Lyles, Lester Lawrence 1946–

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Lester Lawrence Lyles 1946

U.S. Air Force General

At a Glance


In April of 2000 General Lester L. Lyles was named head of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. As such, he was now in charge of keeping U.S. Air Force weapons systems ready for war. In addition, Lyles also supervised research, development, and test and evaluation programs at the base.

Lester Lyles was born in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 1946, the son of Ambrose and Gladys Hawthorne Lyles. In 1965 he married Mina McGraw, and the couple eventually had four children: Renee, Phillip, Leslie, and Lauren. Lyles was educated at Howard University, graduating in 1968 with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering. As a distinguished graduate of the ROTC program, he then entered the U.S. Air Force. From there he went to Las Cruces and the Air Force Institute of Technology Program at New Mexico State University, where he earned a masters degree in mechanical and nuclear engineering in 1969.

Lyles held various positions during his early years in the military. He was a propulsion and structures engineer for the Standard Space-Launch Vehicles Program Office in Los Angeles and was part of the Short-Range Attack Missile Program at the Headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in Washington, D.C. From 1978 to 1980, he served as special assistant to the commander of the Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. When he left that post for the Defense Systems Management College at Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1980, he had achieved the rank of Major. The following year he graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.

By 1985, Lyles had completed the National War College in Washington and reached the rank of colonel at the end of that year. His was then assigned to Andrews Air Force Base as director of the tactical aircraft systems. In his next two positions, Lyles was stationed at the Headquarters of the Space Systems Division, located in Los Angeles. Here Lyles served as the director of the Medium-launch Vehicles Program, and then as assistant deputy commander for launch systems.

While Lyles was next serving as assistant deputy and then deputy chief of staff for requirements at Andrews Air Force Base from 1989 to 1992, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He then moved to Hill Air Force Base in Utah to become vice commander, and then commander, of the Ogden Air Logistics Center.

At a Glance

Born Lester Lawrence Lyles on April 20, 1946, in Washington, D.C.; son of Ambrose and Gladys Hawthorne Lyles; married Mina McGraw, November 26, 1965; children: Renee, Phillip, Leslie, Lauren. Education: Howard University, BS, 1968; New Mexico State University, MS, 1969; Defense Systems Management College, 1980; Armed Forces Staff College, 1981; National War College, 1985.

Career: U.S. Air Force Officer. Promoted to 2nd Lt., 1968; Ist Lt., 1969; Captain, 1971; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, propulsion engineer, 1971-74; Headquarters Air Force Systems Command, assistant to the commander, 1978-80; promoted to Major, 1979; Lt. Col, 1982; Colonel, 1985; Headquarters AFSC director, tactical aircraft systems, 1985-87; promoted to Brigadier General, 1991; Ogden Air Logistics Center, vice commander/commander, 1992-94; promoted to Major General, 1993; Lt. General, 1994; Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, director, 1996-99; promoted to General 1999; Headquarters, vice chief of staff, 1999-00; Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson, commander, 2000-.

Awards: Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster; Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; named Astronautic Engineer of the Year, National Space Club, 1990; Roy Wilkins Renown Service award, NAACP, 1994; Sociedad de Ingenieros Award, Hiram Hadley Founders Award of Excellence, New Mexico State University, 1999; General Bernard A. Schriever Award, 2000.

Addresses: BMDO/Pentagon, U.S. Air Force, BMDO-7100 Defense Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20301-7100 (703) 693-3025.

He was promoted to the rank of Major General in August of 1993.

Lyles then returned to Los Angeles in 1994, where he was named commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center. In November of 1994, he was promoted to Lieutenant General. Lyles left Los Angeles in 1996 to serve as the director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) for the Department of Defense, a position he held until 1999.

Lyles became a full General in July of 1999. He then served as the vice chief of staff at the U.S. Air Force Headquarters from May of 1999 until April of 2000, when he became head of Air Force Materiel Command at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

From the beginning of his new command, Lyles made efficiency one of his top priorities. He believed that the key to a better military is better, more efficient military personnel. Lyles considered enlisting and retaining good people the number one problem for the Air Force. Toward that end, the Air Force has initiated television and other types of advertising to attract young Americans. We need to make careers in the military more attractive to people, Lyles was quoted as saying on the Tinker Air Force Base website. One way to do that was to offer better educational opportunities and financial bonuses.

For most of his military career, U.S. Air Force readiness has been of prime concern for Lyles. He considered Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma a possible model for the future. During a September of 2000 visit to Tinker Air Force Base, Lyles observed, as quoted on the Tinker Air Force Base website, that Team Tinker was not just an Air Force team, its not just a single multi-command team, its a multi-service team. The base, Lyles added, was probably a model for some of the things well see in the future. He cited the Air Force base as unique in that it also contained the U.S. Navy on base along with the 552nd Air Control Wing, an air logistics center, and other combat wings.

Lyles also believed that in the future the military should expand its partnerships with industry to outsource certain types of work. Tinker has teamed up with Lockheed Martin in the area of propulsion business. Such teamwork, Lyles believed, would allow advantageous use of facilities and personnel at the base. However, before dramatically increasing the amount of work contracted out to private businesses, Lyles warned that current and past outsourcing should be examined to determine, as he was quoted on the Tinker Air Force Base website, Has it had any impact on mission and readiness and has it had any impact on work force, including their morale?

Throughout his career, Lyles has received the following decorations: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. In addition, he was named Astronautic Engineer of the year by the National Space Club in 1990 and received the 1994 Roy Wilkins Renown Service award from the NAACP. In 1999 he received two awards from New Mexico State University: the Sociedad de Ingenieros Award and the Hiram Hadley Founders Award of Excellence. Lyles was granted the General Bernard A. Schriever Award in 2000.



The Complete Marquis Whos Who, 2001.

Whos Who Among African Americans, 14th ed, Gale, 2001.


Lester Lyles United States Air Force Biography, 2000, (July 13, 2001). Talk, 2000 (July 13, 2001).

Tinker Air Force Base, (July 13, 2001).

Corinne J. Naden and Jennifer M. York

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Lyles, Lester Lawrence 1946–

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