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News | Jan. 13, 2016

From Vietnam to Air Force officer

By Matthew Montgomery DCMA Public Affairs

SEATTLE - Thomas Truong moved from Vietnam to the United States when he was 15, having to learn English over the summer in order to attend the eighth grade in rural Indiana. Almost 27 years later, Truong is thriving in the Air Force as a captain assigned to the Defense Contract Management Agency overseeing Missile Defense Agency contracts.

“One of my main activities right now is tracking the corrective action plans of three contractors, after an MDA audit last year revealed issues that needed to be resolved,” said Truong, a DCMA Seattle lead engineer system surveillance. “I have to review the plans and make sure the corrective actions are actually taking place and being implemented.”

Truong also supports other contracts and provides input on manufacturing processes to help make sure products are delivered on time. Since arriving at DCMA, he’s worked with several contractors and led lean-manufacturing events aimed at identifying ways to cut costs and create efficiencies in their processes.

His expertise comes from his military experience and Purdue University where he earned two bachelor’s degrees — one in mechanical engineering technology in 1999, the other in industrial engineering technology in 2002.

Despite having his degree, Truong joined the enlisted ranks after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 as an engineering assistant hoping to gain military experience before making the move to the officer corps. “I’m glad I went enlisted first,” said Truong. “It gave me a great foundation and I was able to meet a lot of people who made it easier for me to become an officer.”

One such relationship was forged over the ping pong table. Truong, who grew up playing the sport in Vietnam, was featured in the base newspaper for being champion three years in a row. His wing commander, who was an avid player and very competitive, saw Truong’s picture and challenged him to a game upon his return from overseas.

A large crowd gathered for the exhibition. The match served as a great opportunity for Truong, as the commander discovered he had a college degree and desire to be an officer. Truong might have lost the contest, but he gained a valuable ally who eventually helped him realize his dream of being an officer.

After graduating from Officer Training School in 2007, Truong received orders to his first duty station as an officer — 846 Test Squadron, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. “My first assignment was incredible. I served as the rocket sled design engineer on the C-17 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure system; worked as a process improvement engineer for the Joint Strike Fighter ejection-seat testing; conducted Patriot Advanced Capability interceptor missile defense warhead in rain erosion testing; and designed rocket sleds, profiles and hardware for high-speed weapons’ tests for velocities up to Mach 9,” said Truong.

He also found time to earn a master’s degree from New Mexico State University in industrial engineering before reporting to his second assignment with the Space Missile Center in Los Angeles. There he worked on various GPS satellite projects and managed launch system sustainment and improvement efforts to support the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.

“A highlight of my second assignment was developing and executing engineering audits to ensure new entrants into government contracting met the Air Force launch certification requirements,” said Truong. “In this role, I got to meet and escort SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Vice President Gwynne Shotwell, to a weekly meeting with the SMC commander.”

Truong, through his various enlisted and officer assignments, has a very unique perspective and brings valuable leadership management skills to help DCMA accomplish the mission.

“Capt. Truong is a great asset to the agency,” said Air Force Maj. Geoffrey Levine, DCMA Seattle commander. “His upbringing and experience as an enlisted airman have molded him into an outstanding officer ready for any challenge to support the DCMA mission.”