By Argie Sarantinos,
Special to the AFRO

Working in a predominantly male-dominated field may deter some people but not Charneta Samms. She is the first permanent chief technology officer at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM)– the Army’s largest technology developer. 

Her office focuses on integrating efforts across the command and with academic, industrial, international and joint partners to research and develop technologies that can be developed into capabilities.

“It’s really about shaping our research program to make sure soldiers have the science and technology they need, when they need it,” Samms said.

Samms earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Morgan State University in 1996 and a Master of industrial and systems engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. 

“When I look back at my years at Morgan, it was really exciting, it was my first time not being a minority,” Samms said. “I was surrounded by people who looked like me so it was a different environment for me, which I really enjoyed.”

Science, math and specific engineering classes, including ergonomics and human factors, were Samms’ favorite subjects in school. She chose industrial engineering when she learned that it involves people and systems, and how they work together.

“I like the idea of having to understand the technical side of systems and also understand people. To me, understanding people and understanding systems and marrying those two together seemed like a perfect fit, which is why I chose industrial engineering, specifically human factors engineering in college,” Samms said.

Samms was a ‘Pershing Rifle sweetheart’ while attending Morgan State University. The Pershing Rifle sweetheart is an auxiliary organization that represents the Pershing Rifles, a military-oriented honor society for college-level students founded in 1894. It is the oldest continuously operating U.S. college organization devoted to military drill. 

“It is interesting that I became an Army Civilian, after being part of the Pershing Rifles. My dad was also in the military, so I was always connected to the Army,” Samms said. 

Samms began her government career in engineering at DEVCOM’s Army Research Laboratory, where she worked for 24 years. ARL is one of DEVCOM’s eight reporting units. In recognition of her expertise and experience, Samms was named a DEVCOM ARL Fellow Emeritus, an honorary organization composed of ARL’s most eminent leaders who serve or have served as senior advisors for the organization. 

Samms is committed to engaging DEVCOM’s technology centers and research laboratory with Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions on how DEVCOM helps to solve challenges the Army may be facing. Her team is developing strategies to engage HBCUs/MIs, including technical exchanges, where these academic institutions can visit DEVCOM’s centers and lab to gather information on how to compete and secure funding for future opportunities. 

“We’re trying to figure out how the Army can make a difference in this space, and I am personally making that a part of my responsibilities as CTO,” Samms said.

Samms is also a lifetime member of the National Society of Black Engineers, where she has served in various leadership roles. She has won numerous awards and has been featured in the US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine, ‘Spotlight on HBCU’s Distinguished Alumni,’ and in the New York Times, ‘Next Generation of Scientists and Engineers.’

DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of Army Futures Command. The DEVCOM team consists of 15,000 people, about 11,000 of which are scientists, engineers and analysts who develop cutting-edge technologies across a wide array of disciplines. They give Soldiers the ability to see, sense, decide and act faster than their adversaries.

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!  Join here!