Telling the ATEC Story The People Behind Test & Evaluation: Johanna Peters

By ATEC G 3-5November 13, 2023

Johanna Marie Peters (nee Crabill), born in Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital, grew up in a typical Baltimore City rowhouse in a close-knit working-class neighborhood. Her father was a customer service representative at a nearby trucking company. Her mother worked nights as a nurse, carefully scheduling her shifts to ensure she was there when Peters and her younger sister came home from school. The happiest part of Peters’ day was when her dad made it home from work, and the family ate dinner together. No matter what else was going on, their nightly family dinners were always something Peters could count on. She continued the tradition when she started her own family.

Peters grew up in a large extended Catholic family. Her paternal and maternal grandparents lived only a few miles away. Whenever there was a family illness or other crisis, her grandparents were always there to help out. During the summer months, Peters’ grandparents pitched in to care for them while her parents worked. They played games, baked brownies, or simply hung out on Baltimore’s hot and humid summer days. Her grandparents’ commitment to their faith in God was rivaled only by their incredible love for their children and grandchildren.

Like most extended families, her family had many cherished rituals and traditions, particularly during the holidays. Over time, some of those traditions evolved. The one family tradition that never changed was getting all the family members together for dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Easter Sunday, as well as for cookouts on Memorial Day and the 4th of July. Out of all the many celebrations of food and family, the dinners her paternal grandparents hosted every Sunday still hold a special place in her heart. Until the age of 20, Peters can’t recall a single Sunday that didn’t involve sharing a meal with her Pop-Pop and Grams.

The older she got, the more she realized she shared the same love for uniting family on special occasions. Peters enjoys hosting Christmas dinner every year for her own extended family. Her meticulous attention to detail and innate ability to remain calm under pressure has proven beneficial not only when she’s coordinating large family functions but also on the job when she has to bring together a diverse group of people to accomplish a task. What few people know, once upon a time, Peters had developed a genuine interest in wedding planning and took a class at a nearby community college to learn more.

Until Peters was 10, she and her sister were the only grandchildren on either side of the family. Despite a sheltered upbringing—there was always an older relative nearby keeping a close watch out—she had a great childhood. There were plenty of kids her age to play tag in the alleys behind the rowhouses, ride bikes with in and around the neighborhood, or hang out with after school and before their moms called them in for dinner. There was time spent with her dad at Baltimore Orioles games or watching TV with her family after dinner and before bedtime. When times were good, her family made frequent day trips to state parks and other historic sites. Every summer, Peters’ family spent one week in Ocean City with her parents’ best friends from next door.

But times weren’t always good—and some of the times were incredibly tough. In the 1970s, the trucking industry went through a turbulent period caused by a surge in diesel fuel prices, frequent truck driver strikes, and the introduction of stringent federal safety rules. Her dad was often laid off. The loss of his job and steady income, plus the uncertainty of if or when he would work again, put a lot of stress on the family. Through these challenging times, her mom was always the glue that held everyone together and kept everything from completely falling apart. Until her dad found work again, the income from her mom’s job as a night nurse was essential to the family’s stability.

Peters was raised in the Catholic faith and sent to Catholic schools. She attended The Catholic High School of Baltimore, or TCHS, located in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. TCHS is a private, all-girls, college-preparatory high school sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Math and science were her favorite subjects, and she was a member of the high school’s math club. Based on her love for science and math, her high school teachers and guidance counselors encouraged her to attend college and pursue a degree in engineering. Her mother, who grew up loving chemistry, had always dreamed of one day becoming a pharmacist. Because of the era in which she grew up, pharmacy wasn’t considered a suitable career choice for a woman, so she became a nurse instead. But she was determined her daughters would have a different reality from hers. She, too, encouraged Peters to attend college. But more importantly, she wanted her studies to be her choice, not someone else’s.

After graduating from TCHS in May 1985, Peters enrolled at Loyola College, now Loyola University–a private Jesuit liberal arts university in Baltimore. She received a Bachelor of Science in engineering science in 1989. Years later, she earned a Master of Science in engineering management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1996.

Shortly after graduating from Loyola, Peters began her career as a Department of the Army, or DA, civilian in June 1989, working as an electronics engineer for the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, or AMSAA, located on the Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, campus in Harford County, Maryland. During her senior year of college, Loyola’s Rizzo Career Center hosted an on-campus recruiting event that featured several APG organizations. Peters signed up for an interview with AMSAA, and as the saying goes, the rest was history. She started in AMSAA’s Survivability Branch as a GS-7 intern, eventually becoming a GS-12 in three years.

In 1996, Peters moved on to the U.S. Army Evaluation Analysis Center, now the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, or AEC, also on the APG campus. She was responsible for integrating developmental and operational evaluations for various Army aviation and aircraft survivability systems as an ATEC System Team Chair.

In 2002, Peters accepted a position with the U.S. Army Developmental Test Command, or DTC, in 2002, in the Test Business Management Division. There she led the development and deployment of the DTC component of ATEC’s Decision Support System, or ADSS. Formerly designated as the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or TECOM, in 1962, TECOM was later redesignated as DTC and became a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, in 1999. In January 2011, DTC was merged with ATEC and later deactivated in November. ATEC, a direct reporting unit of the U.S. Army, was established in October 1999 with the primary function of ensuring America’s Soldiers can fight, win, and dominate on the battlefield with weapons that work. Located in 24 locations in 16 states, ATEC provides direct support to the Army Futures Command, or AFC, and has overall responsibility for all of the Army’s developmental testing, independent operational testing, and independent evaluations and assessments.

After the consolidation of DTC with ATEC, Peters was assigned to the Process Improvement Division of the G-5 Command Initiatives and Plans Directorate in 2011. In 2015, she was selected by ATEC’s former chief of staff, Karen Taylor, to be a member of the command’s first Command Initiatives Group. Later, the Command Initiatives Group became part of the command’s first Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate, or PA&E, in 2017. The command later made the PA&E Studies Division a part of the newly reestablished G-3/5 Plans Division in July 2018.

After serving in various positions in ATEC since 1996, Peters was ready to take on more challenging tasks so she could contribute to ATEC’s mission at a higher level. She got her wish when she was promoted to GS-14 in November 2018. She assumed her current position to lead the command’s newly formed AFC Integration Cell in the Directorate for Capabilities Integration. As a result of the command’s reorganization, she now performs this role as a senior test operations officer in the G-3/5 Operations and Plans Directorate’s Test Integration and Modernization Division. AFC, a 4-star command and the newest of the Army’s four major commands, was established in 2018 to develop innovative solutions to keep Soldiers safe and America strong. The testing and evaluation ATEC does is vital to getting Soldiers safely back home to their families. She’s immensely proud to have been a part of providing direct support to AFC and helpng it achieve its mission to lead the Army’s future force modernization initiatives.

As successful as her professional journey has been, Peters says the accomplishments she values the most aren’t related to the work she does for ATEC. Instead, she counts her 33-year marriage to her husband, Michael, her blind date for her senior prom, as one of her best and most rewarding decisions. Even after all their years together, they are still deeply committed to each other and the sacrament of marriage. But she says her most significant achievement, bar none, is becoming a mom and raising her son into a fine young man. Wyatt, who turned 23 in October, recently graduated cum laude from Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science degree in emergency management. He works for the Carroll County Department of Public Safety as an emergency management planner. She raised him as her parents raised her—steeped in the Catholic faith and devoted to God and family.

From the moment Peters was hired as a DA civilian in 1989, she carefully charted a career path that culminated into a successful Army career spanning over three decades. Peters admits she was initially attracted to the Army because of the many benefits of working for the federal government. Her dad endured many hardships working in the trucking industry, and both her parents struggled with debilitating health issues throughout their lives. Her mom dedicated over 30 years of her life to the nursing profession only to be forced to give it all up due to a disability. Her dad had to work almost to the day he died just to afford health insurance. Sadly, neither of her parents got the opportunity to retire or enjoy the life they had worked so hard for so long to build together. She wanted a more secure future for herself and her family. She came for the benefits, but she stayed because of the Army’s mission and her desire to make a difference in the lives of the courageous men and women who bravely put it all on the line each and every day to protect and defend their country and its freedoms.

At the start of her DA journey, Peters frequently thought of the dreams her mom unfortunately never got to fulfill, usually when she found herself the only woman in the room. Not a day goes by that Peters isn’t eternally grateful for having parents who believed in her and supported her career and educational choices right from the start. Now, 34 years later, Peters looks forward to her upcoming retirement on December 16, 2023. There’s no doubt her faith and her family’s love played an integral role in shaping and influencing her personal and professional trajectory. She knows she wouldn’t have made it to this point without both.

If she could have just one wish, it would be for her parents to be here to witness her upcoming retirement after years of diligent and dedicated service to her country. Her parents laid it all on the line for her, and she’s happy to say she’s not leaving anything on the table.