A renowned civilian attorney known for her expertise, advocacy and mentorship will be installed as an Army Materiel Command Hall of Fame honoree.
Kathryn Szymanski, who is recognized by many as achieving several noteworthy firsts during her Department of the Army legal career, will be inducted into AMC’s Hall of Fame Class of 2022 during a ceremony Sept. 20 at the AMC headquarters.
“(This award) means a lot to me. As the first in many assignments, I brought a voice that hadn’t been heard before,” Szymanski said.
As advocates on behalf of the command, lawyers are essential in making their voices heard, defending the Army and its Soldiers in all military legal matters and providing counsel to senior Army officials. Szymanski’s unique perspective was an essential attribute throughout her career.
After graduating from Michigan State University in 1979 with her juris doctorate, Szymanski decided to pursue her interests as a federal attorney. She began her federal career as a law clerk and was quickly promoted to procurement attorney. She then transferred to the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Reutilization Marketing Service in 1990 and, for five years, led the largest environmental program in the DOD.
Szymanski was committed to developing opportunities for female attorneys and other aspiring female careerists throughout the Army. In 1995, she was appointed as a senior executive service member for AMC’s Communications-Electronics Command and named its chief of command counsel. She also served as the chief of command counsel for the program executive offices assigned to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
In what Szymanski calls “one the many highlights of her career,” she says serving as one of the architects for CECOM’s Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program, or LMP, business plan stands out above the rest of her assignments. During this time, she headed the effort to address objections to the program from congressional members of both the House and Senate.
For two years, LMP was delayed. Szymanski supported then-Gen. Johnnie Wilson and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) Paul Hoeper in their visits to the Pentagon and Congress. She was responsible for the implementation of the logistics modernization program for the Army’s business systems.
In 2000, Szymanski earned the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service for her exceptional, professional and technical performance. In 2002, she was appointed as the AMC deputy command counsel, and two years later, advanced to chief command counsel, becoming the first female SES to serve both titles, respectively.
Her achievements didn’t stop there. During her time at AMC headquarters, Szymanski served as AMC’s executive deputy to the commanding general from 2005-06, overseeing the materiel life cycle management, acquisition, personnel and resource management, industrial base operations and enterprise integration.
As she took on more responsibility, Szymanski continued to mentor other employees, telling them “Always be on the lookout for opportunities that give you a chance to try something different. Stretch your comfort zone to include new experiences. AMC and the Army is best when it has teams with multiple skills.”
After a yearlong stint at headquarters Department of the Army as the deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure analysis, Szymanski returned to AMC in 2007 as the SES chief of counsel for AMC Legal Center-Rock-Island Arsenal. While there, she headed legal missions for both Army Sustainment Command and Joint Munitions Command.
Szymanski contributed to AMC’s logistics mission serving as one of the architects for Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise. She helped formulate the strategy using laws, policies and regulations for small business advancement opportunities, which resulted in a 20% reduction in overall cost of installation logistics services. EAGLE continues to be a metric for ASC, AMC and HQDA.
After 21 years as an SES and 37 years as a federal employee, Szymanski retired in 2016 under AMC.
“I have particularly enjoyed the diversity of the AMC mission, learning new things with each of my positions and meeting the cream of the crop, both military and civilians, working for AMC,” she said. “I hope that lawyers are now seen as being essential team members that contribute to the team’s success.”
In 2017 the AMC Office of Command Counsel commemorated Szymanski by naming an annual award in her honor recognizing military or civilian attorneys who demonstrate outstanding legal research and writing skills.
“Good writing advocacy skills are essential to being a lawyer. The articles that are written ensure Army lawyers, civilian and military, know that those esoteric issues Army lawyers face are explained and discussed,” she said.
During her time serving, Szymanski noted her goal was to achieve the mission but also to inspire, mentor and set examples for other careerists.
“I was able to be an advocate for women and men across the board and not just in my assignment,” she said. “If I could see the reasons why someone wasn’t moving up as they expected, I could coach and mentor them in the best ways to get where they wanted to go.”
When asked about how the AMC Hall of Fame will inspire other employees, Szymanski said she is proud to have made significant contributions to support Soldiers and the nation.
“Honors are good to receive but more important is knowing that you met your goal to support the Soldier by being part of AMC,” she said. “Being in the AMC Hall of Fame is recognition that your support has a lasting effect.”