FORT LEE, Va. –
John Lyle’s second retirement marks a lifelong pursuit of significance through service.
The senior executive service member recently retired as Defense Contract Management Agency’s deputy director. He was surrounded by family, friends, mentors of the past, future leaders he inspired and his last boss as a federal employee.
“I’ve been blessed over the course of the last 18 or so months to have the best deputy of my career,” said Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, DCMA director, during Lyle’s retirement ceremony at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum here. “I was told when I agreed to take the job, they said ‘there’s this deputy there, and he does most of the work. You’ll barely have to do anything.’ And I said, ‘Sign me up,’” added Bassett lightheartedly.
During the next pandemic-addled year-and-a-half, the leadership duo faced challenging COVID-19 obstacles to their agency’s ultimate mission of warfighter support. Bassett and Lyle led numerous policy implementations designed to keep deliveries on time, Defense supply chains moving, and local contractors paid.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount — not only COVID activities — but the normal day-to-day mission of delivering weapon systems,” said Lyle. “We have really done a lot of things to focus on the warfighters.”
Years earlier, Lyle began his first march toward retirement after accepting an Air Force commission. The young officer established the contracting expertise for which he would later receive recognition pinnacles.
“By 2006, John retired from the Air Force as a colonel, and he built an incredible reputation as one of the Air Force’s very best contract officers. Hands down,” said Bassett. “He won the Aeronautical Systems Center Directorate for Contracting Bruce Woodhouse Boss of the Year award. He won the Air Force Materiel Command Systems Field Grade Contracting Officer of the Year (and) the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award. For those in the acquisition business, that is like the Academy Award of acquisition professionals. John was clearly a trusted contracting professional, and he stood out among his peers.”
In one of his final uniformed commands, he counted DCMA team members as his peers for the first time.
“John is a prior DCMA (contract management office) commander and has an impressive record through several dozen increasingly challenging active duty and civilian acquisition positions,” said Navy Vice Adm. David Lewis, the agency’s former director, while welcoming Lyle as deputy prior to Lewis’ retirement in 2020. “He served in a command assignment with DCMA during a pivotal time, leading our Northrop Grumman office in Melbourne, Florida, from 1999 to 2001, as the agency transitioned away from the Defense Logistics Agency to the independent organization we are today.”
When Lyle returned to DCMA nearly 20 years later, his care for those he led came with him.
“My leadership style is situational depending on the people I’m leading, required mission to accomplish and time to accomplish it: maturity level, experience, education, required mission and tasking, time for completion, etc.,” he said. “My motto has always been and continues to be: ‘Mission First, People Always.’”
In his personal life, an appropriate motto may read: Family First, Family Always. Lyle told multiple stories of his family’s love and support, and how it often guided him through difficult challenges.
“The Air Force may have recruited an Airman in a lieutenant, but they retained a great Air Force family, a family that is committed to the values of service to our nation, honor and integrity – values that live on in your children and grandchildren,” said Bassett. “A family committed to the service of our nation. Families like this don’t happen by accident. It starts with values and integrity and a recognition that you want to serve something greater than yourself. I am grateful for this family’s dedication to our nation, (and) your personal commitment of over 42 years.”
Mike Lyle, John’s son, illustrated his father’s dual-commitment to family and work.
“I was driving my daughter home from school the other day, and it was one of those clear, beautiful days,” said Mike, a Compassion Church of Nazarene pastor. “It was so bright — blue sky with contrails all over it. It was like the pilots were just painting. It was beautiful. It reminded me of freedom. It made me think of my father because it shows where the jet has been, and he has left some mighty contrails in my own life, like you (all) here. You know him as boss or coworker or friend. I know him as dad. Every bit of service and energy he’s given to his country, he’s given that and more to his family.”
Stephen Willis, the Compassion Church of Nazarene’s lead pastor, spoke of Lyle’s universal leadership style that permeated his life at home and at work.
“I want to take a few minutes to simply talk about some of the characteristics I see in John Lyle that have challenged me to be a better person and a better leader,” said Willis. “As a pastor, I am passionate about leadership. And as a pastor what I have found is that the greatest of leaders actually surround themselves with other great leaders. They are not intimidated by them, but rather want to surround themselves with those people because great leaders make great leaders. Also, when you surround yourself with great leaders, what you do is you realize that there is a whole host of many different qualities that we find in people.”
Throughout Lyle’s ceremony comments, he acknowledge his leaders of the past who heavily influenced his professional development, the leaders of tomorrow he inspired through action and much of the DCMA greater-community who attended virtually.
“Thank you for honoring me today and attending the ceremony either in person or virtually,” said Lyle. “I know that everyone has competing priorities, and you made it a higher priority to be here today. This is a tremendous honor for me to be here, so I thank you for that.”
People who most deserve thanks often lavish it on others, and Lyle continued to praise his DCMA team members and promised a bright future for the warfighter-support agency.
In his closing remarks, Bassett focused on the past. He praised Lyle’s character, commitment and integrity.
“Everywhere you went, you were recognized for your professionalism and your leadership,” said Bassett. “While I am proud to celebrate your retirement today, I’m not happy about it. You’re going to be greatly missed — both you and Viv — from this agency. It’s hard to lose the backbone of our leadership and move forward. It’s going to be a challenge for all of us to do that together. We wish you Godspeed in all of the things we know you are going to do next.”
Where the retired SES and Air Force colonel plans to serve next remains undecided. While his prior service, now twice marked with honor as an organizational pillar, rests accomplished.
“One of the things that I was going to say is that it is all about service,” said Lyle. “It’s not about significance, it’s not about status. Your status doesn’t equal significance, your service does. So, the more you serve, the more significant you become. I really believe that with my whole heart, and there’s nothing more rewarding than serving our great country.”