COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition, Program Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems
TITLE: Medium cannon caliber research, development, test and evaluation lead
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 11
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in engineering, Level III in program management, Level II in science and technology
EDUCATION: Master of Engineering in mechanical engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology; B.S. in chemical engineering, Rowan University
AWARDS: 2020 Project Manager Maneuver Acquisition Systems Project Officer of the Year
by Ellen Summey
In everything she does, Kaitlyn Tani tries to give 100 percent. She works a demanding job as an Army civilian and is a devoted mom to her three young daughters—sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. “Often, friends and family ask how I fit all that I do within a day, or if I sleep,” she said. For Tani, the effort is not because she’s a workaholic, or because she’s trying to prove anything—it’s because she wants to make every moment count. “I pride myself on committing to my work and making sure that if I have downtime, I am doing something productive. I focus on my work, nine hours a day, so that when it’s family time, I can be fully there for my family. I’m fully there for work, and I’m fully there for the family.”
And she certainly has a lot to focus on, professionally. An engineer by training, Tani now develops new types of ammunition for the Army. “Most people find it interesting when I say I develop ammunition, not only because I am a female in a male-dominated field, but also because they just aren’t aware of the complexity or the types of munitions within the medium caliber category.” Tani and the team at the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A) are developing munitions that use advanced electronics, sensors and materials to defend against threats like moving targets, unmanned aerial systems and specialized armor.
“As the cannon caliber [research, development, test and evaluation] lead, I manage all development programs for cannon caliber ammunition (20 mm, 25 mm, 30 mm and lightweight 30 mm) to support enduring platforms and platforms being developed under the cross-functional teams for air and missile defense, the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, and Future Vertical Lift,” she said. “I ensure that the new munitions are being designed to address current and future threats, while maintaining ammunition safety standards and compatibility with the weapon and platforms.”
Tani encourages junior engineers to learn precisely how their work contributes to the success of the mission, something she said creates greater motivation and job satisfaction in the workforce. “We can become so focused on the task in front of us—the widget or component—that we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. Take a component of training ammunition, which uses specialized material that provides visual signature when fired at the target. We know it has to make a flash, and that light has to last a certain amount of time, and we get focused on that. But it’s important to take a step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, why am I doing this?’ I’m doing this so that a Soldier can see where their round goes when they train at night. Why is that important? Because they need to train as if they’re in the field, and in the field, they would see the flash on target from their ammunition, and that visual is important to replicate conditions in the field.” She said she has always felt more connected to her work when she understood how she was contributing, and she encourages her teammates to share that knowledge with others. “It’s often faster just to say, ‘Fill out this spreadsheet,’ but it’s a lot more meaningful if I take the time to explain what the data will be used for and why it’s important,” she said.
Last year, Tani completed the four-week Civilian Education System (CES) Advanced course, which she said was greatly influential for her personally and professionally. “Although the course was focused on leadership, it provided immense personal growth, showed me how to be a better team member, and gave me insight on how my work makes a difference. It was the most influential training and it still plays a role in how I operate every day. I came out of the course reenergized and excited to make a difference. Each day, I learned something new that would allow me to do better in each role I serve in: leader, subordinate, teammate, mother, wife. I absolutely recommend the course to others—no matter the person’s area of expertise or background, the value added is guaranteed. The more workforce members that have the opportunity to take this course, the stronger and more efficient the Army Acquisition Workforce will become.”
One of the most important events in her career was an assignment within the Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center’s science and technology office. “This position provided me with knowledge and insights on user requirement generation, the emerging technologies across engineering centers and labs, potential transitions for PEOs’ programs of record and mentorship. Understanding each of these gave me the acumen to propose program objective memorandum (POM) investments for the Armaments Center,” she explained. “This role afforded me the opportunity to not only engage with various senior leaders, organizations and groups, but also to build a strong foundation for my Army acquisition career.”
Ultimately, Tani said she wants to feel like everything she does is for the “right reason.” What is the right reason in her career? “I know it’s said so often, but supporting the warfighter, making sure we’re good stewards of our taxpayer dollars, making sure our Soldiers come home safely to their families—sometimes I just get chills,” she said. “That’s why I’m so conscious of how I spend my time, both at home and at work, and I always try to make the most of every opportunity. I am focused on the impact that I can make, whether through my words, my time, or my efforts.”
“There’s no bigger win than hearing from Soldiers who appreciate the munitions we develop, or who offer their valuable advice and feedback to us,” she said. “I’m glad I get to be a part of something that helps our community and keeps our nation secure.”
“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/.