Brig. Gen. Ricardo "Rico" Aponte is the Director for Innovation and Experimentation, U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla. The directorate is the focal point for transformation initiatives, knowledge management, assessments, experimentation and gaming within U.S. Southern Command. The directorate seeks out new concepts and rigorously tests them, both in simulation and as part of operational experiments. He recently served as Commander of the Standing Joint Force Headquarters, a Secretary of Defense mandated transformation initiative. The SJFHQ consists of planning, operations, knowledge management and information superiority experts who form the backbone a joint task force command structure in the event of contingency operations.
The general is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico and received his commission through the ROTC program. He has operationally flown the F-111F/D, 02-A and T-38 aircraft. He also served at Howard Air Force Base, Panama, as a branch chief, division chief and Deputy Director for Latin American Affairs. General Aponte joined the Air Force Reserve in 1990 and was assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations Western Hemisphere Division in the Pentagon. Here he led the Reserve officers assigned to the Western Hemisphere, European and Defense Attaché directorates.
In 1992, he was selected by the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, as the Spanish language narrator for their Latin America Tour. He was later assigned as a mobilization assistant to the Office of the Air Force Reserve where he led transformation efforts. The general was also a tiger team member in response to frequent mobilization and demobilization issues resulting from operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle, and he oversaw the deployment of 25,000 individual Reservists. Prior to his current assignment, he was Deputy Director of Operations for the U.S. Southern Command. During the national response to instability in Haiti, General Aponte led the command response to the crisis and originated international coalition operations between four countries.
1972 Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering, University of Puerto Rico
1980 Master of Science degree in management science, Troy State University
1983 Marine Corps Weapons and Tactics Instructor School, Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz.
1983 Squadron Officer School, by correspondence
1984 Air Command and Staff College, by correspondence
1995 Air War College, by seminar
2006 National Security Leadership Course, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, N.Y.
1. May 1973 - August 1974, student, undergraduate pilot training, Moody AFB, Ga.
2. August 1974 - August 1978, F-111D pilot, weapons system officer and aircraft commander, 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, N.M.
3. August 1978 - May 1981, F-111F aircraft commander and instructor pilot, 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England
4. May 1981 - May 1984, 0-2A instructor pilot, 549th Tactical Air Support Training Squadron, Patrick AFB, Fla.
5. May 1984 - July 1985, Chief, Exercise Branch, Howard AFB, Panama
6. July 1985 - November 1997, Chief, Latin American Political Military Affairs Division, Howard AFB, Panama
7. November 1997 - June 1988, Deputy Director for Latin American Affairs, Howard AFB, Panama
8. June 1988 - February 1989, F-111D aircraft commander, 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cannon AFB, N.M.
9. February 1989 - December 1989, Chief, Quality Assurance, 27th Tactical Fighter Group, Cannon AFB, N.M.
10. January 1990 - August 1990, international political military affairs officer, MacDill AFB, Fla.
11. August 1990 - November 1999, international political officer, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
12. November 1999 - January 2001, individual mobilization augmentee to the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
13. January 2001 - April 2003, mobilization assistant to the Deputy to the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
14. April 2003 - September 2004, Deputy Director for Operations (J3), Headquarters U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla.
15. October 2004 - present, Director, Innovation and Experimentation (J7), U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla.
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three oak leaf clusters
Air Force Organizational Excellence Award
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze stars
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Second Lieutenant Dec. 29, 1972
First Lieutenant May 1, 1975
Captain May 1, 1977
Major Oct. 1, 1984
Lieutenant Colonel June 18, 1993
Colonel Aug. 1, 1997
Brigadier General March 1, 2003
(Current as of April 2007)