For Greene County News
FAIRBORN — Ricky L. Peters, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory, retired Sept. 3, drawing to a close 35 years of distinguished service to the United States Air Force.
Peters is a native of New Lebanon, Ohio, and in 1980, he began his Air Force career close to home in the Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an aircraft survivability test engineer. He rapidly advanced into leadership roles in numerous positions, including: supervisory aerospace engineer, Survivability Assessment Group, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; executive director, Arnold Engineering Development Center, Arnold AFB; and director of test and evaluation, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
Following his time at Air Force Headquarters, Peters was given the opportunity to cap off his long and successful career by returning to Ohio to become AFRL executive director. The laboratory directs Air Force science and technology investment to advance warfighting capabilities and to prevent technological surprise.
“I was passionate about coming back to AFRL,” Peters said. “I had been out for about 10 years, and I fought to get back in. I love the lab, the people, the technologies — everything about this place just fascinates me. This was absolutely the final Air Force job that I wanted to have. I couldn’t have been offered a better position.”
When Peters assumed the helm of executive director in March 2013, AFRL had just begun to feel the effects of government sequestration. Peters was forced to put some of his initial goals on the back burner, instead focusing on listening to the AFRL workforce’s sequestration concerns, serving as a direct liaison to the AFRL commander.
“To me, that was really important, and I feel it changed the dynamic of my role at AFRL,” Peters said. “Focusing energy on work-force development and executing the AFRL Human Capital Strategy were vital.”
Much of Peters’ focus during his time as executive director was on a push to commercialize AFRL technologies and advancing collaboration with small businesses. He developed AFRL’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program, which encourages AFRL scientists and engineers (S&Es) to start their own businesses in order to further advance AFRL intellectual properties.
“This program allows S&Es to pursue commercial funding to further their AFRL technology, using money that AFRL doesn’t have to spend,” Peters said. “That’s good for the Air Force.”
Peters said that his most important duty, however, was to support AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, ensuring the general was well-informed and prepared to make decisions that were presented to him. Peters found this task easy because of his strong relationship with Masiello.
“General Masiello is an amazing commander,” Peters said. “He has a great relationship with the Technology Directorate directors. One of the most important things he’s done here is allow the directors to be directors, allowing them to make decisions. AFRL headquarters sets the strategy, and we allow the directors to do their jobs.”
Following retirement from the Air Force, Peters said he intends to remain in the Dayton area.
Peters added that more than anything, he cherishes the relationships he has made at the sole Air Force laboratory for advancing air, space, and cyber technologies. He said he was privileged to work with such a talented, diverse, and innovative workforce.
“Having my last assignment in AFRL was a dream come true,” Peters said. “What an awesome way to wrap up an amazing Air Force career.”