Withrow takes up role of AEDC Test Support Division chief

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks
  • AEDC Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Eric Withrow first heard about Arnold Air Force Base 19 years ago.

At the time, Withrow was serving at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. A retired master sergeant previously assigned to Arnold would stop by Withrow’s work area. Coffee in hand, the retiree would regale Withrow with tales of wind tunnels, tests involving full-scale models and how Arnold was a veritable playground for the engineers making up a sizable chunk of its workforce.

An engineer himself, Withrow was determined to get to Arnold at some point in his Air Force career. Throughout the following 19 years, Withrow was stationed in locations including Florida, Alaska, Nevada and Japan but was never assigned to Arnold.

Withrow’s long-awaited opportunity to join the team at Arnold, headquarters of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, came in the fall of 2022 when AEDC Commander Col. Randel Gordon interviewed him for the position of Test Support Division chief. Withrow landed the job, and his stint at Arnold officially began June 2 when he assumed his new post during a change of leadership ceremony.

“It’s been a 19-year dream and, so far, it’s met every expectation of that dream,” Withrow said. “I’m super excited about being here and serving here. Every time I think about it, I feel extremely blessed to be here at this point in time.”

As TSD chief, Withrow will oversee civil engineering, logistics, medical, security, communications and quality-of-life services at Arnold.

“As I become familiar with the organizations that are in TSD, I am learning their priorities,” Withrow said. “Balancing those with the test side of things, I want to be able to work those issues that will help improve and bring Arnold into the future.”

A self-described “Army brat,” Withrow was born in Minnesota. His parents eventually settled in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he graduated high school. Withrow briefly attended Virginia Tech but opted to leave school and join the U.S. Army.

The call to serve in the Army runs in Withrow’s family.

“It was a sense of pride,” he said. “My father was in the Army. My grandfathers were in the Army. I had an uncle in the Army Air Corps, so there is a long history of military in my family.”

After four years in the Army, Withrow joined the reserves and worked as a supervisor of assembly lines for an auto brake manufacturing facility. During this period, he met the woman who would become his wife. At the time, she was in the Navy, but as their wedding day approached, she broached the idea of leaving the service to focus on raising a family. Interestingly enough, Withrow had been contemplating rejoining the military.

After some discussion with his wife, Withrow decided to return to the military full time, but a change of branch was in order.

“It just felt like the Lord was leading me to go into the service again, and the Air Force is what came of that decision,” he said.

Withrow earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Old Dominion University in Virginia. Other educational achievements include completing Officer Training School and Squadron Office School, both at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and completion of Air Command and Staff College and Air War College.

With experience in test and evaluation, acquisitions, aircraft maintenance, intelligence, space and operations, Withrow said his Air Force career has included “a little bit of everything.” From December 2002 through July 2006, he served in several capacities at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB. Following this, he spent several years serving on maintenance teams at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. He subsequently worked as part of satellite communications and GPS teams at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, and electronic warfare, fighter weapons and test support squadrons at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

Other assignments during Withrow’s career have included Camp Eggers in Afghanistan; MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; and Kadena Air Force Base, Japan, where he commanded the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron.

Prior to taking on his current role at Arnold, Withrow served as deputy director of the Program Management Directorate for the Nevada Test and Training Range at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

Withrow feels his diverse background and experience will aid him in his post at Arnold.

“When you have that smattering, you get to interact with a lot of different organizations, some that are key to a particular mission, some that support that base’s mission,” he said. “Being able to speak the vernacular of each of those organizations has helped me to easily be able to understand without having a concentrated course on what security forces does, or what contracting is, or what test and evaluation involves. I’ve been in or worked closely with those agencies, so it’s not unfamiliar.”

As for goals as TSD chief, Withrow said he wishes to delve deeper into improving base infrastructure and quality of services, such as the possibility of a rideshare program for Arnold personnel residing in the Murfreesboro area and the construction of another recreational vehicle and boat storage lot for Outdoor Recreation.

Although still new to the base, Withrow is already cognizant of the importance of Arnold to the Air Force and the nation.

“Arnold plays a pivotal role in developing those technologies and those necessary systems for future projects that will cause our adversaries to pause, defend the homeland and keep our warfighters safe, or at least give them the tools to stand their ground, to fight the good fight out there should it come to that,” Withrow said.

Withrow added that Arnold AFB already “feels like home.”

“I feel very blessed that Col. Gordon selected me for this,” Withrow said. “We’re created for certain times, and I’m here for such a time as this. I’m looking forward to working with the test folks and with our community partners to keep Arnold going, keep its mission going and to bridge any gaps that may be currently in place. But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t see many gaps. [Col. R. Chris Lance, previous TSD chief] left me a great unit.

“I know this is going to be a great tour for my family and me.”