AFIT faculty and staff honored for outstanding achievements

Posted Thursday, January 09, 2020


The Air Force Institute of Technology hosted an awards ceremony in conjunction with their
Centennial celebration events on 7 Nov. The ceremony highlighted the accomplishments of alumni, faculty and staff who distinguished themselves in support of AFIT’s mission to provide defense focused graduate and professional continuing education to the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tyler Greenlees)


The Air Force Institute of Technology honored alumni, faculty and staff Nov. 7 at an awards ceremony as part of the school’s centennial celebrations. Maj Gen Carl Schaefer the Deputy Commander of Air Force Materiel Command and 2004 AFIT alum served as keynote speaker for the event.

The AFIT level awards recognized the accomplishments of faculty and staff in four areas:  innovation, leadership, mentorship, and wingmanship.  These awards were established in 2019 to highlight the great work our faculty and staff accomplish every day in areas vital to the success of AFIT, our students, and the Air Force.  Each of the nominees were competitively selected to represent their school.

AFIT Innovation Awards
The Innovation Award recognizes the Airman that has exemplified the Air Force goal of innovation while at AFIT.  The award promotes “outside-the-box” thinking that promotes innovation, creativity, and forward-thinking students and educators.



The winner of the AFIT Innovation Award - Junior Faculty category was Maj. Robert Bettinger.  Maj. Bettinger is an Assistant Professor of Astronautical Engineering and the Curriculum Chair for the Astronautical Engineering degree program in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management. In addition, Maj. Bettinger serves as the Deputy Director for AFIT’s Center for Space Research and Assurance.  He was recognized for directing the $1.1M astronautical curriculum; leading a group of 10 faculty and 12 graduate students to modernizing 6 courses in support of the SecAF focus area.  Maj. Bettering was awarded a provisional patent for a satellite re-entry early warning system.  His research focus areas include atmospheric reentry dynamics and spacecraft survivability.

Before his current assignment, he was the Senior Military Analyst for the Counterspace Analysis Squadron, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, where he led the analysis of air- and space-based kinetic threats to U.S. and Allied space systems. A 2007 Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy, Maj. Bettinger has also served as a research engineer for spacecraft guidance and control in the Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.  Maj. Bettinger earned a PhD and M.S. in Astronautical Engineering in 2014 and 2011 from AFIT.


The winner of the AFIT Innovation Award - Senior Faculty category was Dr. Marc Polanka.  Dr. Polanka is a Professor of Aerospace Engineering within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management.  He was recognized for training 120 professors on the “flipped classroom” technique that reduces teaching prep time and for mentoring faculty on teaching style and delivery.  Dr. Polanka taught Assertion-Evidence techniques for technical briefings that improved learner retention and resulted in three of his students winning best presentation recognition at conferences.

Dr. Polanka has been at AFIT for 10 years following 17 years within the Turbine Engine Division of AFRL.  While at AFRL, he managed the Turbine Research Facility performing heat transfer and aerodynamic measurements on full scale turbine stages.  His specialty has been on the combustor / turbine interface.  Dr. Polanka's current research stems around three main areas: the development of an Ultra Compact Combustor to reduce the size of turbine engines, work on Pressure Gain Combustors include Rotating Detonating Engines, and small internal combustion engines for Unmanned Air Vehicle applications.  He has written over 50 journal articles and over 125 conference articles.  He has advised over 50 graduate students.  Dr. Polanka is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and an Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).  He is currently the Vice-Chair of the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute Heat Transfer Committee after serving the last four years as the Membership Chair.  Dr. Polanka has also contributed heavily to the Dayton-Cincinnati Section of AIAA where he was Section Chair for four years and has been the Honors and Awards Chair for the past decade and a half.  He also serves as the Chair of the AIAA Associate Fellow Selection Committee. His doctoral work on turbine film cooling was accomplished at the University of Texas. 


The winner of the AFIT Innovation Award – Junior Staff category was Mr. Sean Miller.  Mr. Miller is an Engineering Technician within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management.  Mr. Miller’s career as an Air Force civilian started in 2006 as a student trainee while attending the University of Dayton. Thirteen years later, he serves as a senior engineer within the Center for Space Research and Assurance. Currently, Mr. Miller is the lead systems and electrical engineer for Grissom, a CubeSat being developed by AFIT that is scheduled to launch in 2022.  Mr. Miller was recognized for his support of the design, built and test of a $2M National Reconnaissance Office SkyPad payload that was delivered 1 year ahead of schedule.  In addition, he helped to transform the standard satellite design courses into design/build/test immersions where students built and flight qualified satellites in 10 weeks.  Besides his work with small satellites, Mr. Miller’s research focus areas include advancing the state-of-the-art of radio frequency communication and imaging payloads for space systems. Overall, Mr. Miller’s continued dedication to his department and the graduate school have resulted in the Grissom Team securing the “Team of the Quarter” award in 2016, as well as a nomination by Air University as the “Air Force Outstanding Engineering Technician” in 2019.


The winner of the AFIT Innovation Award – Senior Staff category was Mr. Matthew Dever.  Mr. Dever is the Assistant to the Director of the AF Cyberspace Technical Center of Excellence (AF CyTCoE) within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management.  He was recognized for his leadership of the AF CyTCoE’s $2.5M budget for cyber consultation, outreach, and research.  His team is developing a Cyber Education Hub that provides an innovative approach to education delivery that enhances the user's motivation to learn. 

Mr. Dever is a retired Electronic Warfare (EW) Officer with nearly 5,000 hours of aviation experience in eight different aircraft including the B-52G and B-1B bombers.  After retiring from active duty, Mr. Dever served as a Cyber/EW Threat Analyst at Air Combat Command Intelligence Directorate and as an Information Operations Analyst at the Air Force Targeting Center, Langley AFB, VA.  He joined the AFIT staff in December 2014.  He is a Certified Ethical Hacker and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.  Mr. Dever earned a B.S. Communications, Ohio University, 1986; and M.S., Cybersecurity, University of Maryland University College, 2013.


The winner of the AFIT Innovation Award – Team category was the Autonomy and Navigation Technology (ANT) Center within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management (accepted by Dr. Robert Leishman, Autonomy and Navigation Technology Center Director).  The cross-departmental ANT center team are international experts in autonomous systems, non- Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and navigation warfare.  The team developed Scorpion data fusion code, a DOD standard for non-GPS PNT open architecture and the backbone for a $1B Army program.

The ANT Center is a forward-looking research center seeking to identify and solve tomorrow's most challenging navigation and autonomous and cooperative control problems.  With a central goal to develop technologies that ensure precision navigation anywhere, anytime, using anything, the ANT Center focuses on three research thrusts:  (1) Autonomous and Cooperative systems, (2) Non-GPS Navigation, and (3) GPS and Global Navigation Satellite System Navigation/Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.  The ANT Center is made up of 26 faculty members, 15 staff members, and has brought in over $4.3 million in research funding for FY19.

AFIT Leadership Awards
The AFIT Leadership Award recognizes the Airman that has distinguished themselves above their peers as being exceptional leaders across an organization.  The award seeks to reach beyond the traditional military leadership structure and recognizes an Airman that led beyond their assigned team.


The winner of the AFIT Leadership Award - Junior Faculty category was Mr. Joseph DiMisa.  Mr. DiMisa is an Instructor of Environmental Management within AFIT’s Civil Engineer School.  He is a recognized subject matter expert in the joint civil engineering community and is a regular instructor for the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps Officers School basic course.  In addition, he is the principal author the Civil Engineer School’s 2025 strategic plan which required him to coordinate six goals and 15 objectives across for committees.

Born in Cheverly, Maryland, he attended Towson State University in Maryland, receiving a B.S. and M.A. in Geography and Environmental Planning.  He was an environmental consultant for 30 years prior to accepting the privilege of serving as a civil servant and spreading his knowledge to others serving in all branches of the Department of Defense.  Mr. DiMisa’s specialties include water management, natural and cultural resources, environmental restoration, tank and spills management, and environmental planning.  He is a Registered Environmental Manager and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional.  Among his many awards, he was awarded the Air Force Education Training Command civilian of the year award in 2017.  Mr. DiMisa is a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America and the Society of American Military Engineers and is married with three sons.


The winner of the AFIT Leadership Award - Senior Faculty category was Dr. John Colombi.  Dr. Colombi is a Professor and Program Chair of Systems Engineering (SE) within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management.  He was recognized for his leadership as the Faculty Council President where he represented the 155 Graduate School faculty body at the AFIT level and led a task force to develop world class faculty.  As the SE program chair, he guided 13 professors, more than 200 graduate students to educate and enhance the SE workforce.

Dr. Colombi received his PhD in 1996 and M.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1992 from AFIT.  He earned his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Lowell, MA in 1986.  Before joining the faculty, Dr. Colombi served 21 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a Developmental Engineer, taking a variety of research, engineering and management assignments at Wright-Patterson AFB, Hanscom AFB, Ft Meade, and Griffiss AFB.  His research interests include Model-based Systems Engineering for conceptual tradespace exploration, autonomous aircraft design and test, complex adaptive systems, acquisition research, and human systems integration. He is author or coauthor on over 100 publications. Dr. Colombi is a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Program Evaluator.


The winner of the AFIT Leadership Award - Junior Staff category was Mr. Brian Roberts.  Mr. Roberts is currently the Chief of Student Operations and Lead Education and Training Administrator within AFIT’s School of Systems and Logistics (LS). He leads a team of eight civilian employees responsible for the registration and tracking of over 20,000 students taking LS courses each year. He was recognized for leading a team of eight Airman to upgrade the course registration process resulting in flawlessly registering more than 20,000 students.  He also led an Air Force Materiel Command course review requiring him to working with nine organizations and develop slides for 84 courses. 

Mr. Roberts was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio.  He joined the Air Force after high school, where he trained as a Structural Sheet Metal airmen.  Shortly after, he transitioned into the education and training career field. He retired from active duty after 24 years of service.  Mr. Roberts is a 2018 graduate of Central Michigan University and 2015 graduate of Park University.


The winner of the AFIT Leadership Award - Senior Staff category was Capt. Brandon Johnson.  Capt. Johnson is the Executive Officer to the Dean, within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management.  He led a nine member team through the FY21 POM for $59B acquisition program, briefing ACC, SAF/AQI, & LCMC, to secure future requirements.  He was also the 2019 International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association Junior Analyst of the year.

Capt. Johnson entered the U.S. Air Force in 2006 and attended the U.S. Air Force Academy. Upon completion of a Bachelor’s of Science in Management, he transitioned into the Financial Management career field. Capt Johnson served at the Space and Missiles System Center in California for four years and contributed to financial management and analytical services for a $20B Space Based Infrared System satellite program. During his time in California, Capt Johnson deployed to Southeast Asia as an Executive Officer in support of 544 personnel from eight nations at 23 sites. Prior to his current position, he attended the Air Force Institute of Technology as a Cost Analysis Graduate Student in the Department of Engineering and Management. Upon completion of his graduate degree, he served as a Weapons Systems Cost Analyst, Medium Altitude Unmanned Aerial Systems Division, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Special Operations Forces Directorate, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He served as the Chief Program Integrator and principal Cost Analyst in charge of planning, programming, and estimating procurement and retrofit costs on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system for International Partners and the U.S.

AFIT Mentorship Award
The AFIT Mentorship award recognizes the Airman that has demonstrated strong mentorship to peers, leaders, and followers while at AFIT.  The Airman’s transformational leadership led to the inspirational motivation of others.

The mentorship award winner for the faculty category was Lt. Col. Jason Anderson.  Lt. Col. Anderson is an Assistant Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management and the Deputy Department Head in the Operational Sciences Department within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management. In addition, Lt. Col. Anderson leads the Operations Management Program, which currently oversees Air Mobility Command’s Premier Intermediate Development Education course called Advanced Studies of Air Mobility, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Lt. Col. Anderson was recognized for this outstanding teaching skills having received a perfect feedback score from 63 students – an unprecedented event.  He also led a department reconfiguration to revitalize four programs and deliver a new data analytics master’s program.  He embodies the AF core value of service before self spending his time building handicap bikes and servers as the head coach for more than 30 disabled kids.  Lt. Col. Anderson also mentored six groups of Airmen as they navigated difficult, life-altering situations such as a divorces and investigations.

Lt. Col. Anderson’s research focus areas include transportation, economics, leadership, resilience, and supply chain relationships. Before his current assignment, he was a C-130 E/H and KC-135E/R Pilot in Air Mobility Command garnering approximately 3,000 flight hours, 14-deployments, and 1,000 combat hours.  Lt. Col. Anderson earned his PhD in Logistics and Supply Chain Management in 2016 and a master’s degree in Air Logistics in 2013, both from AFIT.


The mentorship award winner for the staff category was Dr. Alice Grimes.  Dr. Grimes is the Director of Faculty Development within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management.  She also serves as the Equity Advisor for the Graduate School and Chair of the Education and Outreach sub-committee of the AFIT Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. She is the AFIT lead implementer for the Integrated Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Suicide Prevention program, also known as “Green Dot”, and is the Quality Assurance Argument Coordinator for the institute’s Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation.

Dr. Grimes has many years of experience in higher education including serving as the Dean of Assessment and Academic Quality at Urbana University where she also held the position of Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences and earned the rank of Professor. Dr. Grimes also maintained a part-time therapy practice in Columbus, Ohio for many years. Before entering academia, she worked in administration for human services organizations and developed and managed community-based programs. Dr. Grimes holds a PhD from the College of Education and Human Ecology and a Masters of Social Work, both from The Ohio State University. She also earned a MBA from Urbana University and a M.A. in Management and Supervision from Central Michigan University. Dr. Grimes is a licensed Social worker in Ohio and a Certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations.

AFIT Wingman Award
The AFIT Wingman award recognizes the Airman that has exemplified what it means to be an exceptional wingman while at AFIT.  The award recognizes teamwork, service before self, and exceptionalism that supported a wingman in their quest for success.  This award encompasses volunteerism, mentorship, and other support systems required to exemplify never leaving an airman behind.


The winner of the AFIT Wingman award was Maj. Ryan Mutch.  Maj. Mutch is a Course Instructor within AFIT’s School of Systems and Logistics. He is the lead for the Air Force’s largest cyber software education portfolio providing instruction on Avionics Cyber Vulnerability Assessment, Mitigation, and Protection.  With his nine member team, he teaches 600 students a year in direct support of a SECAF improvement area.  Maj. Mutch works and collaborates with primarily the acquisition workforce to include program managers and engineers responsible for delivering more cyber secure and reliable systems for the Air Force.

Maj. Mutch counseled three military members post PT-test failure and ensured a rigorous exercise regimen that resulted in the members passing their subsequent test.  In addition, he identified and supported a co-worker who was exhibiting emotional difficulty helping to obtain sustained assistance for the person which resulted in improved work outcome.
Prior to his assignment at AFIT, Maj. Mutch served as an engineer with combat communications, AF cyber blue & red teams, and deployed communications.  He has also served as a staff officer at USAFE, CENTCOM (deployed), and at the National Security Agency.



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