FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
Trustworthy, revered, humble, a financial genius and first female comptroller were just a few phrases used by her peers to describe 40 years of dedicated service.
Carol O’Leary is one of four former Defense Logistics Agency Energy employees who were inducted in the DLA Energy Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at the McNamara Headquarters Complex, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Oct. 23.
”I would like to thank the late Tom Hickey, the first comptroller of Defense Fuel Supply Center,” O’Leary said. “He was a mentor, advisor, and teacher to many of us that worked for him, and I would not be receiving this honor today if I had not had the benefit of his guidance.”
O’Leary began her career at the Directorate of Air Force Aerospace Fuels in Middletown, Pennsylvania, as a GS-3 clerk stenographer and worked her way up to become a director of DLA Finance for Energy.
During O’Leary’s 50-year career with the federal government, she played a pivotal role in transitioning DLA Energy from a wholesale fuel business to a retail business. She was the financial lead and advocate for the completion of Phase IIB of the Integrated Materiel Manager mission for the Department of Defense bulk petroleum. The Phase IIB program capitalized all ground fuels, non-capitalized jet fuels and DLA Energy retail billing to the using customer. The completion of Phase IIB of the IMM was a significant event in that it meant DLA Energy owned all bulk petroleum products from the point of purchase until it was issued to the aircraft, ship or ground equipment.
“Energy is in Carol’s blood,” said DLA Finance Deputy Director Jean Cox. “One of her strengths is she always carefully weighed options and considered the alternatives to make an informed decision.”
As the DLA Finance for Energy director, O’Leary was the key financial expert who worked on the expansion of DLA Energy’s natural gas and electricity missions, which throughout the decades have allowed the military services and federal civilian agencies to avoid paying higher prices for energy from the utilities. These programs also expanded DLA Energy’s role from an agency that primarily focused on procuring petroleum to an agency with a more comprehensive energy portfolio that supports the warfighters’ energy needs in more ways than one.
During her tenure with DLA Energy, O’Leary looked for multiple opportunities to advocate for innovative and money-saving programs. She played an integral part in a series of military service mission transfers to DLA Energy. She was the financial advocate for DLA Energy explaining to the Office of Secretary Defense comptroller why transferring the aerial refueling mission along with the Navy Fleet and Industrial Supply Centers’ missions and the terminal operations optimization mission to DLA Energy was a smart idea. She expertly laid out the ways it would save money and how the contractor, and not DLA, would assume the risks.
“A phenomenal leader,” said DLA Energy Director of Supplier Operations Gabby Earhardt. “She was a trailblazer in a time of a male-dominated field.”
A highly respected mentor, O’Leary encouraged people to expand their visions, ‘push the
envelope’ and not let themselves get ‘stale’ in their jobs, Cox said.
“I’ve known Carol for more than 20 years,” Cox said. “As her deputy for eight years, she challenged me to be getter, get out of my comfort zone and take on responsibility I wasn’t sure I wanted. I was an accountant, and Carol pushed me to take a rotational budget officer job in Energy. It turned out to be the best move I ever made.”
Never one for the limelight, O'Leary was described by her peers as having the enviable ability to make any situation work.
“She was one of the most humble people I’ve ever met,” Cox added. “She could work with any individual, mainly because she focused on getting to the solution--getting to yes. Her 'can-do' attitude was contagious, as was her drive to find ways to get the warfighter the fuel they needed in the most efficient manner possible.”
One of O’Leary’s greatest attributes was her commitment to developing her organization’s workforce. She regularly invested her time and knowledge with all employees, to ensure their training needs and professional development opportunities were met.
“O'Leary demanded excellence from those around her, and considered it an honor that headquarters was eager to hire and promote her employees. She felt it was a sign that she was doing something right,” Cox said.
“Carol was more than a trusted financial advisor and savvy leader,” Earhardt said. “She was also a highly respected mentor to many employees.”
During the hall of fame ceremony, O’Leary thanked the people she had worked with over the years.
“I want to emphasize the great teamwork we have in DLA Energy and the military service control points,” O’Leary said. “I think of our organization as a national asset, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to be a small part of it.”
The DLA Energy Hall of Fame, and its inductees, represents 76 years of history, which stretches back to World War II.
“In this year’s ceremony, we recognize four individuals who guided DLA Energy through four challenging decades beginning in the late 1970s through 2014,” said DLA Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Albert Miller. “They represent history and centuries’ worth of experience … their legacy will positively influence DLA Energy for a far greater span of time.”
Energy’s Hall of Fame was established in 2016 to honor and preserve the memory of past associates for their exceptional leadership, service, dedication to duty, and contributions in supplying fuel to the warfighter.