Longtime AFRL civilian leader announces retirement

Jack Blackhurst, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s executive director, retired from federal service March 31. A retired Air Force colonel, he was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in January 2010. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO
Jack Blackhurst, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s executive director, retired from federal service March 31. A retired Air Force colonel, he was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in January 2010. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

Jack Blackhurst served in Senior Executive Service since 2010

Jack Blackhurst, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s executive director, retired from federal service March 31, culminating a combined 46-year military and civilian career.

“Jack has been a force of nature and we will miss him – not only at AFRL, but also (Air Force Materiel Command), the Air Force and Space Force,” said Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL commander. “He leaves a long string of mission successes and a strong pipeline of talent.”

A Senior Executive Service member, Blackhurst is the AFRL commander’s principal assistant and the senior civilian executive responsible for managing the Air Force’s $2.5 billion science and technology program, along with an additional $2.3 billion of externally funded research and development. He serves a government workforce of about 6,000 people in the laboratory’s nine component technology directorates and 711th Human Performance Wing.

“The most satisfying part of my career has been to work with smart people and see AFRL – with its industry, government and academic partners – develop and demonstrate some amazing technology and get it into the hands of the warfighter quickly,” Blackhurst said.

“I have had the pleasure of leading several amazing technology working groups. For example, I was asked to stand up the Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office, which quickly and successfully branded itself as the capability to do quick experiments and demonstrations leading to Air Force decisions. Our technical directorates – 711th Human Performance Wing, AFOSR, AFWERX and Center for Rapid Integration – all have many examples of successful projects.”

Blackhurst earned his Air Force commission through ROTC in 1974 and began his career as a communications-electronics officer assigned to Strategic Air Command in the 509th Bomb Wing at Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire. After completing his master’s degree through the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1979, he held numerous management positions within the Air Force personnel and human-research communities, including deputy assistant secretary for Science, Technology and Engineering.

He retired as a colonel in 2004 before moving to AFRL as director for the Human Effectiveness Directorate, 711th Human Performance Wing. He was appointed to SES in January 2010 and assumed his current position as AFRL executive director in June 2017.

“It has been a distinct honor to work with the AFRL professional workforce for many years,” Blackhurst said. “Our strength is our people. We live in a dangerous world and the nation is relying on you (AFRL workforce) to develop the advanced technology solutions in air, space and cyber to keep this nation safe for the current generation and for future generations to come. What you do really matters.”

He also shared a personal message for the AFRL workforce.

“I am a firm believer that everyone needs a plan for your future, for your career – short, mid, long-term,” he said. “Depending on your future goals, there are sometimes prerequisite education and experience required to do that job. Talk to leaders in those jobs and let them tell you how they prepared. Also, seek out mentors who you trust.

“Finally, be prepared to take necessary education and jobs to achieve your goals.”

The AFRL commander praised Blackhurst for his dedication and commitment.

“Jack’s distinguished career spans both active duty and civilian service and in all respects, he has served his country well,” Pringle said. “We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

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