REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — It was never just a job — for Jeff Langhout, being a civil servant has been a way of life.
After 37 years that chapter is coming to a close as Langhout, director of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, retires, closing out a career selflessly devoted to the nation’s defense.
“It’s been a great run,” Langhout said. “I’m very thankful for our Army. They gave me way more than I could ever give it, and I am very thankful.”
Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, Langhout had a love for aviation, building plastic plane models and hanging them from his bedroom ceiling. It was his father’s example — Tom Langhout was a licensed professional engineer and a World War II Naval aviator — as well as his best friend’s father, Jim Kofskey, who set Langhout on the path to engineering. Kofskey, Langhout’s mentor, was a senior leader at the Defense Intelligence Agency Missile and Space Intelligence Center and had been telling Langhout for as long as he can remember that once he received his engineering degree from Auburn University, he’d go to work for MSIC.
In a roundabout way, that’s exactly what happened.
While there was never any question that Langhout would begin his professional career as a Department of the Army civilian, the fact that he stayed so long is a testament to his commitment, and belief, in the Army mission.
“Getting to work for the United States Army is a pretty awesome experience,” Langhout said. “You get to be part of something much bigger than yourself. We are in charge of securing our nation. That’s pretty cool stuff to be a part of.”
From the time he entered civil service in April 1986 as a project director/analyst for MSIC, to where he sits today as AvMC director, Langhout has let his faith and the Army values guide his career. Over the course of those 37 years, Langhout spent several years supporting the Threat Systems Management Office, the CH-47F Product Management Office and the Cargo Helicopters Project Office before joining AvMC in 2013, upon his appointment to the senior executive service. He served in a variety of leadership positions at AvMC, before being named director of the DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center, in Warren, Michigan in 2018, a job he expected to retire from. But the Army had other plans. Langhout returned home to Huntsville to serve as the director of AvMC Jan. 17, 2021, a fitting final assignment.
No matter where he’s been, Langhout has found joy in the job, and the people he worked with, whether it was as a 23-year-old doing classified work in the desert or supporting the Hurricane Katrina relief mission. While in some ways the Army has changed drastically over the course of his career — there was no such thing as email in 1986, and people could still smoke in the office — some things have remained constant.
“One thing hasn’t changed — Army values haven’t changed, and the criticality of what the Army does for our nation has not changed. I’m very excited to see that consistency from 1986 to 2023,” Langhout said.
While he never did it for the recognition, the awards and accolades for his work with the Army found him anyway. In 2022 he was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, and received an Alumni of Achievement award, College of Engineering, from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In February 2023, he was inducted into The Honorable Order of Saint Michael, Gold Award, in a surprise ceremony.
Lt. Gen. Robert Marion, military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, who had worked side-by-side with Langhout at Cargo Helicopters, was on hand for the celebration.
“In the Army we have core values — loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. I always say, you don’t have to wear this uniform to display those core values,” Marion said. “There’s been multiple times in Jeff’s career when the Army said, ‘We’re going to need you to do something. We know it’s probably not in your dreams to do this, but we need you.’ When the Army gave that order, Jeff went and served where he needed to be. He’s the perfect embodiment of how civilians, and anyone who loves our Army and this nation, can be selfless in their service.”
For Langhout, it was simply part of the honor of being a civil servant.
“If you wake up in the morning finding ways to make other people’s lives better, it’s amazing how much better your life will be,” Langhout said. “As Department of the Army employees, remember what our job is. It’s the national security of our nation. It is an incredible honor to get to be a Department of Army civilian. Don’t take that for granted. You’re fortunate to have a good job, and you can really make a difference for our nation, and our world. I’m not trying to sound goofy here, but I really do believe it. Live Army values. If you live Army values in the office, and your life, it’s amazing how squared away things can be.”
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.