AFLCMC deputy PEO explains unique path to career field

  • Published
  • By Allyson B. Crawford, AFLCMC Public Affairs
  • AFLCMC Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -  A veteran of the Air Force civilian workforce, Lily Arcusa is excited to step into her new role as Deputy Program Executive Officer (PEO) for the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Arcusa was competitively selected for the position earlier this month. Most recently she served as Director of Engineering for the same directorate.
“I had been wanting exposure to the Air Force beyond engineering,” explains Arcusa, when asked why she was interested in this change. “While I've had great fortune in my career to be exposed to other aspects of our business like program management, congressional engagement and working with the Pentagon, it's difficult as an engineer to dig in with those other groups to really understand how they operate. When this position opened up, I felt it actually wasn't quite the right time for me because I hadn't been in my Director of Engineering position for very long. But it seemed like the right opportunity to gain a new perspective through the program management lens while providing continuity to the Presidential Directorate. I felt like it was a good opportunity for both me and the organization.”
Arcusa’s path to engineering was an unconventional one. After realizing her planned major of math wasn’t the right fit, she took a pause in the middle of her collegiate studies to start her family. She also considered other majors, including those in the liberal arts fields. Realizing she preferred a tactical approach to math and science, Arcusa zeroed in on engineering. Flipping through the catalog of engineering specialties, aerospace stuck out.
“I always liked Star Trek and Star Wars,” laughs Arcusa.
Before graduating from the University of Michigan, Arcusa had her second daughter. She came to military work via a friend who was doing a summer engineering co-op at Wright-Patt. The friend passed along Arcusa’s resume and she was hired quickly. That was 18 years ago.
Unlike many career civilians, Arcusa does not come from a military background. She also does not fit the stereotype of someone who knew from childhood that engineering was the career for her. Plus, she doesn’t spend her free time “taking things apart for fun.”
“There are lots of ways to be an engineer,” Arcusa adds.
The Life Cycle Management Center is a large and sometimes confusing organization made up of many directorates. For newcomers and non-military individuals, navigating it all requires patience and a willingness to learn. Sometimes this applies to long-tenured employees inside the organization as well.
“My previous experience was on fighters, F-22, and F-35. And then C-17 and KC-46. All I knew when I came in [to this directorate] was Air Force One. I knew there was one that flies around that we see on TV today that we're trying to maintain and keep flying, and I knew we [have the] Air Force One replacement program. What I didn't realize is that there's a whole fleet of executive airlift aircraft that we use for transporting senior leaders other than the President. It was really interesting to learn about that fleet and understand that mission as well.”
Arcusa has many goals for her new role. One is to continue battling COVID fatigue among the staff and to keep everyone engaged through a sense of community.
“[Our] people are what makes all the work happen,” Arcusa says. “So it's not just about making sure that they can do their job, although that's a huge part of it. When people feel like they can do their job well, they're happier with the work they do. We spend so much time together, it's really important to have a sense of positivity. We're on a team.”
During her downtime, Arcusa enjoys being outdoors. She takes regular backpacking trips with her husband to state parks, even during the winter.