News | April 7, 2022

Chemist, quality expert inducted into DLA Energy Hall of Fame

By Irene Smith DLA Energy Public Affairs

Recognized for his long-lasting contributions to supplying fuel to the warfighter, Lee Barry Oppenheim was inducted into the Defense Logistics Agency Energy Hall of Fame on March 22.

a poster of the Hall of Fame invitation
DLA Energy Hall of Fame ceremony returns
After a two year pause due to COVID-19, four former employees were inducted into Defense Logistics Agency Energy Hall of Fame in a ceremony at McNamara Headquarters Complex, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, March 22. Photo by DLA photographer Chris Lynch.
Photo By: DLA photographer Chris Lynch
VIRIN: 220322-D-HE260-1001

Oppenheim retired from DLA Energy in 2018 as the Quality Technical deputy director with a distinguished 42-year federal career – all of which was spent with DLA. During times of change, as seen with the conversion from JP-8 to commercial jet fuel, Oppenheim led the way helping improve quality assurance from military intensive processes to being more aligned with commercial practices.

Oppenheim began his career as a chemist but to gain experience in the fuels field, he became a Quality Assurance Representative overseas. His years of experience as a chemist, QAR and a quality supervisor gave him the depth of knowledge and ability to address any subject matter regarding fuel quality assurance and operations.

Oppenheim had a keen technical understanding of product specification requirements and the consequences of non-conforming product effects on operations, said Quality Operations Division Chief Richard Knapp.

“There is an unofficial term called the ’Oppenheim Effect’ whereby the intellectual wellness of those who worked for him or around him was improved by his presence,” Knapp wrote in his nomination letter for Oppenheim. “This explains his ongoing presence in more demanding positions. He excelled in improving everyone he met.”

Oppenheim shared a message with the DLA energy workforce.

“Being better at your job requires a modest understanding of the entirety of what happens within the organization,” he said. “Be curious and ask questions of the experts. Be a mentor to others and pass on your knowledge.”

Knapp said it was his honor and great pleasure to nominate Oppenheim for the DLA Energy Hall of Fame.   

“Knowing Lee’s career beginnings in the 1970s as both Chemist and Quality Assurance Specialist reinforced my awareness and respect for his impact on DOD fuel quality,” Knapp said. “His actions and influence on individuals go beyond what can be expressed in words and remain a common thread through current and future business.” 

Oppenheim shared a few thoughts about his induction into the Hall of Fame.

1. What does it mean to you to receive this honor?

I appreciate that my peers still at the Center/Regions have remembered me as a person who accomplished a great deal for Defense Fuel Supply Center/Defense Energy Supply Center/DLA Energy, our customers and within the Quality and Technical groups. One can be lionized while still working, but it is an even greater honor to be remembered after the fact. I hope that those I mentored continue within the organization for a long time into the future.

2. What is your best memory of your time working at DLA?

Too many to completely itemize, but here are a few. Being a QAR and covering most of Northern Europe and making 52 trips a year for five years. Working with Don Peschka in Bulk Contracting as one of his Quality/Technical consultants while learning the ins and outs of the contracting process. Having intense discussions with Cal Martin or Pam Serino within the Quality/Technical Directorate. Learning petroleum supply and transportation processes from Robert Short and company. Working with good friends, Michael Koury and Bo Swensen, at Americas West and their great teams.

3. Do you have one thing you are most proud of from your career?

The most important is mentoring many within DLA Energy. After that I think I'm most proud of helping move quality assurance processes to be more aligned with commercial practices.

4. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

Most importantly, my wife Janet who put up with those 52 trips a year while I was QAR and then for all those midnight calls with QA problems needing resolution. Also, Richard Knapp and those that assisted in preparing my nomination package, thank you.

The DLA Energy Hall of Fame is a lifetime achievement award to honor former members of the DLA Energy community who have made significant and enduring contributions to the organization. Nominees must be a former DLA Energy civilian or military employee, who have made a positive, long-term impact on the DLA Energy mission or have provided outstanding customer service, or other accomplishments.