STEMM Idol Lt. Col. Joel Luker

On Tuesday, November 8, Lt. Col. Joel Luker shared with students the highlights of his satisfying and exciting 17-year career with the Air Force as an Engine Safety Engineer and Squadron Commander at the National Air & Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at WPAFB.

As part of his presentation, he shared video clips and photos of an experience working at the site of a fighter jet crash on a remote mountainside, where Luker led a team effort to find out what caused the aircraft to crash. Over a period of 30 days aircraft parts were loaded and lifted by a chain suspended from a helicopter, hauled to a worksite, dismantled and, in some cases, literally torn apart. This method of investigation helped lead the commander to conclude that the culprit was a very small part of the engine, which had actually been damaged prior to the time of the crash.

The STEMM Idol Speaker also discussed flying everything from jet fighters to Blackhawk helicopters and even the Goodyear blimp while studying to be and serving as a Flight Test Engineer. According to Luker, the academic course content required to graduate from the program was extremely challenging, and entailed multiple master’s level courses condensed into one week’s worth of curriculum!

Lastly, Lt. Col. Luker discussed his most recent assignment working as part of a team of engineers to test the “small diameter bomb,” one of the most advanced precision-strike weapons in the U.S. arsenal (each can strike a 3-foot square target from a distance of 50-60 miles). For safety, he described how the systems must be tested on floating barges in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico using global positioning systems (GPS) and sensors.

Students with a curiosity about the possibilities of being an engineer in the Air Force found genuine excitement from Joel's presentation, and learned that it is an opportunity to encounter many challenging and once-in-a-lifetime jobs.

Lt. Col. Luker has served as an officer in the United States Air Force for more than 17 years. He currently works at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) as a Squadron Commander, leading a group of approximately 100 people in their assessment of foreign electronic warfare systems, and is additionally a military Flight Test Engineer.

“I test military aircraft and associated systems,” Luker said. During his years as a Flight Test Engineer, Lt. Col. Luker has flown about 50 different types of aircraft. It is his job to design and carry out tests that will explore the capabilities of those aircraft along with the onboard weapons and instrumentation systems.

Luker studied extensively before joining the workforce, earning a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics from the University of Minnesota; a master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology; and, most recently, earned a master’s in Military Operational Arts and Sciences from Air University in 2007. He has impressively been named a distinguished graduate of the Reserve Officers’ Training Program (ROTC), the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Squadron Officer School (SOC) and the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC).

In his free time, Lt. Col. Luker enjoys pursuing his passion for hockey. He has played the game since age 6 and has coached youth teams in both Dayton, Ohio and Pensacola, Fla.