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AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing welcomes 39th USAFSAM commander

  • Published
  • By Gail L. Forbes
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Col. (Dr.) Richard O. Speakman assumed command of the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, or USAFSAM, at a ceremony held July 2, 2024, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

USAFSAM, the premier institute for education and worldwide consultation in Aerospace and Operational Medicine, is one of two mission units that comprises the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing.

Also known as the “schoolhouse”, USAFSAM is home to more than 220 globally recognized experts in public health, aerospace medicine and operational medicine, and trains approximately 5,000 students each year. Operating across seven geographically separate locations, USAFSAM’s embedded role within AFRL and its unique synergy with the 711HPW enables the organization’s mission to promote ready Airmen, Guardians and medics in all environments through research, education and consultation.

In the ceremony’s opening address, 711HPW Commander Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Robert K. Bogart offered a warm welcome to Speakman, remarking that the incoming commander’s medical expertise and extensive military service ensure that he is well-positioned to serve as USAFSAM’s newest leader.

“Col. Speakman, you are taking command of an incredibly unique, complex, operationally engaged and extremely relevant organization,” Bogart said. “I know that you will do an incredible job leading USAFSAM. Your efforts will expand operational medical support capabilities and public health knowledge critical to our National Defense priorities, and we will benefit from all your experiences and your knowledge gained from family medicine, previous squadron and group commands, your own resident and aerospace medicine experience and your time on Air Staff.”

Speakman, a medical doctor and chief flight surgeon who has logged more than 775 flight hours - including 147 combat hours - in 16 different aircraft, was commissioned into the Air Force in 2002. He graduated medical school in 2006, after which he completed residencies in family and aerospace medicines and obtained a Master of Public Health degree.

“You are a proven leader and I know you will continue this at USAFSAM as you further it on its journey; your skills are needed,” Bogart added.

Speakman took the reins from Col. (Dr.) Tory Woodard, who has served as USAFSAM’s Commander since July 2021. Woodard will serve next as deputy command surgeon for the Air Force Materiel Command.

Prior to assuming command of USAFSAM, Speakman served as the commander and Military Treatment Facility director of the 71st Medical Group at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where he oversaw the execution of a $6.1 million budget and provision of health care and preventive health services for the 71st Flying Training Wing, Undergraduate Pilot Training students and 3,900 Vance Air Force Base community beneficiaries.

Following the formal change of command, Speakman took to the podium to address a crowd of family, friends and colleagues.

“I am humbled to be your 39th Commander,” Speakman said, noting that USAFSAM originated in 1917 with the initial goal of improving the safety and efficacy of WWI pilots. “This technology - the medical advancement to study, manipulate and even create an environment for flight - is all rooted in aerospace medicine. Today, through the lens of Great Power Competition, this Wing is asked to deliver human performance, sustainment and readiness optimization. Echoing the past, it's our military readiness with respect to the human that we focus our research, our education and consultation.”

Speakman also acknowledged his family’s support as he stepped into his new leadership role, describing his spouse’s intuition as “always on point” and thanking his four teenaged children for their “service and patriotism.”

“There is a cost to service,” Speakman said, addressing his family, “and I don't forget that, together, we serve as Team Speakman.”

Speakman also addressed the Airmen and Guardians in attendance, asserting his commitment to serve and lead them as well as help to further USAFSAM’s influence and reach as a premier institution.

“At this schoolhouse ... we will research, we will educate and we will consult and lead the Air Force with integrated operational medical capability development,” Speakman said. “We will dream more. We will learn more, do more and, finally, become more together.”

“It’s my promise to you,” he added.

In his outgoing remarks, Woodard expressed his confidence that he was leaving USAFSAM in very capable hands.

“You are taking over an incredible organization filled with extraordinary talents and dedication across the range of military, civilian and support personnel,” Woodard said to Speakman. “You're the perfect person to take this position; I know you’ll do well.

So, Rich, you have the aircraft.”

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.