AFRL branch chief honored with Dayton Business Journal Forty Under 40 Award
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) — Benjamin Tran has been selected as a member of the Dayton Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class for 2022. Tran, who has worked for AFRL for 20 years, is the eighth person from the lab to be recognized with this award since DBJ’s inaugural class in 1998.
As branch chief of sensing management in AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, Tran leads a team in developing, demonstrating and transitioning autonomous sensing capabilities for unmanned systems and those that are supported by manned airborne platforms, space platforms and ground intelligence.
“I am incredibly humbled to be recognized and am honored to be one among great servant leaders in the local area,” Tran said.
The son of a Vietnamese refugee, Tran is a first-generation American and the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree. He credits his father’s upbringing and emphasis on education as inspiration for his hard work and ambition.
“I’ve always felt the need to give back to my country because my country did so much for my father,” Tran said.
Amanda Gentry, director of AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, said Tran is an incredibly valuable team member within the Department of the Air Force.
“His exemplary diverse experience both to the Air Force as well as his community enables a unique leadership perspective, and I look forward to continuing to see his contributions going forward,” Gentry said.
Tran began in AFRL as a co-op student during his freshman year at the University of Toledo working with flight controls and then unmanned aircraft controls. Those experiences led to working countless programs such as Skyborg, a Department of the Air Force Vanguard, and Silver Fang, for which Tran helped develop an aerial drone sensor that locates and destroys improvised explosive devices.
“I have considered many people I have met in AFRL friends and family,” Tran said. “I could not have asked for a better career.”
Tran has steadily advanced to his current position as branch chief, where he manages more than 80 direct civilian and active-duty reports and in-house contractors, said Jeff Graley, a friend and former colleague at AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation.
“He leads this highly talented team on a critical mission to develop, demonstrate and transition new autonomous sensing capabilities across several industries,” said Graley.
Additionally, Tran deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq three times as a civilian to help test various devices, leading the integration of new airborne drone systems. In 2014, he received a prestigious award, the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal, for protecting U.S. service members and enhancing overseas combat operations.
“While deployed with special operations teams, I was able to understand how those teams conducted their operations and how we were able to insert our technology to enhance their operations and ultimately protect them,” said Tran.
Tran said it was incredibly fulfilling to support warfighters.
“There is nothing is more rewarding than a team wanting to personally shake your hand to say thank you after returning from a mission,” he added.
Outside of work, Tran judges science fairs and volunteers with Reclaiming Futures, a program that matches juveniles in the Montgomery County court system with mentors.
“If I have the time, talent and skills to give back to my community I want to do that in one way or another,” he added.
Tran will be presented with the DBJ award during a July 14, 2022, banquet at Carillon Historical Park.