Jason Coker was impressed with Arnold Engineering Development Complex long before recently accepting a leadership post within the organization.
“What Arnold does and its criticality to the nation’s aeronautical capabilities are really second to none,” he said. “It is an extremely important mission, and I am excited to be a part of it.”
In early December, AEDC Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty announced Coker as the new AEDC Vice Director. Coker began serving in this capacity on Dec. 9 from his office at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., the headquarters of AEDC.
“I have been impressed by the environment here, the professionalism of the people, as well as the warmth,” he said. “From day one, I felt like I was already a team member here. Everybody has truly rolled out the red carpet to welcome me.”
Coker, an Idaho native, earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of South Alabama and his master’s in systems engineering from the University of West Florida. He began his civil service career in 1999 after spending a decade in the Department of Defense industry where he supported developmental test and evaluation for numerous weapons programs across the Air Force and Missile Defense Agency. Coker also has more than 20 years of ground test experience. He served in multiple leadership roles from team lead to Squadron Director, including previously serving as the 782nd Test Squadron Director, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. There, he was responsible for Eglin’s ground test facilities, providing hardware-in-the-loop, electronic warfare, climatic, seeker and sensor testing for weapons, aeronautical systems and countermeasures programs.
He also served in the Office of the Security of Defense, Acquisition Technology & Logistics, as assistant deputy director of the Test Resource Management Center. There, he provided oversight for the U.S. Air Force test ranges and multiple aeronautical programs.
Coker most recently served as the Deputy Division Director for Space and Missile Defense Policy, Joint Staff J5, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He was responsible for overseeing and providing strategic analysis, planning and coordination for Space and Missile Defense activities to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his tenure on the Joint Staff, Coker provided oversight for the standup of the new United States Space Command and the coordination and implementation of the 2019 Missile Defense Review.
In his role as AEDC Vice Director, Coker said he wants to be a senior leader to support and serve those working across AEDC.
“I’m not here to tell people how to do their jobs or put directives out,” he said. “I want to get their feedback and find ways I can help them accomplish the mission more effectively.”
He added that one of his primary goals is to work to make operations across the Wing Enterprise more efficient while not creating additional work for those already busy conducting the mission.
“I want to handle the bureaucracy and the problems at this level so that they can execute and do their mission more efficiently,” Coker said. “I don’t want to push my problems down to them.”
Among Coker’s other goals is the recruitment and retention of AEDC personnel. He wants to create an environment in which DOD civilians, military and contactors have rewarding work and are recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.
Along with focusing on personnel and working to create a more efficient organization, Coker said he will work to ensure facilities are maintained and AEDC personnel have access to the technologies and tools required for success.
“I’ll be working closely with the technical director and leadership here on how we maintain and keep facilities funded, not only here at Arnold Air Force Base, but our other operating locations, as well,” he said. “We have some very expensive infrastructure and a lot of key technologies that need to be maintained and developed. I’m keenly interested in the sustainment, restoration and modernization, as well as new investments, for the Wing Enterprise.”
Over the course of his prior positions, Coker was engaged with Arnold at various levels. This includes work in hypersonics during his time with the Test Resource Management Center in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve had an opportunity over the years to visit a large number of the facilities, but it’s been a while, so I’m really looking forward to getting out and getting refreshed on what’s going on here,” he said. “Arnold is doing some important work that is directly tied to the National Defense Strategy’s emphasis on great power competition. The work Arnold is doing is critical to meeting key national challenges, especially in the area of hypersonics, which has a lot of traction right now. Space is another national priority that is gaining traction and will likely become an even larger part of the Arnold mission going forward in the future.”
With his extensive experience in test, Coker feels he will be right at home at Arnold.
“Virtually all of my experience is in ground test and developmental test, so everything that’s going on here at Arnold is near and dear to what I enjoy and what I have a passion for,” Coker said. “I’m excited to be here. There’s nowhere in the Air Force that has the span and scope of AEDC’s ground test capabilities for aeronautical testing. It is second to none in the Department.
“I consider it a privilege to be here and to be able to lead and serve this organization.”
Coker resides in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife, Cindy. They have two children, both of whom live and work in the Huntsville area.