AFOTEC Heritage Forum focus on past helps inform future

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Chief of Public Affairs
The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center plugged into the more than 300 years of leadership knowledge and experience of its former commanders to help inform and shape the future of the test agency during a May 3 Heritage Forum.

"Plugging into our organization's past allows us to move forward with confidence and assurance in making decisions that will help create a positive, relevant, and sustainable impact to our testing mission and the Air Force's priority of acquisition excellence," said Maj. Gen. David J. Eichhorn, AFOTEC Commander. "In today's budget deficit environment, testing is more important than ever. Our goal as a test community is to be great stewards of the taxpayers' money and to give warfighters the best and most affordable weapons systems designed in the world today."

General Eichhorn provided the seven former commanders with an update on the status of AFOTEC activities and how the Center is testing new warfighting capabilities. He also led discussions about how AFOTEC can continue to evolve and fulfill its operational testing mission more effectively and ensure test relevance in today's world. There was also a question and answer session with the former commanders that gave AFOTEC members at its headquarters and at all of its geographically-separated detachments, via video teleconferencing, a chance to hear about the challenges and highlights the previous commanders experienced at AFOTEC.

The former AFOTEC commanders attending the forum included: retired Maj. Gen. Michael Hall (1985-1987); retired Maj. Gen. Peter Robinson (1990-1991); retired Maj. Gen. George Harrison (1993-1997); retired Maj. Gen. Ken Peck (2000-2003); retired Maj. Gen. Felix Dupré (2003-2005); retired Maj. Gen. Robin Scott (2005-2007); and Maj. Gen. Stephen Sargeant (2007-2010). Also attending the conference was Dr. Marion Williams who was AFOTEC's chief scientist and technical director from 1974 to 2005. Former Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Pete Adolph also attended the forum bringing more than 50 years of experience and insight in test and evaluation and acquisition management.

"For the seven previous commanders that attended, this conference brought back great memories and gave us the chance to renew old friendships," said General Peck. "Over the years, the Air Force has provided our nation with some tremendous capability. However, many of those systems started out as very ugly babies. The operational test community plays a very important role in helping those babies grow up to be highly respected contributors to our military capability. We learned that we still have some ugly babies today but I came away from the conference knowing that our operational test team is still helping those babies mature and become part of the greatest Air Force in the world."

"The ability to exchange views and compare notes was extremely valuable to us," said General Dupré. "We disagreed on some things but in the end hearing the differences of opinion and having the current team at AFOTEC hear the views and differences was really beneficial. General Eichhorn enabled an atmosphere of open and honest exchange that, in my opinion, will pay dividends down the road. It was a sincere pleasure to be part of it!"

"AFOTEC's Heritage Forum presented a great opportunity to understand General Eichhorn's initiatives and the positive effects those initiatives are having on Air Force operational test and evaluation," said Dr. Williams. "It also demonstrated AFOTEC's tradition of always doing an outstanding job. Having the former commanders actively participate provided an appreciation of how some things have changed over the years while some of the issues remain the same. My conclusion is that AFOTEC is still the best operational test agency in the DoD and keeps getting better. Hopefully the Heritage Forum will become one of AFOTEC's traditions."

"I truly stand on the shoulders of giants," said General Eichhorn. "Having these great minds gathered together in one place allows me to use the experience and understanding gained by these previous AFOTEC commanders to help me find the most effective way to lead AFOTEC today toward warfighting's operational truth."

AFOTEC has had 16 general officers in command since it was activated as the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center on Jan. 1, 1974. The center was redesignated as AFOTEC on April 4, 1983 to clearly delineate its role as the Air Force's operational test agency.

AFOTEC is a direct reporting unit under Headquarters, United States Air Force. It is the Air Force independent test agency responsible for testing, under operationally realistic conditions, new warfighting capabilities developed for Air Force and often Joint and coalition use.