Thomas takes command of 717th Test Squadron

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks
  • AEDC Public Affairs

During the lead-up to him taking command of the Arnold Engineering Development Complex 717th Test Squadron, Lt. Col. Joshua Thomas came across an article published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first simulated flight test of an engine at AEDC.

This spurred Thomas to reflect upon how long AEDC has played a role in national defense, which in turn prompted him to issue a challenge to the men and women now in his charge.

“That’s been 70 years, over 70 years at this point, that we have been doing test for the warfighter,” Thomas said. “We aren’t the pointy end of the spear in test. We don’t drop warheads on foreheads, but what we do is we support. We are a critical support function for the warfighter.

“If we don’t do our job here properly then our men and women who go fight the war, who do that mission, may not make it there. They may make it there and they may fail at the mission, or they may not make it home. So it is important for us to continue that center of excellence that we have here at AEDC. That’s my challenge to you all, and that’s a challenge to myself. I want to see us continue that excellence as we are in this great power competition. If we falter then we may end up failing.”

Thomas assumed command of the 717 TS during a Change of Command ceremony June 27, 2024, at Arnold Air Force Base, headquarters of AEDC.

The 717 TS tests the powerhouses of aircraft and missiles to deliver actionable data to decision makers to prepare for flight testing and increase the knowledge about currently-fielded engines. The test squadron is made up of a suite of test cells across Arnold AFB used to support test and evaluation of performance, operability, aeromechanical, icing, corrosion, inlet pressure distortion, accelerate mission testing, engine-inlet dynamics, mission simulations and engine component testing.  

“I’m truly honored and humbled to be in front of you this morning,” Thomas said to those attending the ceremony after accepting the guidon to take command of the 717 TS.

During his career, Thomas has served in various assignments in the Air Force specializing in developmental test and evaluation, electronic warfare, information assurance, cyber security, and research and development.

Prior to taking on his post with AEDC, Thomas served as the director of operations for the 772nd Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California. There, he led a combined team of military, government and contractor personnel in the planning, execution and reporting of spectrum warfare testing within the Benefield Anechoic Facility located at Edwards AFB. The BAF is the largest anechoic test facility in the world and is capable of supporting and handling nearly all Department of Defense aircraft. The facility provides a space where electronic warfare tests can be conducted without outside radio frequency interference.

Previous to this, Thomas was a student at the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Thomas was commissioned in 2009 through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program after completing studies at the University of Oklahoma. He holds a Master of Science in computer engineering, flight test engineering and military operational studies.

The new 717 TS commander is a flight test engineer with more than 210 flight hours. Aircraft Thomas has flown includes, among others, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-12 Huron and T-38 Talon.

Awards and decorations Thomas has received include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with oak leaf cluster and Air Force Organizational Excellence Award.

Prior to Thomas taking the 717 TS guidon, 804th Test Group Commander Col. Jason Vap, who served as presiding officer for the Change of Command ceremony, addressed those in attendance. He referred to Thomas as a “top-tier” leader capable of meeting the challenges that lie ahead in his new assignment. 

“I’ll just let the 717th team know, once again we hit the jackpot with landing another fine leader for the 717th,” Vap said.

After officially taking command of the squadron, Thomas expressed his appreciation to Vap. Addressing the 717 TS team, Thomas added that he is excited to be a part of AEDC.

“Sir, thank you for your trust and confidence,” Thomas said to Vap. “I accept your challenges, and I look forward to working with you and with the rest of the team. This team is an absolutely amazing team.”