It has been more than a decade since Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) has had a chief in the superintendent role, with the last being 2006.
However, as of June, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Heckman has taken on this important role, and AEDC Commander Col. Scott Cain stated that this is a major event for AEDC.
“Chief Heckman’s arrival marks a significant milestone in AEDC’s transition to a Wing-level organization in the Air Force,” Cain said. “This is recognition from the Air Force Test Center and Headquarters Air Force of the importance of the AEDC mission and the level of leadership it requires. The chief is a critical component of the command team in an Air Force Wing, and Chief Heckman is the perfect Chief to re-establish that role here at AEDC. He has a very diverse background, from aircraft maintenance to communications and space operations.
“More importantly, he’s a leader of Airmen and a strategic thinker. I’m excited to partner with him on making AEDC most effective at our mission today and shaping the future of this complex. He’ll be my wingman on both day-to-day decision making and the strategic direction we go with our people and mission.”
Heckman also emphasized that as superintendent he will act as the “right-hand man of the commander.”
“I will assist with operations, readiness, force development and utilization,” he said. “If Commander Col. Scott Cain is involved, then I’m involved.”
In addition to supporting these matters, his duties will include advising the AEDC Commander on morale, good order and discipline at the complex, which employs more than 3,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel and is comprised of 55 aerospace test facilities across six states.
Heckman commented there may be the misconception that the position is only focused on enlisted personnel.
“That’s not the case,” he said. “It’s different here at Arnold in that there’s both military, civilians and contractors performing the work, but in my mind, we’re all Airmen and we’re all operating like one family.”
Heckman entered the Air Force in May 1993. He graduated from the F-15/F-111 Avionics course at Lowry AFB, Colorado, in March 1994. In May 1999, he retrained into the communications planning and implementation career field. His background includes duties in information technology project management, information systems security and network infrastructure management and leadership positions at the squadron, group and wing levels.
His assignments have included bases in Florida, North Carolina, Alaska, Nevada and Colorado. He has also served overseas in Okinawa and South Korea. He has been deployed in support of Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve, Iraqi Freedom and the Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
With his 25 years with the Air Force, Heckman has a well-rounded background, one he thinks will serve him well in his new role.
“I will be able pull from aspects of my experience in project management, contract management and support functions, and use that to assist with the challenges facing Arnold. I will also be looking at how we can best utilize our resources to overcome those challenges.”
Prior to taking this position, Heckman served as superintendent of the 460th Operations Group, headquartered at Buckley AFB, Colorado. The mission of the 460th Operations Group is to provide missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, satellite command and control, battle space characterization and robust communications.
Though he’s had a long Air Force career, none of his roles had ever brought Heckman to Arnold AFB.
“I love the area, it’s beautiful. I’m from Alabama, so I’m originally from the South.”
Even more so than being back in the South, Heckman said he’s excited to join AEDC, mentioning it’s an interesting time for the development of aerospace technology.
“I’m looking forward to becoming part of the AEDC family and being part of Arnold’s future endeavors,” he said. “The space test environment is growing and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”