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News | Oct. 31, 2019

Linda Johnson retires after 36 years

By Kristin Molinaro DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

A longtime leader bid farewell to the Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Oct. 24.

Linda Johnson, deputy director of the Land Customer Operations directorate, retired after 36 years of federal service. A Columbus native and graduate of Mifflin High School, Johnson’s entry to federal service began while she was still in high school when she joined the former Defense Construction Suppler Center in 1979 as a summer student hire working in the Safety and Health Office. She did this for six summers before beginning her full-time federal career in 1985 as an inventory management specialist intern for the then-named Supply Operations Directorate. In the years to follow, Johnson rose through the ranks and worked in various directorates, all while raising children Lauren and DJ with her husband and college sweetheart Dennis.

In her final role, Johnson helped lead the team responsible for readiness support to nearly 19,000 U.S. Army and Marine Corps customers, with sales orders worth approximately $7.4 billion.

Prior to her leadership role with Land Customer Operations, Johnson served as the deputy director for Land Supplier Operations for four years. Both directorates joined forces to plan her farewell.

The event began with a stadium-worthy rendition of the National Anthem by DLA Land and Maritime vocalist Annette Peaks and an invocation delivered by DLA Chaplain Liaison Mary Moore. DLA Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. John Palmer welcomed guests and regaled the audience with historical moments that coincided with Johnson’s tenure – from the professional debut of Mike Tyson to the introduction of CDs to the release of Nintendo’s Duck Hunt shooting game.

“Seems like a long time ago, but throughout all that time there’s been one constant and that is the outstanding work of Mrs. Linda Johnson,” Palmer said. “She’s been a stalwart performer in improving our material availability to over 90 percent and pushing our back orders down by over 15 percent. The Army and Marine Corps have never been in better material position and Linda Johnson played a big part in that. All of this while being a great mom, wife and active member of the community. I don’t yet know what’s in store for Linda, but I don’t think she’ll be able to resist getting involved, adding value, making a difference and leaving things decidedly better than when she found them.”

Several speakers followed Palmer’s remarks, including Johnson’s son DJ, who traveled from Philadelphia for the ceremony. 

DJ spoke on his mother’s influence in his life – from keeping a connection between work and home life – to demonstrating to her two young children the importance of education by achieving her Master’s degree while working full-time.

He explained that regardless of his mother’s commitments to work and education, she never let her family down and was always there to support them with what was needed.

DJ said one of his mother’s most critical contributions wasn’t appreciated until he was older.

“Back in 2001, I remember when my mom started to take on more responsibility and work longer hours,” DJ recalled. “She told my sister and I ‘We’re a nation at war’ and when I was younger I didn’t fully understand it. But as I’ve gotten older, I know now that our troops were much better off because my mom was in the office working late in her dedicated service.”

Following DJ’s remarks, Johnson’s “battle buddy” Army Col. Juanita Clarke, director of the Land Supplier Operations team, took the stage, stating, “I’m feeling the loss of Linda already.”

“I believe that everyone who dedicates their life to something, in the end wants to know that their presence and contributions made a difference and had a lasting, positive impact,” Clarke said. “Linda, I’m here in solidarity with everyone else in this auditorium to bear witness to the fact that your presence in Land and Maritime and your sacrifice and contributions have made our organization stronger and us individually and collectively better.”

“Linda’s heart was with our mission, with mentoring and with being a great mom,” said Don Schulze, deputy director for Land Supplier Operations.

He credited Johnson for her years of guiding DLA associates, both informally and formally through mentoring programs.

“Her legacy will be the many protégés who received the gift of Linda’s heart,” he said. “To add value to others, one must value others.”

Following remarks from leaders and associates across the organization, Johnson was presented with a series of awards and recognitions including the DLA Exceptional Service Medal and letters from two former U.S. presidents. Her family received certificates of appreciation for their support of her career over the many years.

Finally, Johnson took the stage. “When I think of resiliency, I think of my dad,” she began. “He was able to bounce back and raise us. He always stressed the importance of education, church and the golden rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. And I still live by that today.” 

Johnson talked about her early years and what that taught her. She had a rough start in life, losing her mother to breast cancer at a young age. Her father raised his three children as a single parent while keeping his vending machine business afloat. Today, Johnson said she’s proud of her many accomplishments – both at work and at home – but she’s most proud of her two “young professionals” – daughter Lauren and son DJ.

In her conclusion, Johnson urged the audience to think of their blessings and keep a healthy outlook on life.

“When you get up in the morning, think about all the good stuff in your life. Take time to think about two or three of those things, and do that every day,” she said. “And encourage each other – value each other – because everyone has a talent, everyone has a gift.”