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DLA News Archive

News | March 25, 2024

DLA engineer shatters glass ceiling

By DLA Research & Development

Lori Smith-Mitchell’s strong faith and passion for her craft propelled her to become the first female engineer at Defense Logistics Agency Distribution. Smith-Mitchell’s engineering interests were sparked while attending a science, technology, engineering and math high school. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering from the University of Memphis and a master’s of adult education, training and development from The Pennsylvania State University.

Smith-Mitchell is among the 14% of female engineers worldwide. She began as an industrial and process engineer for several Fortune 500 companies and as a college professor before joining DLA in 2009.

“My 14 years as an industrial engineer at Installation Management Support for DLA Distribution helped to refine my skill set to successfully serve in my current role as DLA Research and Development’s additive manufacturing program manager,” Smith-Mitchell said. “Victor Montefour, director of installation management support for DLA Distribution, was brave enough to take a chance on me. It was scary and challenging to be the only woman on the team, but I am thankful for the opportunity to advance within DLA.”

The admiration is mutual.

“Lori’s interview left me with the sense that she’d pursue tasks to the best of her ability. And she far exceeded that initial impression,” Montefour said. “The added bonus is her infectious positivity!”

In 2021, Smith-Mitchell initially came to DLA R&D on a rotational assignment under the mentorship of another exceptional engineer, Senthil Arul. Two years later, she returned as a permanent R&D team member.  

“I was ready to do more, in a different capacity,” Smith-Mitchell recalled. “Additive manufacturing allowed me to return to my process engineering roots.”

Smith-Mitchell works to define AM’s role within the Defense Department’s ever-evolving ecosystem and enable the business processes that integrate AM into the global supply chain. She is a stalwart advocate for the emerging technology that allows for rapidly manufactured parts at the tactical edge. The Joint Additive Manufacturing Acceptability multi-series project is a highlight for her program. JAMA is in its fourth iteration of establishing a military services common framework for 3D Model Technical Data Packages that qualifies AM parts. This ultimately reduces backlogs and obsolescence to improve readiness.

As a groundbreaking female engineer, Smith-Mitchell is inspired by the World War II heroine, Rosie the Riveter.

“She is a symbol of women in manufacturing and empowerment,” Smith-Mitchell said.

Smith-Mitchell is a strong advocate for the next generation of women earning engineering degrees. She believes that STEM is the future as it impacts every facet of life.

Learn more about DLA’s R&D mission to develop and deliver new capabilities through applied technologies and innovative solutions to enhance warfighter sustainment.