Test Pilot School welcomes first female, flight test engineer commandant

  • Published
  • By Giancarlo Casem
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Test Pilot School bid farewell to outgoing commandant, Col. Ryan Blake, and welcomed its new commandant, Col. Sebrina Pabon, during a Change of Command ceremony on Edwards Air Force Base, California, July 9.

The commander of the 412th Test Wing, Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer presided over the ceremony which saw history made as Pabon became the first female and non-pilot commandant of the school since its inception in 1944.

“It is quite the honor and a privilege to preside over this, very near and dear to my heart, change of command ceremony,” said Higer, who was Blake’s predecessor when he served as commandant of the school from July 2017 to July 2018.

During his remarks, Higer referred to TPS as, “the center of the Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe,” and he highlighted some of the major accomplishments Blake achieved. One of which was establishing test fundamentals in the space domain.

“How do we take what we’ve learned about in an air domain, distill it down to the fundamentals of test and then apply in different domains, it is a huge challenge for the entire enterprise,” Higer said. “Thanks for leading that, and continuing on that momentum for space test fundamentals.”

During his farewell speech, Blake referred to his time as the school’s commandant as one of the best and most rewarding of his career.

“Remember that the students at TPS are here because they are the best of the best, and you’re going to find yourself, daily, amazed by their ingenuity, and frankly, humbled by their skills. I find myself, a lot of times, wishing I was as good as our students are,” Blake said to Pabon. “So get to know them, get to know their families as well. Get involved in all the traditional social events at TPS, maybe even pretend you’re a student again for a little while, at least for the fun parts.”

Blake’s final advice to Pabon was to remember the privilege of being the school’s commandant and to enjoy it.

“Please never forget what a privilege it is to lead this amazing institution with its 75-year history and its hugely important mission and its amazing people,” he said. “So I think you should enjoy it, and I guess I think you should try not to rub it in that now you have the greatest job in the Air Force.”

Following Blake’s relinquishment of his command, he is set to retire from the Air Force. Pabon, meanwhile, is no stranger to TPS and Edwards. Pabon graduated from Desert High School on Edwards prior to commissioning as an Air Force officer. She graduated from TPS in 2006 as a Flight Test Engineer and subsequently served as Chief of Flight Test Safety and Flight Commander with the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards. She then became the Performance Branch Chief and FTE instructor at TPS.

“I am excited to be back, and I am extremely honored and humbled for this amazing opportunity to serve and lead this outstanding team as we continue to educate and train our future flight test professionals,” Pabon said. “My family and I are very excited to be back here at Edwards; definitely never thought 25 years ago I’d be back in the very same stage where I graduated high school.”