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AY 21 Faculty and Fellows

Center for Strategy and Technology Faculty

Mr. Benjamin D. Phillips — Managing Director
Ben "Dabs" Phillips served 11 years on active duty as an air traffic controller, fighter pilot and flight instructor, and continues service in the Air Force Reserve. He has held roles in the private sector as a chief financial officer, strategy consultant and board member across a variety of industries. His senior government roles include select assignments with the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force in program management and oversight roles, with the Air Force Research Laboratory as technology portfolio manager and lab director, and chief of current operations at a combatant command. He holds a B.S. in Physics, an MA in Political Science, and an MBA from MIT's Sloan School of Management. 

Colonel Jason Wright — Deputy Director
Col Jason Wright has spent most of his career as a special operations pilot. Prior assignments include CJTF/OIR Task Force Iraq Chief of Staff, Commander 67th Special Operations Squadron RAF Mildenhall, 352 SOW Chief of Safety, and EUCOM Senate Liaison Officer and Air Force Legislative Fellow for Senator Baucus of MT. He is a command pilot with more than 4200 hours in the MC-130. Col Wright earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Central Florida, Masters degrees in Aeronautical Science from (Embry-Riddle), Masters Certificate in Legislative Affairs from (Georgetown, GAI), and Strategic Studies from (U.S. Air War College). 

Dr. Drew Wagstaff — Chief of Academics
Dr. William "Drew" Wagstaff (PhD, Emory University) is a Mandarin-speaking data scientist who creates and executes the Blue Horizons curriculum. When he is not working on academic articles or prototyping, he can be found enjoying time with his more-talented wife and trail running. 

Dr. Eric Keels — Professor
Dr. Eric Keels is a professor in the Blue Horizons program and conducts policy-relevant research on issues related to global security. His research focuses on civil war dynamics, human rights, international conflict management, post-war processes, and rebel group organizations/ideology. Outside of research, he's crazy about BBQ 

Mr. John Carter— Adjunct Professor
As Air University's A3, Mr. Carter works collaboratively with commanders, directors, and deans in the execution of AU's education, research and doctrine missions. A retired USAF Colonel, Mr. Carter spent the majority of his career in operations, accumulating 3400 hours flying the O-2, A-10, F-16. He served as Commander of an A-10 squadron, Commandant of the Air Force Weapons School, Vice Commander of a Fighter Wing in Korea and Vice Commandant of the Air War College. Mr. Carter holds a Bachelor's degree from Duke University, Masters Degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and School for Advanced Air and Space Studies, and spent a year as a National Security Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Major Loren Faire — Instructor
Maj Faire serves as a Blue Horizons Instructor and CSAT's utility player. He regularly makes up duty tiles appropriate to the moment's tasks such as: CSAT's Chief Librarian, Copywriter, Marketing Officer, Liaison to..., Curator, and many more. In addition to cofounding two companies, he has flown the C-146 and served in many leadership roles at the squadron level. A voracious learner and polymath, he pursues a diverse range of hobbies from making furniture using aircraft parts to kayaking.

SSgt William Scales — NCOIC
SSgt Scales serves as the Blue Horizons NCOIC and CSAT's Information Technology Administrator. He has served most of his career as a server administrator in various squadrons. Previously he was the NCOIC of Training Systems at the 39th Information Operations Squadron, Detachment 1. Outside of work he enjoys spending time exploring hike and fishing spots with his wife and son.


AY 21 Blue Horizons Fellows

Major David L. Bervig is a Senior Pilot with over 2,250 hours in the F-15E, T-38C, and T-6A aircraft to include nearly 500 combat hours. Prior to Blue Horizons, he was the Director of Operations and an F-15E Evaluator Pilot for the 389th Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. He directed daily operations for a 384 member squadron developing and executing 84 million dollar Flying Hour Program consisting of over 4,000 hours and 21 F-15E aircraft. Major Bervig also led the flight training, ground training, readiness, and set standards for 76 aircrew using over one billion dollars in combat assets. He most recently led the squadron on an eight month deployment to the Middle East. Additionally, Major Bervig has experience in four different Major Commands throughout the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East and has been a Fighter Wing Director of Staff as well as a Wing Chief of Combat Training. He has a Bachelors in Mathematics and Computer Science, a Masters in Applied Mathematics, and received his commission after graduating from United States Air Force Officer Training School in 2008.

Lieutenant Colonel Lee W. Bryant is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and holds Masters Degrees in Flight Test Engineering as well as Military Operational Art and Science. He is a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School and a Command Pilot with over 2,200 flying hours in over 37 different military and civilian aircraft with recent test experience in both the F-22 and F-16. Prior to Blue Horizons Lt Col Bryant served as the Commander and Director of the F-22 Combined Test Force leading over 400 military, civilian, and contractor airmen in the development and testing of future F-22 and DOD capabilities. Additionally, Lt Col Bryant has served as an Instructor at the USAF Test Pilot School and deployed in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.

Major Benjamin "Coco" Heruska commissioned in 2008 through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Georgia Tech, and is a Computer Engineer, specializing in cyber and qualified as a cyber operations officer. His previous assignments included the Air Force Research Laboratory, Headquarters Air Force Material Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and the 70th Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Wing. He has a M.S. in Computer Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and is graduate of the Computer Network Operations Development Program. 

Major Lea L. Johansen entered the Air Force through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) in 2008. She is a Medical (Prescribing) Psychologist who holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a Post Doctoral Masters in Psychopharmacology. She is board certified in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Johansen was selected as the first White House Psychologist serving within the White House Medical Unit from 2013 to 2016. She created and led all the mental health services for 5K beneficiaries including the first and second family, cabinet members, and all military and civilian staff. She has established selection programs, operational psychology programs, and has served various clinical roles running mental health services within the Air Force. Prior to Blue Horizons, Dr. Johansen served as the IMA Psychologist to the Surgeon General of the 70th ISR Wing.

Major Thomas P. Kopietz is a Senior Combat Systems Officer. He has over 1,300 hours as a B-52H Electronic Warfare Officer. He graduated from Saint Olaf College with a BA degree in Mathematics and a concentration in Statistics. He also earned an MA degree in Military History from Norwich University in 2013. Throughout his Air Force career he has acquired a background in nuclear operations, operational test, electronic warfare, and adversary threat systems. He commissioned through Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, AL in 2009. Prior to being a Blue Horizons Fellow, he was an Assistant Director of Operations and an Instructor inside the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, CA.

Major Keith Marshall is a Space Operations Officer with experience at the Air Force Personnel Center, satellite command and control, offensive space control, adversary threat training and replication, intelligence collection, and as the Deputy Chief, Commander’s Action Group (CAG) at Air Education and Training Command (AETC). In his most recent assignment, Maj Marshall was the Executive Officer to the Deputy Commander, AETC. He is a 2006 graduate of Wayland Baptist University with a BS in Occupational Education and holds a MS in Criminal Justice from American Military University. 

Major Devon Messecar has had a fairly eclectic background. She started her career as an Intel support (14N) to Aircrew and later to a Contingency Response Wing as a Force Protection Flight Commander. At the conclusion of her operational experience, she served as an Acquisition Program Manager (63A) primarily in software development for AFLCMC and JTF-GTMO. Her Intel ties to mission planned proved essential. Maj Messecar received a follow-on opportunity to work government policy and spent 2 years in Korea (Seoul) (16R) on the Special Measures Agreement international negotiations, coordinating critical deliberations between USG representatives across USFK, Joint Staff, OSD, U.S. Embassy and Main State Department. She co-authored and managed the writing of the initial proposal with a team of 5 Senior Leaders in varying fields. Finally, before becoming a Blue Horizons fellow, Maj Messecar served a staff position at the HAF A2/6 and initiated coordination with Chief Architect Office on the future of the GIISR funding within ABMS as enabler to JADC2.  

Major Kassandra M. Miller is an Operations Research Analyst specializing in Space Policy and Defense. She received her commission and BS in Operations Research in 2007 from the United States Air Force Academy. She also holds a MS in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology. She has served in a variety of space analysis positions including AFRL’s Rocket Lab at Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Space Command A9, and National Reconnaissance office’s Systems Engineering Directorate and Office of Policy and Strategy. Additionally, she has supported AETC’s Studies and Analysis Squadron and deployed to the Operations Assessment Team at the Combined Air operations Center, Al Udeid. Most recently she was the Military Assistant to the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office. Prior to joining Blue Horizons, she was an Air University Fellow instructing at Squadron Officer School.

Major Oscar Nunez Jr. is a career Cyber Warfare Operator with various assignments including wing executive officer, squadron level chief of weapons and tactics, crew commander, and undergraduate cyber training instructor. Prior to Blue Horizons he served as the Director of Operation, 39th Information Operations Squadron, where he directed the Air Force’s only Information Operations and Cyberspace formal training unit where he oversaw the daily execution of 17 Information Operations and Cyberspace courses producing over 2,500 graduates per year. During his career he deployed twice to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM with ARCENT and AFCENT, and once to Al Udeid in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE as the AOC’s chief of non-kinetics ops planning. In 2009, he commissioned through Officer Training School after completing his undergraduate studies. Major Nunez earned his undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from Florida International University and graduate degree in Business Administration from American Military University.

Lt Col Zachary M. Nunn is an intelligence officer with 1,000 combat hours in the RC-135 RIVET JOINT, deploying to Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, and IRAQI FREEDOM. He is the first National Guard member selected to the Blue Horizons Fellowship. As an Intelligence Squadron Commander, he led 120 airmen in kinetic targeting and domestic relief operations. In his civilian career, he serves as an Iowa State Senator and Chair, International Relation Committee. He authored strategic policy as Director of Cybersecurity on the White House’s National Security Council. Extended intelligence community tours: Chief of Operations-Embassy Construction, US State Department; National Counterintelligence Manager-Cyber, Office of Director of National Intelligence; and Legislative Affairs Officer, National Security Agency. Zach holds a MS in International Relations from Cambridge University, and a MS in Military Operations from Air University. 

Major Rachel Owen is a current Blue Horizons Fellow at Air University. She is a 2008 graduate of the US Air Force Academy in Systems Engineering and earned a Master’s degree in 2010 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Astronautics. Her Air Force career includes engineering and acquisition program management assignments working on Global Positioning Systems satellites, space control systems, Special Operations C-130J aircraft, and electronic warfare systems. She also served as the Chief Engineer for the newly formed National Space Defense Center on the space operations floor during its stand up in 2016. Maj Owen recently completed an assignment with US Special Operations Command at MacDill AFB before joining Blue Horizons.

Major William "Ralphie" Short is a Senior Air Battle Manager, and most recently served as the Chief of 3 WG Weapons & Tactics (OSK), Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK. During this time, Ralphie led the 3 WG’s combat planning/training/employment actions to support tasked OPLANS, CCDR, JCS tasks. He was also a CAF WEPTAC Mission Area Working Group (MAWG) Chairman in 2020, and led a team of 60 through produced tactical solutions to advanced Chinese threats. Major Short earned his commission through Officer Training School and is a graduate of the United States Air Force Weapons School. He has over 1100 flying hours and three combat deployments, including over 550+ combat hours. Ralphie is also the founder of WIDOW (Web-based Information Dominant Warfare), which is a bleeding edge software application that fully digitizes the mission planning process, and is being adopted USAF-wide.

Lieutenant Colonel John T. Sophie is a master navigator with over 2,100 hours, including 450 combat hours, in the C-130E, MC-130P, and MC-130J. He commissioned through Air Force ROTC at Texas A&M University in 2001 with a BS degree in Engineering Technology. Lt Col Sophie is a graduate of US Air Force Weapons School and US Army School of Advanced Military Studies. He is a Special Operations aviator with experience on multiple Combatant Command staffs and has commanded at the squadron level. Prior to becoming a Blue Horizons Fellow, he was the Deputy Group Commander for the 58 Operations Group at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael D. Stefanovic is a Civil Engineer officer. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and Explosive Ordnance Disposal School. Lt Col Stefanovic served in various base level and headquarters assignments, including an international assignment as a counter-improvised explosive device and explosive subject matter expert to the United Nations in New York City. He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of overseas contingency operations as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal qualified Civil Engineer. Prior to his current assignment, he was the commander of the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base.