Profiles: John Chambers

John Chambers

John Chambers

BSB 89

President & CEO at C2 Associates


John Chambers is certainly not a traditional CEO, because he's the only employee at his company, which has generated nearly $960 million in its 13-year existence. John Chambers is a puzzle master working the highest stakes imaginable: supporting American troops and our nation.

Right after high school in 1971, he joined the Air National Guard and served seven years as a non-destructive inspection (NDI) specialist, for fighter aircraft, and then enrolled in college in 1972 upon return from basic and technical training. As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, he was an architectural engineering student for a few years. During this period, his interest in the military was growing while the architecture program was becoming increasingly less appealing with each passing year, even though he has natural ability. In 1977, he was hired as a non-destructive testing process engineer at Rockwell International's Columbus Aircraft Division in Columbus, Ohio, to work on the B-1 bomber engine nacelles. Unfortunately, the Carter administration shut down the program. He'd only been on the job three months. It was his first introduction to the realities of defense budget cuts. The company reassigned and transferred him to the company's Space Division operation at the Johnson Space Center-White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) in New Mexico. John worked as a test engineer on the early development of Space Shuttle Attitude Control Systems (ACS), the orbital Maneuvering Engine-System (oME-S), and external insulator tiles. His next challenge was working for Fred Brasfield, quality assurance manager, as a senior project engineer at Thiokol Corporation in Utah.

However, he lacked a degree and could not receive career advancement. So in 1983, he landed at Aerojet Corporation in Sacramento, California as a supervisor of non-destructive testing (NDT) engineering in the corporation's strategic propulsion company, working for Don Morgan, manager of NDT engineering. It was there he met two physicists, Dean Lingenfelter and Harvey Peck, who had developed a new application for medical Computed Tomography (CT) technology. In 1985 he convinced an exemplary propulsion engineer at Aerojet's Techsystems Division, also on site in Sacramento, to hire him into the position of Marketing Manager for Satellite Propulsion.

This huge break through introduced John to corporate business management where he honed strategic business planning, development and marketing skills as well as expanded a network of political contacts. That's when he ended up at Golden Gate University, collocated at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento.

"I took courses there on site for two years and found it to be a wonderful experience because of the practical knowledge and experience the instructors brought to class. I was literally able to apply what I'd learned in class the next day, or at least start thinking about what I'd been learning and how to apply it at work. Just thinking about how I could begin to expand from my current knowledge base was truly inspirational and valuable."

C2 Associates was started in 1998. It's is all about making things happen quickly, no easy feat when dealing with entities as vast as the US Department of Defense. Part of the corporate mission is "rapid implementation of products and services before normal processes allow." According to Chambers, the secret is a combination of key contacts, direct knowledge and good old-fashioned determination.

C2 Associates is a boutique firm that specializes in matching vendors to the National Guard, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. He was a Guardsman himself from 1971 to 1978 while attending the College of Architecture at the University of Arizona. More importantly, his foundation of knowledge was from being the proud son of a highly respected Air National Guard general officer, Major General Wess P. Chambers (retired), one of the 1956 founding members of the now 162nd Air National Guard Fighter Wing in Tucson, Ariz., and former deputy director of the Air National Guard at the National Guard Bureau in Washington, DC, during the early 1980s. Additionally, as a co-founder of C2 Associates, General Chambers helped assemble the team of retired high-ranking military officers who comprise the firm's team today.

Chambers established his organizational model based on the standard National Guard process in its purest form with a staff of retired military talent. "As a result of technology -- laptop computers and cell phones -- we all work out of our homes, so we're a virtual team. We also have a a joint office in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill with our subcontract legislative team as a central hub where we get together once a quarter or so for strategy sessions and coordination staff meetings. Our entire staff is classified as IRS-rated 1099 independent contractors; therefore, I'm the only employee. Since, they're all retired senior-level officers with similar responsibilities performed during their 30- to 40-plus-year careers, they do a great job and are happy to be part of a team serving our troops and nation."

Chambers is able to point with understandable pride to several first-to-market innovations that are now directly benefiting our troops and nation. The first projects he took on as an independent consultant in 1999 was the first-time use of airbags in helicopter cockpits.

At 60, John and his wife, Sherry are looking forward to retirement with their daughter Heidi, son-in-law Joe, two grandsons (Alexander and Winston), as well as their large extended family.