AFRL Executive Director Jack Blackhurst set to retire March 31

  • Published
  • By Bryan Ripple
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) Jack Blackhurst, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory, will retire from federal service March 31 culminating a career of a combined 46 years of military and civilian federal service.
The retirement ceremony will be broadcast live, during a virtual broadcast on Facebook at 2:30 p.m. Those wishing to watch the event may do so at
“Jack has been a force of nature and we will miss him – not only at AFRL, but also AFMC, the Air Force and Space Force. He leaves a long string of mission successes and a strong pipeline of talent,” said AFRL commander, Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, who assumed leadership of the lab in June 2020.
A member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), Blackhurst is the principal assistant to the AFRL commander 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 approximately 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 (SDPE) 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 AFB, 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.
Blackhurst 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 the Senior Executive Service 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!”
Sharing a personal message for the AFRL workforce, Blackhurst stated, “I am a firm believer that everyone needs a plan for your future, for your career—short, mid, long-term. 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.”
“Jack’s distinguished career spans both Active Duty and civilian service and in all respects, he has served his country well. We wish him all the best in his retirement!” Pringle said.
For more information about Blackhurst’s career, visit his biography here.
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: