Army’s Senior Active-Duty Test Pilot Retires

By Christy BarnettMarch 31, 2023

Army’s Senior Active-Duty Test Pilot Retires
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Steven R. Braddom is pictured at his Madison County home with his wife Jennifer, and two daughters, Dr. Ashley Reers and Kate Braddom. Braddom is retiring after 30 years as an Army aviator. He served as the commander of the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center from September 2019 until March 2023. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army’s Senior Active-Duty Test Pilot Retires
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Steven R. Braddom receives his certificate of retirement from the commanding general of the Army Test and Evaluation Command, Maj. Gen. James J. Gallivan, at the Change of Command ceremony for the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center held March 23, 2023. Col. Braddom served as the commander of the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center from September 2019 until March 2023. (Photo Credit: Josh Fisher, RTC photographer) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army’s Senior Active-Duty Test Pilot Retires
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Steven R. Braddom is retiring after 30 years of service as an Army aviator and served as the commander of the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center from September 2019 until March 2023. (Photo Credit: Greg Patch, RTC photographer) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (March 23, 2023) – A presentation given by a West Point cadet to an Ohio middle school more than 35 years ago changed the course of Steven Braddom’s life forever. The son of a medical doctor father and Ph.D. mother, young Steve Braddom decided then and there, the United States Army was where he belonged. After 30 years in uniform as an Army aviator, he is retiring as a Colonel with his last duty station serving as the Commander of the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, or RTC, since September 2019. He recounted this fateful event at his retirement ceremony, held after the Change of Command for RTC on March 23rd.

“I fell in love with the Army. I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Braddom shared with the crowd. “I love what the Army stands for. It was George Washington who said ‘There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy’, and I believe that. The idea that people have to serve to protect the United States from the dangers of the world has been strongly motivating to me.”

While his parents didn’t necessarily share his love of the gray buildings of West Point and the many rules, they did support their son’s decision to attend the United States Military Academy. His father was drafted into the Navy as a physician, and his paternal grandfather served in the Army as an anti-aircraft gunner during World War II, but Braddom wasn’t born into a military family.

He was commissioned as an Army aviator after graduating from West Point in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He held operational assignments in assault helicopter companies and served in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Stabilization Force Six and in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade and Task Force ODIN. After earning his master’s degree in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he spent two years as an instructor and assistant professor at West Point, teaching fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and helicopter aeronautics in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering.

Braddom became part of the Army Acquisition Workforce in 2005 after being accepted to the Army’s experimental test pilot program. He was the distinguished graduate from Class 128 at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

“Being an experimental test pilot appealed to me as a perfect way to combine my passion for engineering with my aviation experience, and it was a giant step in my career,” he recalls. “It opened my eyes to the larger world of test and evaluation and to the critical role that testers serve in the acquisition process.”

While attending West Point as a young cadet, he was set up on a blind date with Miss Jennifer Unks, by their parents who had attended the same church in Pennsylvania. The date worked out, the two married and raised two daughters – an Army family moving around the country. Jennifer taught pre-school in several different states, while supporting her aviator husband, and nurturing their two successful girls. Their oldest daughter, Ashley, recently earned her Ph.D. and married an Air Force Captain. The youngest, Kate, works with non-profit organizations in Maryland.

Braddom will officially be retired from Active-Duty at the end of May and plans to stay in the area. He took time during his retirement speech to praise the RTC workforce, their accomplishments, and their work to position the organization for future modernization of the Army.

“I enjoyed every minute of my time as the commander of RTC. One of the best parts of being the commander was the opportunity to interact with the talented workforce,” said Braddom. “The important work being done here enables the American Warfighter to meet any challenge with the confidence that the weapons and systems we put into the field will do exactly what we say they will do.”

The RTC Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony was held in the Aviation Test and Instrumentation Integration Facility, known as the ATIIF, which is a new eight-bay hangar poised to house new Army aircraft and equipment scheduled for test and evaluation at RTC.

“Buildings are a reflection of what we value, and this building represents how much the Army values modernization, Future Vertical Lift, and the Army aviation enterprise as a whole,” said Braddom at the ceremony. “The Army really is a team sport. Over the last three years we have built or are building more than 100 million dollars-worth of facilities. RTC also has new capabilities, new expertise, and new technical positions. We have to be able to outlearn our opponents and RTC is positioned to do exactly that. I am confident the future is bright for RTC.”

As he transitions to this new phase as a Soldier for life, Braddom says he will always be grateful for the tremendous opportunities the Army has given him and for the many great stories he has acquired over the years.