Air Force Research Laboratory engineer receives Vaught Visionary Leadership Award

  • Published
  • By Mary Pacinda
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – Diane Buhrmaster, Coatings Technology Team Lead for the Air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, has received the 2020 Brigadier General Wilma Vaught Visionary Leadership Award in the Civilian Category. This annual award was created in honor of General Vaught for her outstanding service and dedication to the Air Force and the nation. It is presented to an officer (O-6 and below), enlisted person (E-9 and below) and a civilian (GS-15 and below) to recognize that individual’s visionary leadership, innovative efforts and beneficial effect on the U.S. Air Force.
Buhrmaster was nominated partly on the basis of her leadership role as a charter member of Air Force Women in Science and Engineering (AFWiSE). Perhaps more importantly, Buhrmaster, as Senior Materials Engineer, has been heading up a research team that has made great progress eliminating hexavalent chromium from aircraft coatings — a top Secretary of Defense priority.
Chromium-based compounds have been used for corrosion protection of aircraft surfaces since before World War II. Because they have been identified as extremely hazardous to both the environment and human health, chromium coatings are being phased out. Buhrmaster’s role as team leader to find a suitable replacement coating has not only provided benefit to the Air Force, but to industry as well.
This is hardly Buhrmaster’s first achievement award. In 2019, she received the Air Force Science, Engineering, and Technical Management (STEM) Award, in the Mid-Career Civilian category. In 2018, her team received the Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, International Team Award. In that same year she was awarded the Robert T. Schwartz Engineering Achievement Award.
Buhrmaster, however, would be the first to make it clear that she isn’t doing the work for the awards.
“I work to do a good job and to move things forward,” she said, “and to have an impact that really helps the military guy or gal who’s out there doing whatever their mission is and make sure they get home.”
Buhrmaster further stresses that the award is not the true reward for a job well done, either for her or her team. The reward is “making sure that these people who are someone's children, someone’s son or daughter, someone’s spouse — someone’s loved one — comes back in at least the same condition that they left in. That’s the focus. That’s why we do it.”
An alum of both Wright State University and the University of Dayton, Buhrmaster has 20 years of science and engineering experience supporting AFRL’s technology development in various aspects of aircraft coatings.

The Director of AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Mr. Timothy J. Sakulich, congratulated Buhrmaster.
“Diane is an exceptional leader whose character, dedication, and innovative spirit is a role model for others,” said Sakulich. “She continues to be a pioneer in turning the art of the possible into high impact, practical solutions for the Air Force. Her efforts have specifically enabled the performance and availability of U.S. Air Force aircraft and support equipment in ways that are more affordable and environmentally smart — and she is mentoring and inspiring the next generation of talent along the way. Diane truly epitomizes the qualities celebrated by this prestigious award.”
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: