AFTC honors Black History Month: Maj. Richard Agbeyibor

  • Published
  • By Ms. Tiffany Holloway
  • Air Force Test Center

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, is celebrated annually to showcase the achievements of African-Americans.

For the entire month of February 2022, the Air Force Test Center will celebrate up-and-coming black leaders within the center. This week, Maj. Richard Agbeyibor, AFTC headquarters will be highlighted during a question-and-answer session with Tiffany Holloway, AFTC public affairs director.

Tell me about yourself.

I am a Test professional here at Edwards AFB, and I am currently the assistant director of Operations of the Multi-Domain Test Force. It is the Air Force’s newest test organization. We focus on data-driven test and evaluation events that integrate across the Department of Defense test enterprise to provide the infrastructure, data resources, test environments, and provide subject matter expertise to enable full-spectrum joint all-domain testing.  

I am also a Flight Test Engineer at the 416th Flight Test Squadron, the squadron responsible for developmental testing of U.S. Air Force and Foreign Military Sales F-16 capabilities. We evaluate new hardware and software capabilities designed to make the F-16 an even more lethal platform.

Prior to my current role, I worked at Headquarters Air Force Test Center as the senior executive officer to the Commander. That experience broadened my perspective of Test and how it is our mission fits into the overall Air Force mission. I also got to work with the amazing front office staff and learned about all that it takes to make an organization as large as the Air Force Test Center run smoothly.

Tell me a fun fact about yourself.

My fiancée, Tatiana Lewis, and I got engaged a few weeks ago. She is a civil servant here at Edwards AFB and works as an environmental engineer in the Civil Engineering Group. We met a couple years ago when she came to inspect my unit. Had I not joined the Air Force and chosen this career path, I never would gotten a chance to meet her.

Where are you from? Where did you graduate? Did you always know that you wanted to join the Air Force? What made you choose this career path?

I was born in Lome, Togo in West Africa. My family immigrated to the United States when I was 12 and resettled in Alexandria, Virginia. I grew up next to Fort Belvoir, a big Army base in Virginia, and many of my teachers, coaches, and mentors had served in the military. They inspired me to serve in some capacity whether in uniform or otherwise. I did Marine Corps JROTC in high school but decided that the Air Force would afford me better opportunities to work in the areas of science & technology. In college, I joined Air Force ROTC and worked towards earning a commission as an engineering officer. I went to MIT where I majored in electrical engineering and computer science. I also minored in political science and management in order to complement my technical education with a touch of liberal arts. My senior year of college, I was accepted into an Air Force-sponsored Master’s program which enabled me to go straight into an electrical engineering master’s at AFIT.

I have wanted to be an engineer ever since I received my first LEGO ® set. As a kid, I enjoyed taking apart toys, furniture, electronics, and everything else I could get my hands on. When our guidance counselors started introducing us to various career paths in middle school, I knew immediately that engineering was the right one for me. I liked robotics and originally wanted to work on the development of drones. I became an Air Force developmental engineer in order to do that.

In grad school at AFIT, I went to a briefing given by Col. (Ret) Angela Suplisson about flight test and the role of flight test engineers. I am an outdoorsy person who likes working with my hands so I relished the idea of doing engineering outside of the lab environment. I decided to pursue a career in flight test engineering and started doing the things that would make me competitive for acceptance into Test Pilot School.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to go into Engineering? What are the benefits/challenges?

Engineering like all career fields requires mastery of a core set of skills and knowledge. The skills and knowledge required to do well in engineering are in the various areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). My advice to anyone who is looking to go into engineering is to find some area of STEM that is enjoyable to them and to get really good at it. Engineering teams are made of people of various specialties who come together to work on complex systems. Find one area that you’re motivated about or that your talents are well-suited for and go for it. There will be challenges along the way but stay focused on the opportunity to create a future that does not yet exist.

Tell us about some of the engineering projects that you’ve worked on. What are some of the highlights of your career?

I’ve been privileged to work on many new systems for the Air Force. In grad school at the Air Force Institute of Technology, I worked on security protocols for the ADS-B system that aircraft including military aircraft use to navigate today. After AFIT, I was assigned to the Air Force Research Laboratory and got to be part of the team that developed the NINJA Counter Small UAS system which has protected many of our overseas service members from drone attacks.

After graduating from the French Test Pilot School, I was assigned to the Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force where I got to be part of the team that flew the very first autonomous UAS sortie at Edwards AFB. Nowadays, I work for a new organization, the Multi-Domain Test Force that was stood up to lead test and evaluation of the Air Force’s newest Joint All-Domain Command and Control systems. The MDTF is leading the charge to create a next-generational test capability for the Air Force. In order to innovate how we test, MDTF members have a wide range of experience, including data science, computer science, test engineering, program management, and technology development. 

Is there an African American/Black person who made History that you look up to? Why?

I have many Black role models and inspirations. In addition to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who were recognized in the movie Hidden Figures for their contributions to human space flight, I would like to highlight another NASA giant - Leland Melvin. I have a long-standing love for space and was inspired by Mr. Melvin to submit an application for Astronaut Selection. I was privileged to make it all the way to the final round in this last year’s selection and hope to one day follow in the footsteps of Leland Melvin and Andre Douglas.