officer.

Assigned to the Joint Program Office for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JPO JLTV) within the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), Putrus is responsible for electrical power and mobility systems for the JLTV program—components such as the cooling system, engine, transmission, alternator, batteries, chassis and suspension. He’s also the engineer responsible for requirements development, system design, testing and production for these components, a position he has held since the program began in 2006.

“My primary goal as a JLTV engineer is to develop the best on- and off-road light tactical vehicle” to replace the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). “I am working on something that really matters, and I get to do it with the best team and leadership in the DOD. The JLTV is not just another car or part, but rather something that Soldiers and Marines will use for the next 50-plus years. LTVs are the backbone of the Army, which makes being part of the program even more special to me.”

Putrus grew up near the Detroit Arsenal, which is home to PEO CS&CSS, the PEO for Ground Combat Systems, TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and TARDEC. It was also home to the Detroit Arsenal tank plant, which closed in December 1996. “I always loved looking at the military vehicles in front of the arsenal and wanted to be a part of that,” he said. As a college student, he opted to intern with AM General, an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that builds High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles. “When I saw what they did, I was immediately hooked.”

After graduating, he spent four years with AM General, working directly for the chief engineer on multiple vehicle programs from their inception, including the Future Tactical Truck System Utility Vehicle, the Expanded Capacity Vehicle II and the JLTV. “That gave me firsthand engineering design experience with tactical wheeled vehicles that I directly carried over to JPO JLTV,” said Putrus. “The engineering experience helped me a great deal in multiple design reviews and engineering efforts throughout the JPO JLTV program, and has helped me understand how things are really done on the OEM side and what is actually possible.”

His first job with TACOM was as program manager for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Experimentation and Assessment Program. “I wanted to be involved with the development of next-generation military vehicles, and working at TACOM is the best place you can do that.” TACOM gives engineers the opportunity “to be involved with much more than what a standard engineering position offers,” he added. “You control your destiny here and can be involved with as much as you want to be. No one here will tell you you cannot get involved, and that mindset results in some of the most well-rounded engineers available.”

He’s learned a great deal over the course of his career, including one lesson he picked up early on: the importance of building relationships. “I have taken the time to build as many relationships as I can with multiple government organizations, defense OEMs, suppliers and co-workers. I’ve found that if you work to help people quickly and effectively, those people will make sure to return the favor by responding quickly to you when you need help. This has allowed me to be very efficient and perform much better at my job.”

The JLTV program will field roughly 55,000 combat vehicles to Soldiers and Marines, with the bulk of those going to the Army. JLTVs will close capability gaps related to payload, performance and protection while increasing protection, maneuverability and battlefield network connectivity. While it’s now on solid footing and in low-rate initial production, Putrus noted that “there was a point in the JLTV program where the program’s survival was at serious risk. In 2011, Congress considered terminating the JLTV program over concerns about technology maturity and cost. We had to find a way to efficiently and effectively reduce the cost of the truck by almost 50 percent in order for the program to continue.”

The JLTV team performed a comprehensive cost-informed trade-study analysis (CITA) that resulted in optimized requirements and a truck that met the program’s cost targets. Putrus was tasked with working on multiple design options, requirement changes and cost analyses that led to the CITA, which was approved by the vice chief of staff of the Army and allowed the program to proceed to milestone B.

“Being successful in this effort was critical to me, as I had spent my entire career developing the truck to replace the HMMWV, and no one on our program wanted to fail. Thanks to the personal involvement of the vice chief of staff of the Army and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, along with some clear affordability targets and the CITA, funding was on track in early 2012.”

Putrus was a member of the JPO JLTV team that twice received DOD’s David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence for its work to implement better buying power practices and its efforts to keep costs low and timelines short. “The Packard awards stand out to me because the JLTV program has allowed me to truly learn the defense acquisition life cycle,” he said. “I have been lucky enough to be a part of the program from when it was an advanced concept technology demonstrator through the present day, where we’re in low-rate initial production and have built hundreds of vehicles. Once the project reaches full materiel release and sustainment, I will have worked in all phases of the defense acquisition life cycle—that’s something that very few get to do.”


“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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