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Honoring Our Heroes

Col Richard Thomas Aldridge: Age 57

Col Richard Thomas Aldridge served over 28 years in both the Active duty and Reserve components of the U.S. Air Force. His Active duty periods were from March 1989 to February 1999 and January 2002 to January 2005, and he served as an Air Force Reservist from February 1999 to January 2002 and January 2005 until his retirement in September 2016. Col Aldridge’s Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) included: (1) Satellite Engineer, (2) Systems Engineer, (3) Program Manager and (4) Academic Instructor. He received the following decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign ribbons: Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air and Space Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Air and Space Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorius Unit Award, Air and Space Outstanding Unit Award with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal with One Device, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air and Space Expeditionary Service Medal, Air and Space Longevity Service Award with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the and Air and Space Training Ribbon. He earned a Senior Space Operations badge from his eight years in what was Air Force Space Command and an Acquisition badge for his five tours as a program manager and systems engineer.

Col Aldridge was born to Lee and Olga Aldridge on May 20, 1966 at Kessler Air Force Base (AFB), Biloxi, MS. Col Aldridge is the third generation in his family to serve in the U.S. military including his grandfather, Thomas Forbes Aldridge, who served during WWII in the U.S. Army and who was one of those that .French hospital for several months. His father, Lt Col Lee Aldridge, also served in the U.S. Air Force. He grew up in MS, OK, OH, MD, MA and Belgium while his father served at various military installations. He graduated from Bedford High School at Bedford, MA, in 1984. Having participated in the Junior ROTC while in high school, Col Aldridge then received an ROTC scholarship and graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1988 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

His first assignment was as a GPS Satellite Engineer at Falcon Air Force Base, CO, which is now Schriever Space Force Base as part of a new program called Operational Experience (OpEx). The intent was for an acquisition officer to receive five years of operational experience before going into the acquisition corps. His second assignment was at Hanscom AFB, MA, as Program Manager for the Joint STARS flight and mission crew simulators. After two years, he then served as a Flight Commander and instructor at the Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, AL, for three years. At that time, he left Active duty going into the Air Force Reserve, but he remained at Squadron Officer College in a variety of roles: Operations Officer, Deputy Director of Curriculum, Reserve Adviser and finally Acting Vice Commandant. After 13 years at Maxwell, he moved on to be the Deputy Director of Engineering at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center and the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the 20th Operations Group Commander at Peterson AFB, CO. His final military job was as the Deputy Director of Engineering at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Paterson AFB, OH. For the last 10 years of his military career, Col Aldridge also served as an Air Force civilian. After he was promoted to the Senior Executive Service in February 2016, he was selected as the Program Executive Officer for Business and Enterprise Systems at Gunter Annex Maxwel AF Base and soon retired from all military service on September 30, 2016. Col Aldridge retired from his civilian career on April 30, 2023.

Col Aldridge’s military career included two deployments.  The first was to Balad, Iraq, and to Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, as a Reserve combat logistics squadron commander under the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group in 2005 providing support to Air Force personnel performing intelligence, civil engineering, long-haul convoy, and security forces missions in lieu of Army personnel.  In 2008, he served at US Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill AFB, FL, as a logistics planner within the Operation Directorate's (J3) Coalition Coordination Center, ENDURING FREEDOM.   

His reflections upon his military service are: “My military career was wide in scope with a lot of experiences. It was awesome because I did so many different things. I grew up with two parents who had servants’ hearts and were dedicated to serving. Because we lived on and off military bases, we got to see it all. My Mom served with the American Red Cross and with a variety of volunteer organizations. So we had two good examples. Just growing up, it was ingrained in me that you need to serve others and your country.” He would like people to remember him as a man who served people and made a difference.

Col Aldridge and his wife, Denise, have been married 28 years. Denise served 28 years in the Air Force, 12 years on Active duty (1989-2001) and 16 years in the Air Force Reserve (2001-2017), retiring as a Lt Col.  Her career was split as an audiologist and academic instructor. They have three children, and they are members of the Church of the Highlands at Montgomery, AL. He is a member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. He enjoys woodworking and painting in watercolors and acrylics, and he and his wife have become avid pickleball players.


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