REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Technology drives his work, but it is the Warfighter who inspires Dr. James Kirsch.
“Our focus and our mindset is we’re here for the Soldier,” Kirsch said. “Our nation is giving us their greatest treasure in the people they put in uniform. If we’re not doing our very best to enable them to do their job safely and come home, then we’re letting them down.”
It’s a mission Kirsch takes seriously. As the director of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, he leads the men and women who help drive technology forward for the Warfighter.
“We are the people who build the core of almost any Army system that you can think of – particularly for us, aviation and missile,” Kirsch said of S3I. “The software is the heart of almost any Army system in the field today. It’s our responsibility to be the technical experts on that software, to maintain that software, but in addition to that, we also provide the simulation and the hardware-in-the-loop capability that allows us to test those systems and train people without actually having to go to a test range.”
Kirsch has spent more than 30 years in service to his country as a civil servant. An Army brat, he was born in Japan, but considers North Alabama, where he’s lived for more than 40 years, home. He graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville not once, but three times, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s in electronics engineering, and his doctorate in optical science and engineering. Since beginning his civil service career in 1987, Kirsch has held a variety of positions within the Army, primarily within AvMC.
“I grew up as an Army brat, so I’ve been associated with the Army my entire life,” Kirsch said. “The ability to come out here and work with people to provide capability to our Soldiers is a sacred responsibility that we have. I really do enjoy the fact that we actually put things in the hands of Soldiers.”
Appointed to Senior Executive Service in July 2019, when it came to shaping his own leadership style, Kirsch had ample opportunities over the past three decades to learn from others.
“A good leader is someone who has a clear vision of where they need to go, and the ability to communicate that to the people who work for them,” Kirsch said. “The best leaders that I’ve worked for know exactly what it is that we need to be doing – not the nitty gritty details – but they can see where it is that we’re going, and they inspire the people around them to want to achieve that same vision.”
One of the things Kirsch enjoys about his job is the opportunity to find out what goals and aspirations his employees have for their careers, and offered this advice for those looking for personal growth.
“Learn as much as you can about what your job is and how it fits into the bigger picture of our mission, and then broaden,” Kirsch said. “Figure out what other labs are doing, what other people are doing, and how everything we do fits into the mission.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.