HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- After 29 years of service, Col. Amanda G. Kato, Air Force program executive officer for nuclear command, control and communications (NC3), retired from the Air Force following a ceremony here June 18.
During her past three years as the PEO for NC3, she was also dual-hatted as the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s director for NC3 integration, where she was responsible for supporting the Air Force's NC3 Weapon System and leading over 400 Airmen, government civilians and support contractors. Additionally, she directed a portfolio of acquisition programs of almost $14 billion.
During the ceremony, the presiding official, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., commander, Air Force Materiel Command, shared a few memories about Kato and her service.
“In high school, Colonel Amanda Kato saw the video at the Air Force Academy’s visitor center and knew then that she wanted to join the Air Force,” Bunch said. He noted that even though the high school’s guidance counselor told her she could not get into it, in 1988, she accepted the Air Force’s offer to attend its academy over offers from Annapolis and other highly competitive schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and her commission in 1992.
“She said she planned at the time to be on active duty for only five years,” Bunch said with a knowing grin, noting she was off by only about 24 years.
“Her first job was an adjutant at Vance Air Force Base [Oklahoma] but no one knows the 5000 DoD acquisition series better than her,” he said. “She even volunteered for a stint in the Whiteman Air Force Base [Missouri] command post, so Amanda was doing NC3 even before NC3 was cool. She was the number one captain in the wing in her performance reports.”
Kato worked in the various positions in the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB from December 1993 to July 1997. In 1997, she was accepted into the highly competitive Air Force Intern program at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
There she met her future husband, now retired Air Force Lt. Col. Lynn Anderson, who attended the retirement ceremony, along with their daughters, Heather and Charlie, and other family members and friends.
“While an Air Force intern, she also found time to be a distinguished graduate from George Washington University,” Bunch said. She obtained a master’s in administrative sciences and organization management in 1999 from the university.
In addition, Kato was a program element monitor for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition), overseeing execution, budgeting and planning for the Airborne Laser, B-1, and Next-Generation Bomber programs.
Prior to her current positions, Kato was the senior materiel leader for the $4.6-billion Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals program, where she led the design, development, production and delivery of satellite communication terminals for strategic and tactical forces. She also served as the program manager for the Presidential and National Voice Conferencing Integrator, ensuring a worldwide secure and survivable voice conferencing capability for the National Command Authority.
“Amanda was perfect for the NC3 program executive officer job,” Bunch said. “More than 75 percent of the NC3 systems in the United States are in this portfolio. Her team kept making amazing progress with milestones and building relationships, including with U.S. Strategic Command and Air Force Global Strike Command.”
“I’m so proud of where we have gone with the NC3 enterprise. It is remarkable the work you have done,” Bunch said to Kato. “You have contributed many things to our nation’s defense, from bombers to directed energy to NC3. Congratulations on achieving this [retirement] milestone.”
Maj. Gen. Anthony W. Genatempo, AFNWC commander and Air Force PEO for strategic systems, also attended the ceremony.
“During Colonel Kato’s time in AFNWC, she drove positive execution in every program she touched, including the fielding more than 90 new systems spanning eight different programs,” Genatempo said. “She also did a great job of leading the restructuring of her directorate, which grew 200 percent in manning. Her vision for the Air Force NC3 environment was unparalleled and ensured sustainment not only of today’s NC3 systems, but also integration of tomorrow’s future capabilities.”
Kato closed out the ceremony by thanking her family and friends in attendance.
“As I’ve told my daughters, there is nothing you can’t do if you work hard, outthink people, and are a good person who leads with compassion and strength,” Kato said.
“Serving our military was a calling for me,” she said, and thanked her family for their patience during those times she worked long hours and missed some events.
During her career, she held key positions at squadron, group, and wing levels. She also led advanced optics and laser programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, as well as air combat maneuvering instrumentation programs at the Air Armament Center, Eglin AFB, Florida.
“Early in my career, I was molded by strong brigadier generals and colonels. I learned what a colonel was supposed to look like, act like and lead like from their examples,” Kato said. “I hope I helped those who I mentored think about their careers a little smarter.”
“Building relationships is the number one way we get our jobs done,” she said.
For example, she noted “we cannot get the tools we need without our industry partners.”
“I’ve been privileged to work over my career with some great Americans who are committed to solving problems, working through tough issues, and delivering and sustaining important capabilities,” she said. “This job is the biggest team sport that I’ve ever played in and I’m always finding more partners.”
“I’m very proud of our [NC3] team and our accomplishments over the past three years,” she said. “We truly do work that is the foundation of nuclear deterrence and national security. We built credibility and the portfolio is bigger and performing better. Many of our programs are well and delivering needed capability. Yet, even for programs performing well, many teeter on the edge of a ‘risk’ cliff.”
“The art of being a leader is to figure out how to lead each area consistently, but uniquely. I try to be an optimistic realist when I make decisions and take the lens of my functional experts and the other leaders into account,” she said.
Kato ended her comments by expressing her gratitude and thanks for the people she has met in her career and the opportunity to serve her country.