Colonel Christopher D. Lemanski
M.S. Electrical Engineering, 2006
Colonel Christopher D. Lemanski serves as Commander, Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) Twin Cities, located in Bloomington, Minnesota. As a DoD Combat Support Agency, DCMA works directly with industry counterparts to help ensure that DoD, Federal, and allied government supplies and services are delivered on time, at projected cost, and meet all performance requirements.
Col. Lemanski leads a workforce of 240 quality, engineering and contracts personnel who are responsible for approximately 8,000 contracts, across seven states, with a total value of $40 billion. He is a career acquisition officer with Air Force assignments spanning weather radar, research, operational test, space acquisition, unmanned aircraft systems, aircrew flight equipment, and life support systems.
Col. Lemanski earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Parks College of St. Louis University in 1993 and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from AFIT in 2006.
“I had a great opportunity to attend AFIT and earn an advanced academic degree with follow-on to the National Reconnaissance Office, which was a great experience. AFIT did a phenomenal job of pushing me to expand my educational capacity.”
Col. Lemanski was a Major when he attended AFIT. His seniority afforded him a leadership opportunity, which he embraced to serve as a class lead. He said this responsibility helped develop his leadership skills and expanded his experience beyond being a student.
In addition to refining his leadership toolset, Col. Lemanski believes his public speaking ability benefited greatly from his AFIT time. “Being able to methodically defend your research as part of the coursework went a long way in preparing me to serve as a team lead and commander. The skills I learned at AFIT such as researching, assimilating large volumes of information, analyzing data, documenting results, and then presenting and defending my conclusions have been foundational for me.”
Following his assignment at the NRO where he served as the Chief Space Vehicle System Engineer and Payload Performance Branch Chief, Col. Lemanski was assigned as Program Manager for the MQ-1 Predator System, which is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. Later, he was select as a Materiel Leader (Acquisition Squadron Commander) for Agile Combat Support in AFLCMC. In 2014, he was interviewed and selected for his first staff assignment as the Chief in AFMC’s Commander’s Action Group.
“Early in my career, I had the great fortune of being able to apply my engineering degree to engineering problems. But as members of the military workforce advance, there is an expectation that you will grow beyond your immediate technical expertise and apply those foundational skills more broadly and at higher levels of responsibility. An engineer may advance to working systems engineering challenges then to managing technical teams in order to develop a full program perspective. What you learn as you progress through this cycle is how to motivate people with different backgrounds, disciplines and personalities, to focus their talents to realize a specific vision or mission objective.”
In 2015, Col. Lemanski was one of two Air Force Fellows assigned to Argonne National Laboratory located in Chicago. Col. Lemanski worked with the Global Security Sciences (GSS) Division, which focuses on helping decision makers protect, mitigate, respond, and recover from a wide spectrum of national and global security threats. Col. Lemanski’s research with GSS centered on risk and infrastructure assessments.
“I researched how to counter the efforts of an adversary using commercially available small UAS technology and 3-D printing to disrupt air operations at Air Force bases,” Col. Lemanski explained. “I looked at emerging counter-UAS technologies that could be used to negate the small UAS threat such as lasers, high power microwaves, all the way to full-up anti-aircraft systems, and then assessed the most cost effective methodology to recommend to the Air Force. It was a phenomenal opportunity to see how a national Department of Energy laboratory champions research across multiple agencies, secures resources, and conducts world class research to support national security objectives.”
As he looks to the future, Col. Lemanski spoke to the delicate balance of focus split between mission accomplishment, his role as a mentor and the future successes of his team. “One of my passions is being able to develop and empower the next generation of airman and provide them the same opportunities I was given by my leadership as I was coming up through the ranks. One of the first pieces of advice that I received as a new Lieutenant was to take ownership of my career because if you don’t care about your career, no one else will. Sharing this career responsibility message has been a focal point throughout my 23 years in the Air Force.
“As a Squadron Commander, I would share that advice with each new squadron member during our initial one-on-one sessions. As a boss, it was my job to look for opportunities to help the member advance in their career. But, it ultimately comes down to you deciding what defines a successful career. You need to establish relationships; talk to bosses, find mentors, and get feedback to ensure you are on the right track to achieving your career goals.”
According to Col. Lemanski, a thorough examination of career development opportunities is essential to long-term professional success. “One of the things I discovered was some people never realized that they were closing off avenues for progression by passing on opportunities or, worse yet, failing to make a decision. I felt it was my responsibility to discuss the pros, cons and ramifications of potential assignments. People could then make an honest, informed decision about their assignments and the long term impact to their ultimate career goals.”
In the end, it’s all about accepting the opportunities as they are presented, said Col. Lemanski. “It may be a lot of work, it may push you outside of your comfort zone, but you have to take on those challenges, otherwise you will never know how far you can go.”
When asked what advice he would give a new AFIT student, Col. Lemanski said, “…hit the ground running and dig in deep – ask a lot of questions and seek out military and academic mentors. The one thing that is unique about AFIT is the mix of military and civilian instructors. They bring a broader perspective to the learning experience. Take advantage of that. It paid off for me, and I am sure it can benefit you.”