AFOTEC celebrates 50 years of OT excellence

  • Published
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center

The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center held a 50th anniversary celebration March 6 at the Sandia Resort bringing together current and former Center members, past AFOTEC commanders, Kirtland AFB leaders, and New Mexico military and community leaders to celebrate 50 years of operational testing excellence.

AFOTEC is a small organization that has had a huge impact for the past 50 years. Since January 1974, AFOTEC remains laser focused on serving the Center’s first customer – America’s warfighters. AFOTEC is the independent operational test agency for the Air Force. The Center tests emerging capabilities in operationally relevant environments to deliver operational truth and inform both the warfighter, as well as national resource decision-making.

The event included retired General Tod Wolters as the night’s guest speaker. General Wolters completed a distinguished 40-year active-duty career in 2022 as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander United States European Command. As the Supreme Allied Commander, he led Europe’s transition out of Afghanistan; ensured the COVID health crisis did not transform to a security crisis; and led NATO’s military allies and partners through the largest invasion of a European nation since World War II. General Wolters spoke about the continuing need for the nation to continue to focus on readiness and lethality to defend and generate peace.

There was also the presentation of the AFOTEC Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Marion Williams. Dr. Williams served as AFOTEC’s Chief Scientist and Technical Director from 1974 to 2005.

During his 31 years with AFOTEC, Dr. Williams made innovative developments in the operational test and evaluation of electronic warfare and directed energy systems. His insight and vision postured AFOTEC and the test community at large to best meet the demands of current and future test. The use of modeling and simulation grew as defense budgets shrank, leading Dr. Williams to address concerns over the quality and credibility of the models. He worked with the Military Operations Research Society to develop an approach to Verification, Validation and Accreditation of M&S. Dr. Williams was tasked by the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation to lead the technical directors of all the other service Operational Test Agencies in developing common M&S guidelines for OT&E across the entire DoD.

The current AFOTEC Commander Maj. Gen. Trey Rawls welcomed past Center commanders that included Maj. Gen. James Sears Jr., Deputy Commander, Air Education and Training Command; retired Maj. Gen. Matthew Molloy; retired Maj. Gen. Stephen Sargeant; retired Maj. Gen. William Peck; retired Lt. Gen. Marcus Anderson; and retired Maj. Gen. Michael Hall.

The event also highlighted the AFOTEC annual award winners. The Team Kirtland Honor Guard did the presentation of colors for the event. Also, the New Mexico National Guard 44th Army Band Jazz Combo also provided music for the gala.

AFOTEC employs more than 670 military and civilian personnel at its headquarters at Kirtland AFB, N.M., and four detachments located at Edwards AFB, Calif., Eglin AFB, Fla., Hill AFB, Utah, Nellis AFB, Nev., and multiple operating locations around the country.

Test teams conduct tests at selected sites; collect, analyze, and evaluate the data; and prepare formal reports. The teams are managed by AFOTEC and include personnel from the operating and supporting commands who will eventually employ these systems.

As the Air Force Operational Test Agency, AFOTEC continues to adapt as the Department shifts toward faster and more agile acquisition. AFOTEC ensures there are no operational surprises when the warfighter takes a weapon system into combat. As independent evaluators and operational testers the AFOTEC team continually asks the question: “Will it work, and will it work in a contested environment?” AFOTEC’s job is to make sure weapon systems are operationally characterized, both the strong and weak points.

For the last 50 years, AFOTEC has spoken operational truth and will keep doing what the Center does best: operational test.