(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 8, 2021) – Ask most pilots if they have always wanted to fly and their answer is usually unequivocally, yes.

Maj. Zach Keefer … not exactly.

Secondary schooling at Marion Military Institute. Followed by four years at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Keefer’s future was firmly infantry. But then something unexpected happened his junior year that changed his career trajectory forever.

“I rode on a Blackhawk for the first time – and everything changed. ‘There’s nothing else I can do. I’ve got to do that.'”

Keefer, who hails from Raleigh, North Carolina, has spent his military career in the skies as an Army experimental test pilot. While becoming a pilot was not always on the horizon, being a Soldier was. After test pilot school, Keefer obtained a master’s degree at the Naval Postgraduate School and since then, has been in the skies.

His most recent assignment to the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center has been different than previous assignments, he said, as transitioning to a new duty assignment during COVID-19 made it harder to meet new co-workers. But with two small children at home, Keefer said that he was very grateful to DEVCOM AvMC leadership for the flexibility and opportunity to telework during the pandemic.

When he is not in the cockpit, Keefer likes to spend time with his kids, who know that he is a pilot but beyond that “don’t think it is nearly as interesting as I do,” he said with a laugh.

Keefer also likes to fabricate items in his spare time, which is what he said makes AvMC such a good fit for him.

“We prototype, quickly fabricate - and then substantiate the airworthiness of that fabricated piece. And then we will fly it within 11 months, which is really unheard of in Army standards. … It is cool to actively solve problems and provide quick, meaningful solutions to Soldiers."

While nowhere close to retiring, Keefer’s years in uniform have given him a hard-won perspective that he recommends to younger officers just beginning their military career.

“When I started in the Army, I was pretty young and arrogant – I thought I had all the answers,” Keefer said. “It took me quite a while to realize there are a lot of people out there who are very smart, very intelligent - masters of their craft. As officers, it is incumbent upon us to recognize that everybody brings a unique gift to the table.”


The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.