REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Jan. 18, 2022) – For the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s newest SES, it doesn’t seem quite real yet.
Christi Dolbeer has been selected for Senior Executive Service, making her the permanent director of the Technology Development Directorate where she has served as acting director since December 2020.
“I still have to pinch myself,” Dolbeer said.
It is the culmination of 30 years of hard work, but reaching that pinnacle was not necessarily always the plan.
Dolbeer started her career at the DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center as a co-op student in 1991, while studying at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. For the Decatur native, it was a steady rise through the ranks at the Center, taking opportunities when they came and juggling those professional responsibilities while raising four children. It wasn’t always easy.
“I only have one at home now but when I had four kids at home, it was tough,” she said. “Especially if it was a job that required traveling. There were some times where I found another job because it was too much travel. Not because I didn’t like the job, but it was too hard to be gone that much.”
As TDD director, Dolbeer will be responsible for the leadership, management, direction and supervision for nearly 600 government employees who provide research, development, engineering and scientific expertise for all Army aviation and missile science and technology efforts -- including basic research, applied research, advanced technology development and technology maturation initiatives.
“Christi is the definition of a compassionate leader,” said AvMC Director Jeff Langhout. “She is all about her people and will stop at nothing to ensure their well-being, growth and value to her organization and the Army. She is absolutely the right personality with the right leadership skills to continue the proud tradition of excellence that is the AvMC science and technology mission.”
A “recovering introvert,” Dolbeer said that she has learned from experience that leading a directorate of TDD’s size and scope requires trust and communication. Although Dolbeer is officially taking on the mantle of director, or as she said with a laugh, “now I am bona fide,” this past year as acting director has prepared her for the job and she has clear goals for her team in 2022.
“Missiles and aviation – yes, they are different but we are one organization,” she said. “In 2022, we will continue to work on that integration. I also want to make sure that our people have an opportunity to broaden themselves. What has helped me is having a variety of leadership experience and I want others to have that opportunity.
“Appreciating employees – awards, SES notes or just telling someone, ‘great job.’ There are a lot of ways to make employees feel appreciated. Of course, building the bench. We have a workforce that is heavily retirement eligible. We need to be hiring, we need to be mentoring and we need to be training. And finally, better communication to the workforce. That is one thing everyone can improve on. You cannot overdo communication.”
Dolbeer holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering through the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She has accomplished Level III certification in Program Management, Systems Planning, Research, Development and Engineering and is an Army Acquisition Corp member.
She was previously the acting deputy director for both the former Engineering Directorate and the Weapons Development and Integration Directorate, providing technical expertise and oversight in the development of missile systems and technology. She also served as principal deputy for TDD, acting director for ED and as acting principal deputy for the Systems Readiness Directorate. Dolbeer is recognized as a propulsion subject matter expert and previously led a number of solid propellant development and characterization efforts.
While an SES appointment, the government civilian equivalent of a general or flag officer, is an achievement that very few in federal service achieve, at home Dolbeer said that not much has changed.
“They just want to know what we have to eat,” she said, smiling. “I am still trying to convince them that this is a big deal.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.