Col. Steven R. Braddom
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Aviation Development Directorate – Eustis, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 14
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 26
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and in test and evaluation
EDUCATION: M.S. in aeronautics/astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; B.S. in mechanical engineering, United States Military Academy at West Point
AWARDS: National Defense Industrial Association U.S. Army Military Tester of the Year, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (four oak leaf clusters), Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal (three oak leaf clusters), Master Aviator Badge and Parachutist Badge
by Susan L. Follett
Brevity, as the saying goes, is the soul of wit. It’s also an important component for success in science and technology development, in the eyes of Col. Steven Braddom. “Every engineer and technician working on a project should be able to briefly articulate how that project makes the warfighter more lethal or more survivable. If you want to change the world, you have to be able to clearly and concisely communicate your ideas.”
Braddom is director of the Aviation Development Directorate (ADD) – Eustis within the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Aviation & Missile Center (formerly known as the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center). Located at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, much of the organization’s work focuses on the technical areas of avionics and networks; intelligent teaming; survivability; human systems integration; structures; and engines and drive systems.
“As part of Army Futures Command, our work is to provide the technologies that create the capabilities to ensure that the future warfighter is more lethal and more survivable than any potential adversary,” said Braddom. “Every day, I see a talented and dedicated team of Soldiers, engineers and technicians take concepts and advance them into capabilities that will enhance and protect Soldiers. Watching the team solve the engineering and technical challenges inherent in new technologies is truly inspiring.”
Braddom was commissioned as an Army aviator after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1993. He has held operational assignments in assault helicopter companies. He 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, he spent two years as an instructor and assistant professor at West Point, teaching fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, helicopter aeronautics and perspectives on officership in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. “The best part of that assignment was being able to interact with cadets on a daily basis,” said Braddom. “The classes at West Point are typically small—18 students or less—which allows for a great deal of interaction. Being able to experience their enthusiasm, energy and dedication every day was truly inspiring. And it reminded me of the awesome responsibility we have as leaders to ensure that the junior officers of the future have every possible advantage on the battlefield.”
Braddom became part of the Army Acquisition Workforce in 2005 after being accepted to the Army’s experimental test pilot program. “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 said. “It opened my eyes to the larger world of test and evaluation and to the critical role that testers serve in the acquisition process.”
He has been in his current position since 2014, having previously held positions as chief of the Cargo, Utility and Fixed Wing Division for the Aviation Technical Test Center; forward operational evaluator for the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command; chief of the Flight Projects Office for the Aeroflightdynamics Directorate of the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; and product manager for the Sea-Based X-Band Radar in the Missile Defense Agency.
“There is not one assignment that was most impactful—each and every assignment has been valuable,” he noted. “The Army provides so many opportunities, and I have been fortunate in that I have been able to be a Soldier, leader, teacher, mentor, student, aviator, experimental test pilot, product manager and more. I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had.”
In addition to being impactful, those positions were challenging. “The biggest challenge I have experienced—in my current job as a leader of a science and technology organization and in my previous job as a product manager—is clearly, concisely and consistently communicating the merits and issues of technologies to a wide variety of stakeholders with varying degrees of technical background,” he said. “Doing great work in technology development is only part of our task. To ultimately transition technology to the warfighter, we must be able to communicate the vision, the technical merits and the associated risks in a way that will be understood broadly across the community. The only way to overcome this issue is to make the time and the effort to continually engage the stakeholders and to take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate and explain new technologies.”
Now that he has moved from operational assignments to acquisition, he sees the importance of that perspective in the work that he and his team are doing. “Getting officers and other personnel who have combat and field experience is invaluable to developing systems that meet our warfighters’ needs,” he said.
When it comes to career development, Braddom is an advocate of planning for the long term and acting in the short term. “Try to visualize the career path you want to follow, and then be proactive about doing the things that are needed to achieve that path in terms of education and experience. Although the path may change in time, not laying out a long-term vision for your career can lead to lost opportunities and the inability to achieve your long-term goals.”
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.