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News | May 8, 2024

Naval aviator leads with servant leadership principles

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Central Region Public Affairs

Navy Capt. Ryan Batchelor is the outgoing commander at Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing St. Louis. His change of command ceremony is May 10, but before he leaves, he wanted to let the DCMA workforce and others know how much he enjoyed his time with the agency.  

During his time as the contract management office commander, Batchelor and his team of 250 civilians and 15 assigned military worked hard to deliver the F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, T-7A Red Hawk, and MQ-25 Stingray aircraft to military customers around the world, as well as thousands of weapons and parts for many Department of Defense platforms. 

Batchelor was born in Mobile, Alabama, and grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. He is a 1996 graduate of Purdue University. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

He is a naval aviator who has served in numerous capacities throughout his career with the P-3C Orion and T-6 Texan aircraft. He has served multiple acquisition tours at both DCMA and Naval Air Systems Command, known as NAVAIR.

Batchelor and his wife have nine children — five girls and four boys, who are between the ages of 12 to 20. In his spare time, he enjoys backpacking, reading, being active in his church and volunteering with various groups.

Q1: How long have you been a part of the agency team, and what were your previous assignments? How did your previous positions prepare you for your current leadership role?

A1: I have a total of nine years and 10 months with DCMA. This is not consecutive as it was broken up between three different tours. I was assigned to DCMA Wichita from September 2009 to September 2012. I was assigned to DCMA headquarter’s Aircraft Operations from July 2017 to July 2020. I was assigned to DCMA Boeing St. Louis, my current duty station, from July 2020 to present. 

While at DCMA Wichita, I learned the basics of contract surveillance and got my first taste of command when I was the acting commander from October 2011 to September 2012. My job in Aircraft Operations helped me to understand DCMA headquarters, taught me how to properly staff documents through headquarters, which I have used multiple times since being in St. Louis, and it allowed me to establish a basic knowledge of all the programs under DCMA surveillance with flying operations. I also gained a basic understanding of the challenges and issues at DCMA Boeing St. Louis before I arrived for my command tour. 

My command tour at DCMA Boeing St. Louis has been the most challenging tour of my agency career and the most rewarding. The previous six years of DCMA experience helped me to have a solid understanding of the agency’s mission and vision as well as the roles we play with the buying commands. My previous assignments in NAVAIR aided me in understanding how program managers think, which has allowed me to enhance my communication with them regarding the 15 Acquisition Category I programs we have on site in St. Louis.

Q2. Where is your next assignment? Who will be your replacement at DCMA Boeing St. Louis?

A2: I will be going back to NAVAIR to work in the Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office, also known as PMA-268, as the lead systems integrator integrated product team lead. While PMA-268 is located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, the position that I am taking is in St. Louis, so I will still have access to the product being built in the factory and touching base with the Boeing leadership team. My replacement at DCMA Boeing St. Louis is Navy Capt. Daniel Martin, who is coming from NAVAIR.

Q3: What do you want employees at your CMO, the Central Region, and around the agency to know about you?

A3: As I depart DCMA, I want the DCMA Boeing St. Louis team to know that I view them as some of the hardest working and most dedicated employees in the agency. They have made it a distinct honor to serve as their commander for the last three-plus years. As an agency, we have a challenging mission that requires a balance between warfighters’ needs, buying commands, constraints to cost, scheduling, performance objectives, and contractor challenges. This position is not for the faint of heart, yet I see employees step up every day and perform admirably. I am proud to be part of the DCMA legacy. I want to remind everyone to always keep our ‘why’ in mind, which is to continue to daily support our warfighters.

Q4: How did you keep your team close as the agency has maintained a hybrid workforce after the COVID-19 pandemic?

A4: Since we are now a hybrid workforce, I have increased my communication avenues and tried to get the staff together in-person as much as possible. Those are the two things that I found were successful in keeping the team close. During the height of the pandemic, my leadership team increased communication via email, newsletters and videos to the workforce. We also provided training to first-line supervisors to ensure connection to their teams and to raise their leadership competency. In addition, since the beginning of the pandemic, I have come into the office as much as possible. When I am in the office, I make every attempt to walk around and talk to those who are there.

Q5.  How would you describe your leadership style?

A5: I espouse to the servant leadership style because I am here to serve others in the command and ensure that any barriers are removed so my team can perform their jobs. I provide the staff with the tools they need to perform their jobs even better. I believe that if you develop leaders correctly, then the mission will take care of itself. Leadership development is a culture that must be embedded within the CMO and agency. I have done my best to instill that culture during my time as commander.

Q6: What made you stay with the agency? Why do you believe in the agency’s mission?

A6: I had a choice when I was selected to O-6 to either compete for a major program manager position at NAVAIR or return to DCMA for a possible command tour. I chose DCMA for several reasons. First, a DCMA job keeps me close to the product that I am responsible for. I enjoy being able to easily walk to the production line and see and touch what we are managing. That doesn’t happen at NAVAIR typically, but it can happen every day at DCMA.

DCMA’s mission is of vital importance in holding the contractor accountable. Everyone needs someone to hold them accountable because it drives the appropriate behavior and that is what we do for each of our contractors so that we can deliver the best product to the warfighter — on time, on cost, and with the appropriate performance. I want the warfighters, which now includes my oldest son, to have what they need to defend our freedom.

Q7. What will you miss most about the agency? What were some of the highlights as the CMO commander?

A7: I will miss the people who are the subject matter experts in their career field because they were always willing to teach me something. I will miss walking the factory line and touching the product. I will also miss meeting the warfighters when they come for a factory tour, or we deliver the product to them. Everyone likes to get new things and get excited about a new capability, and I will miss not being able to provide that. 

My highlights as a CMO commander include getting to meet and know the military and civilian personnel who were promoted during my time here. Other highlights include hosting two leadership forums at DCMA Boeing St. Louis and having the opportunity to serve the patriots who work at this office.

Q8: Who are some of your mentors? What is the best career advice you have received? 

A8: My Navy mentors include Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, Capt. Dan Feeney, and Capt. Kyle Karstens. In addition, I would add to the list leadership experts like John Maxwell and Patrick Lencioni since I have been through their certification courses and learned so much from their content on how to lead.

The best career advice I have ever received is now one of my mottos, “Don’t settle and be true to yourself.”

Q9: Do you recommend any books that you have found beneficial?

A9: I would recommend a few books. I like John Maxwell’s books, “The 5 Levels of Leadership” and “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.” I recommend for aspiring or current leaders the Harvard Business Review’s “On Leadership Volume I and II books. I would also suggest Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” Another good book is by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin called “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win.”

Q10. You have nine children. How do you balance being a husband, father, and commander? What advice would you give to other working parents or those planning on having children?

A10: Work-life balance is not something you strive for — it should be your priority. You need to have a conversation with your family about what are the most important times for you to be present. The best time for you to be present might be before school with putting your kids on the bus, after school by helping your kids with their homework, or it could be to showing up for their activities such as their track meet. I advise parents to block their calendars for those events so people can see that they prioritize their family and then others will hopefully do the same. 

I use the concept of listing the three most important and one must-do task to prioritize my day. I list the three most important things that must be done that day, and I circle the one that is a must do. I advise people to knock that list out as fast as possible because they can feel comfortable leaving when they need to in order to keep their family commitments.

The best advice I can offer to parents is this, “Your calendar is your own. Do not let other people control it.”

View the video interview.