COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A), Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems (PM TAS)
TITLE: Supervisory logistics management specialist
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 17
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Practitioner in engineering and technical management
EDUCATION: Senior Service College Fellowship, Defense Acquisition University; M.A. in leadership and management, Webster University; M.E. in systems engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology; B.S. in industrial engineering, Rutgers University
AWARDS: Superior Civilian Service Award (2010); Army Superior Unit Award (2010); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal (2010)
Chia W. “Jeff” Lee
by Holly DeCarlo-White
Jeff Lee and his team are an integral part in the Army’s acquisition model with the logistics motto, “Support the design and design the support.”
As the product support manager for Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems, Lee is responsible for leading the department to sustain the Army’s artillery systems, with support activities including supply chain management, maintenance analysis, technical publication updates, training, transportation and sustainment engineering.
“We are not only involved during the sustainment phase of the weapon systems, but we are also involved during the research and development phase to influence design, so the weapon system is more supportable in the long term,” said Lee.
“The greatest satisfaction we have comes from knowing the fact that, partly due to our contribution, the Army’s weapon systems are functioning and paving the way for our warfighters and foreign partners in times of war,” Lee added most people are surprised to learn that what his team works on is directly related to what one might see in the news. “M777 howitzer is the weapon system we support, and we have been supporting the U.S. effort in aiding Ukraine since April ,” he said. “M777 and M119s are making a difference in Ukraine, and we are proud of what we are able to contribute as a team of subject matter experts in product support.”
Lee joined the Army Acquisition Workforce through a call for engineers at his university. “My college, School of Engineering, Rutgers University, received a request to hire for an industrial engineer in 2005 from the Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey (now the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center). I applied and was offered a position after two rounds of interviews,” he said. His first acquisition position was a process engineer responsible for reviewing and designing project management processes to ensure projects are managed and executed in accordance with industry best practices, such as Capability Maturity Model Integrated, Project Management Book of Knowledge and International Organization for Standardization standards. The work offered Lee a great opportunity to learn the DOD acquisition framework thoroughly. “My job required me to study and understand the design and intricacies of the acquisition framework from the start of my career in the Army. I also attended various Army trainings and industry seminars related to learn the most up-to-date industry best practices on project management and quality assurance,” he said. “This formed a great foundation for my career development later on.”
“I have always been a military weapons enthusiast and I started to track weapon systems around the world since I was in sixth grade,” Lee said. “The opportunity to work in weapons acquisition has always been my dream job. I feel blessed to be able to work this job and contribute to our Soldiers and national security.”
In 2010, Lee volunteered to deploy as a systems engineer to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which later became Operation New Dawn. “During the drawdown of troops and equipment from Iraq, I was responsible to study the equipment retrograde mission and provide improvement actions, so the logistics trail and record keeping is more efficient and effective,” he said. During the eight-month deployment, Lee worked alongside fellow deployed civilians and Soldiers hailing from a wide scope of Army entities. “The scale of operation helped me to understand my own capabilities and limits. This also gave me the opportunity to see, with my own eyes, what actually goes on in the field,” Lee said. “It is a vastly different experience from working in front of a computer.”
In his current supervisory role, Lee regularly provides advice from his experiences to junior acquisition personnel, and he also serves as a mentor in a mentor protégé program. Some key takeaways Lee shares are to first find something you are truly passionate about. “This passion and appreciation for our mission is the foundation for excellence,” Lee said. You also need to have humility to learn. “We will not be the smartest person in the room all the time, but if we are willing to listen and learn from others, it will benefit our career in the long run.” Lee added that one of the roles of a good leader is to use your subject matter experts to get the job done, “Delegation mentality and skill is essential to good leaders. Establishing an environment of trust is a good foundation that leads to high performing teams.” And lastly, “Have the humility to perform servant leadership,” he said. “A good leader or manager is not there to hamper progress, but to ask what can I do to help you to do your job better?”
Lee, who also refers to himself as “the obstacle remover,” said his main job is to enable his teammates to do their job, not to micromanage. “When we get to a position with authority, we need to remember to value our teammates and serve them instead of simply commanding them from a position of authority,” he said.
“Most people know me as a passionate person. I am passionate for the matters and ideas that I believe in, and I can go at length to defend them,” Lee said. “This is reflected in my work as I am passionate about the mission that I serve in, and I think it is something I can dedicate my career to.”
One of the most important lessons Lee has learned over the course of his career is that he does not, nor does he need to, know everything. “I was a person that required myself to go above and beyond the norm, and this often led to conflict within myself and others around me,” he said. “This high standard came with pride and the unwillingness to be flexible on decisions that I already made.” However, through failures, various leadership trainings, and people who were willing to tell him the “ugly truth” and challenge him, he gained a greater appreciation for those around him.
“I was able to see and appreciate other people’s perspectives and capabilities. I was finally able to ask the “stupid questions” without the fear of being looked down upon. I was finally willing to take many matters at work, or in life, step by step at a time instead of aiming for the stars all the time,” he said. “This would not be possible without the good people around me and their willingness to admonish me, challenge me and encourage me.”
“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 go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.