COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), Ground Vehicle Systems Center (Post-Senior Service College Fellowship broadening assignment)
TITLE: Division chief, systems engineering planning and management
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 23
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 10
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Advanced in program management, Foundational in engineering and technical management
EDUCATION: MBA, Lawrence Technological University, B.S. in engineering management, United States Military Academy, West Point
AWARDS: Army Engineer Association Bronze de Fleury Medal (2021), Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award (2021), Department of the Army Civilian Service Achievement Medal (2016), Army Superior Unit Award (Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support 2014), Meritorious Service Medal (2001), Army Commendation Medal (1997, 1999), NATO Medal (1999), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (1999), National Defense Service Medal (1991, 1998), Overseas Service Ribbon (1997), Army Service Ribbon (1996).
Christopher ‘Michael’ Upton
by Cheryl Marino
Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” This resonated with Christopher ‘Michael’ Upton. So he customized it a bit and came up with a quote of his own: “Try not to focus on leading a life of success, but rather leading a life of significance.” Something he has done and continues to do on a daily basis.
Upton is employed by Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), but is currently serving on a broadening assignment as a division chief within the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), Ground Vehicle Systems Center’s Systems Engineering Directorate. He brings a program management perspective to the organization, while learning about early innovation adoption for and technology integration and transition to product managers and the Army’s ground systems. “Two of my immediate focus areas are the analysis of applying systems engineering across [Detroit Arsenal] and the development of a synchronized digital engineering strategy for the organization, he said. “These initiatives will result in the organization’s ability to develop, field and sustain the world’s best ground systems at a faster pace, with the most up-to-date capabilities.”
But for Upton, there’s more to it. The Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) provides a special environment of camaraderie, much like he experienced while on active duty. “Joining the AAW brought me closer to the military and that ‘way of life,’ which I desired, and opened up more opportunities than I ever imagined.”
“Completing SSCF made me more competitive for centralized selection boards and lists and allowed me to gain a greater understanding of acquisition, national and defense strategies, and best practices in leadership.”
After serving as an assistant product manager, Upton said the next “typical” position was program officer and then deputy product director or manager. “Despite fear of the unknown and self-doubt of my readiness, I took a risk, applied and got selected for a deputy product director position,” and according to him, it was a risk worth taking. He attributes much of his confidence and motivation to the support that his mentors, family and trusted advisors provided along the way. In 2023, Upton will take command of Product Manager Bridging, within Project Manager Force Protection, PEO CS&CSS after having been selected for the position during the centralized selection list process.
Upton believes that finding mentors—as well as mentoring others—supports continual learning. “My mentors helped me develop a realistic [yet achievable] career roadmap, identify and close training gaps in order to grow and advance in my career and also offered different perspectives.”
Understanding the benefits of a solid support system, Upton takes pride in giving advice to any associate, especially junior acquisition personnel. “I frequently stress that junior acquisition professionals should take care of their people—team, integrated product team—never stop learning, and perform at their best level and good things will follow.”
Upton applies the same set of values both in and outside of work. On the job, his greatest satisfaction comes from leading outstanding professionals, who are committed to serving the Army and the nation, helping them find their purpose and reach their full potential. Outside of work, his goals are the same. A leader, coach and family man, Upton volunteers weekly and serves as a small group leader for high school students at his church, and also volunteers as a coach for a recreational soccer team. “I intentionally focus on work-life balance for my family and work team.” Whether it’s professional or personal, doing something to make a difference in your own life and the lives of others is not only successful—it’s significant.
“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/.