Jeff Langhout

U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center Director, Jeffrey Langhout.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Alumnus Jeffrey Langhout (M.S. Engineering Management, 1991) has been selected as the 2022 Alumni of Achievement award winner for the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System.

The alumnus is the leader of the largest engineering workforce in Alabama in his position as the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (AvMC) Director. The Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems as part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM).

The honoree carries a deep respect for the responsibilities he oversees in his work each day in support of vital defense initiatives.

“It’s one of the best parts of my job,” Langhout notes. “I believe in Army values, and I believe in our Army and our responsibility to our nation. I cannot tell you how honored I am to get to be an Army civilian leading such an important organization that is truly critical for the defense of our nation and freedom across the world. Being a part of something so much larger than myself that I am 100% vested in makes every day a great day.”

The honoree heads a workforce comprised of nearly 11,000 civilian, military and contractor engineers, scientists, researchers and support staff with a mission to deliver advanced technologies and functional engineering expertise for the Army’s aviation and missile materiel enterprise.

“Our work includes building actual hardware and writing software for current and future weapon systems,” the alumnus notes. “We support live test events for the next generation missile. I regularly meet with industry partners and international delegations, and we celebrate our outstanding workforce. I have the privilege of recognizing and rewarding the great folks that make up the AvMC.”

When asked what was the deciding factor that led him on this path, Langhout is quick to point to two important figures early in his life that help show the way.

“The fact that my dad was an engineer certainly set some expectations of what ‘normal’ looked like to me. My best friend’s dad was also an engineer, so two key male figures in my life set those expectations. He told me most of my life that when I graduated from college, I was coming to work for his organization here at Redstone Arsenal – the Missile and Space Intelligence Center.

“And when I graduated, I told him I was probably going to take a job in private industry, he looked at me and said, ‘No you are not, I told you were coming to work for the Army, and I have four interviews set up for you!’ That is how I became an Army employee,” Langhout recalls with a smile. “Making it to a Senior executive service position in the Army was never a goal. Frankly, it seemed too far out of reach. Along with good job performance, I was fortunate to have good mentors, fantastic experiences and fortunate timing.”

A longtime Huntsville resident, the alumnus returned to the community in early 2021 as the DEVCOM AvMC director after serving as the director of the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center for more than two years in Michigan. He holds the distinction of being the only Army engineer to have led multiple research, development and engineering centers and was recently inducted into the 2022 State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.

With several thousand government engineering and scientific professionals and another 7000-plus industry partners under his command, the alumnus must wear a lot of different hats.

“We’re developing the next generation technologies for Army aviation and missiles, as well as leading engineers developing current weapon systems and sustaining existing weapon systems,” Langhout explains. “So no two days are ever the same. We might be dealing with an emergency issue where a bad part has been found that causes safety concerns for a fleet of helicopters, or we are the engineers to assess the issue and determine the severity and what type solutions are available. My day could include a visit from a Congressional staff member coming to tour our labs. The Vice President of the U.S. came to visit a few years ago!” he remembers. “That was a once in a career type of event. It was so much fun showing Mr. [Mike] Pence the value that AvMC and Huntsville have to our nation.”

Langhout has held several key positions across multiple Army domains since becoming a civil servant. Some of his most significant accomplishments were made while acting as chief engineer for the Chinook Helicopter program, and he has served the Army in one way or another since 1986.

In 2020, Langhout earned the top recognition from the National Defense Industrial Association for his leadership on Detroit Arsenal and the associated impact to the Michigan industrial base. Other honors he has received include the Army’s Superior Civilian Service Medal in 2021, AUSA Civilian of the Year in 2011 (finalist), the Honorable Order of St Michael (Bronze) in 2006 and Achievement Medal for Civilian Service in 2004.

Even with all of his accomplishments, the alumnus says that he feels the weight of the responsibilities he carries and strives to always remember that it’s the people working with him who make the difference.

“I love the job, but it does come with some very difficult components. With 11,000 people and the demanding mission, there are many complex problems. Leading through COVID was tough for everyone and certainly provided some opportunities to demonstrate leadership. People have complicated lives, and we all bring our complications to work. So, the challenges of life are ever present.

“Often people think the boss can just make everything right,” the alumnus goes on. “Sometimes I can, but most of the time, there are multiple sides to any challenging situation, and that just makes it tough! I have never been able to separate my professional life from my personal life – everything to me is personal – it has to be, it’s people. I so often hear ‘its just business,’ but it’s always people, and we can never forget all people have feelings, and that just brings a lot to every equation. In the end though, I could never do a job like this without my Lord leading me and supporting me. I pray every day for the folks of AvMC and for my ability to lead effectively.”

Langhout’s wife Jackie is a UAH alumna herself with a M.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering. She is the Team Lead/Principal Engineer for KODA Technologies, Inc. The Langhout’s children include Grace, who is an Assistant Principal at Challenger Middle School, and Robert, who is a business analyst for a defense company in Auburn, AL, as well as Robert’s wife Claire – Langhout’s daughter-in-law, “Who is like our child” – who is executive director of sales and operations for Orange Theory Fitness, AL and Southern MS Region. The honoree has a number of avocations and interests. “I love to play golf, and I’m Chair of the Trustees at our church. Also working hard at Orange Theory Fitness.”

What the honoree looks to the future, his thoughts and aspirations with respect to his career never stray far from the U.S. Army.

“I have been an Army civilian for 37 years. I am not at all interested in moving away from the important work of our Army. But I do think there are some amazing leaders ready to lead, and people like me have to make room for those great people to lead as well. In my particular formation, we will be hyper focused in the coming months and years in ensuring we have the right talent to support our Army. We have core technical competencies and those are further broken down to help us recruit and actively manage to ensure we are developing the right talent. That is key moving forward to ensure we have the skills to develop and support the current and next generation aviation and missile systems. And that includes putting more effort in STEM development starting with elementary school kids. I have this dream that every year we will land an Army helicopter at every elementary school across Huntsville, Madison, Madison County and let those kids climb all around those helicopters. I think that might stir some interest in engineering with our youngest citizens!”

The alumnus reports his favorite memory of his time at UAH was “walking out of orals knowing I had passed! And doing the group project where we ‘validated’ Express Oil's claim of oil changes in 10 minutes.”

Langhout goes on to detail why he feels his alma mater plays an especially important role in his community and the region as well.

“In my mind, UAH has a critical path in this community,” the alumnus says. “Our history, outside of the cotton growth of the last century, is all about missile technology and space, whether ballistic missile defense or NASA Marshall. That is our lineage. Over the last 30 years our DoD has recognized the value of this amazing community and thus why Army aviation was brought to Huntsville. The technical expertise of all that just attracted more, like the ATF, FBI and others on the federal side, as well as biotech and automotive companies, to name just a few from outside government.

“In the middle of all of that is UAH and the technical talent that must be developed through undergrad and graduate programs. Deepening partnerships are occurring with all the organizations I just mentioned, and must continue to occur between our academic institutions and our government and industry partners here in this community to ensure most importantly the defense of our nation, and therefore continue to make Huntsville such an awesome place to live.”

When asked if he could share one piece of advice with a current UAH student, what would it be, Langhout says, “It’s all about the people. Yes, you must be good at your trade. But unless you can communicate and build relationships with those around you, it won’t have the meaning nor the joy that is available to you.

“God has blessed me in so many ways. I am quite motivated to ensure people know that from my perspective. It is He that has enabled me to do what I do. It's all about Him. As I get older, I feel this even more strongly. I am pretty passionate about telling it like I see it and reminding folks that I am just one data point. And that we all need many data points to inform our opinions and knowledge.”