TPS commandant bids farewell to Edwards, retires after 25 years of service

Col. Noel Zamot retired from the United States Air Force June 15 after 25 years of distinguished service. Serving as a weapons systems officer, the Test Pilot School graduate and 39th commandant says he will forever be a part of the commitment to America’s airpower. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Christian Turner)

Col. Noel Zamot retired from the United States Air Force June 15 after 25 years of distinguished service. Serving as a weapons systems officer, the Test Pilot School graduate and 39th commandant says he will forever be a part of the commitment to America’s airpower. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Christian Turner)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Noel Zamot, former United States Air Force Test Pilot School commandant, said farewell to the Edwards community when he retired from the USAF June 15 after 25 years of dedicated service.

As the 39th Commandant of the Test Pilot School, Zamot set out on a mission to put the school on the map and bring it into the 21st century.

"The quality of the folks who come here are amazing. I think this school means a lot to the nation and to industry. It's very humbling to have been the commandant, it's the greatest job," said Zamot.

Since July of 2010, under Zamot's leadership, the Test Pilot School conducted over 8,000 flight hours and graduated 95 test professionals, including the first generation of remotely piloted aircraft test pilots, who will deliver war-winning capabilities to the nation's military.

The school's curriculum was updated to meet changing Air Force needs and priorities, as well as future test program requirements.

Several key leaders in the Air Force and Department of Defense were invited to take the Senior Executive Short Course, where they were introduced to the world of experimental flight test and educated about the importance of developmental test and evaluation in acquisition processes.

Dr. Kamal Jabbour, the Air Force's senior scientist for information assurance, was one of the individuals who completed the Senior Executive Short Course and also worked with the school to develop the school's Cyber Systems Test Course.

The Cyber Systems Test Course provides Test Pilot School students with the knowledge and resources for successfully identifying and testing cyber vulnerabilities on a variety of systems. It provides students with a construct developed for identifying and testing cyber vulnerabilities.

In addition to the Cyber Systems Test Course, the school developed another class to respond to the immediate and future needs of the Air Force. The Enlisted Flight Test Course was developed to empower enlisted flight test personnel and teach them to speak the same language and communicate effectively with the pilots, engineers and navigators that graduate the 48-week program.

As for the test management projects, which all students must complete for graduation; Zamot worked to increase collaborative partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, Draper Laboratories, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lincoln Laboratories.

Not only do the partnerships improve the quality of experience for students, but the partnerships allow test pilot students to make significant real-world contributions.

"Colonel Zamot has truly believed and still believes in the mission of the Test Pilot School. He worked tirelessly to ensure we had resourcing and top cover to successfully accomplish our day-to-day mission and long-range planning," said Bill Gray, USAF TPS chief test pilot. "He trusted us to do our jobs, and respectfully listed to our opinions and feedback. He allowed us to maximize our capability and potential and for that we are truly grateful."

Before he served as the 39th Commandant at the Test Pilot School, Zamot held several positions of leadership at the squadron, group, wing, and Joint Headquarters levels. He has also served as a NATO component-level staff. His career has taken him all over the world - to Madrid, Spain, and even Lima, Peru, where he has served as both a mentor and a leader.

Zamot is a master navigator with more than 2,000 flight hours, including over 200 combat hours and combat support hours. Among others, he has flown the B-52G, B-1B, B-2A, F-15, F-16, AT-38 and MiG-15.

"I am just so proud of my husband. What impresses me the most is that everyone always tells me how they love to work with him, they love that he's here and they love what he's doing," said Zamot's wife, Diane.

Wanting to do something with his life that was meaningful, Zamot began his military career in 1987 after receiving his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from MIT in 1986 and his Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Zamot excelled during his time as a student at the Test Pilot School and graduated in Class 93B.

"[Zamot] is brilliant, he has the willingness to help out anyone," said Brig. Gen. William J. Thornton, Air, Space and Information Operations, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command director and graduate of Test Pilot School Class 93B. "Really, for the class that graduated, he carried the load for us and helped us fighter pilots get through the academics and he did it with such good humor and grace, that he really endeared himself to us."

Before the retirement ceremony concluded, Thornton, who officially retired Zamot, personally thanked him and his family for their incredible service and sacrifice throughout the years. It was Thornton who selected Zamot for the job as the Test Pilot School's 39th commandant.

As for the next chapter, Zamot says he will continue working and will forever be a part of the commitment to America's airpower.

Just has he has stood on the shoulders of giants, when he hung up his uniform June 15, Zamot's hope is for the next generation to continue the incredible legacy of American airpower.

"I am putting down my wings, sword and shield. It is time for those who follow, the younger and more capable, to take on the fight," said Zamot.

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