Peschka reflects on career of transitions, triumphs

By Dianne Ryder

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Donald Peschka’s photograph will soon be added to the Defense Logistics Agency’s Hall of Fame wall, yet the former deputy director of DLA Energy’s Bulk Fuels division said he is “shocked” to have been nominated.

“I was extremely surprised, because I know and have worked with a lot of people on that wall,” Peschka said. He was under the impression only very senior leaders were nominated to the DLA Hall of Fame, though his own accomplishments and enduring legacy have earned him several honors.

Peschka served in DLA Energy as an Air Force major and a civilian from October 1983 to December 2004, when he retired. During his tenure, DLA Energy — along with DLA Headquarters — moved from Cameron Station in Alexandria, Virginia, to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, while the Defense Fuel Supply Center reorganized, becoming the Defense Energy Support Center.

Peschka successfully guided this transition for the Bulk Fuels business team while maintaining a 100 percent on-time success rate for contract awards. 

“I honestly think [leadership is about] listening to the people you have working for you, understanding their needs and responding to those as you can, but keeping in mind that your No. 1 passion for the day is supporting the people giving their lives for our country,” he said. “You don’t let anything get in the way of that.”

Peschka said warfighters and other remote customers may not know or understand the complexities of DLA’s business, but they know to come to DLA when they need something.

“What makes me most proud is the fact that each day when I went in that office, I tried to put aside everything else that was going on in my life to concentrate on one thing only: the men and women of our armed forces, who rely daily on everything that DLA does,” he said.

Peschka’s commitment to supporting the warfighter is deep-seated and something he tried to impart to his subordinates. It was reinforced by mentors like former DLA Energy comptroller, Thomas Hickey, another DLA Hall of Fame member.

“I worked for him when he worked for the Air Force as the head of the Missile Fuels division,” Peschka said. The division was responsible for supplying missile fuels not only for the Air Force, but also for NASA. “Working for him was probably one of the most enlightening experiences of my life.”

Another former DLA Energy comptroller, Carol O’Leary began her career as Hickey’s secretary, Peschka said. “She didn’t have a degree, but she went to the ‘University of Tom Hickey,’” he joked. “Anybody who went there and survived was an exceptional employee!”

Peschka credits Hickey with helping him to understand the important role of civilians in the workforce as well.

“A lot of military people have struggled to have the right interface with civilians,” he said. “Hickey taught me civilians are really valuable [assets]. Yes, they see things differently, but their job is really important.”

By the time Peschka retired from the Air Force in 1984, he had worked with many civilians while detailed to McDonnell Douglas and at DLA. During his 20-year civilian career at DLA, he mentored many employees who still work for the agency.

“A number of people in senior positions today in DLA worked with me or for me, and I’m very proud of that,” he said. “I’ve kept my belief that we should be doing the best we can for our military forces, and that’s what I hope that every DLA employee does.”

When Peschka retired, he did not seek further employment.

“When I retired, I actually retired – I didn’t go to take a different job or to keep working,” he said. “In fact, I was asked by a number of contractors to come to work for them, but I just said, ‘I retired – I’m just going to enjoy my life.’”

Even post-retirement, Peschka was honored with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and Contracting legends award in January 2016 and was inducted into DLA Energy’s Hall of Fame in May 2016.

Although Peschka is retired, he’s stayed busy giving back to his community. He found a new passion as a master gardener volunteer for Prince William County, Virginia. 

“I spend a lot of time doing that — and I had no idea that was going to take so much of my time and that I like it so much,” he said. 

He also volunteers for the Prince William County government, on its extension leadership council, an advocacy group for environmental, financial, nutrition, parenting and other education programs.

Ultimately, Peschka defines his level of satisfaction and success through his family ties.

“I’ve passed the right ideas of what’s important in life to my two daughters,” he said. “They have been very successful in raising my grandsons and granddaughters and have passed the same kind of guiding principles on to them.”