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Dr. Thomas Torkelson

Deputy Director, Center for Character and Leadership Development

Center for Character and Leadership Development

Dr. Thomas D. Torkelson, Col (ret.), USAF
Contact Information

(719) 333-4904



Tom Torkelson serves as the Deputy Director, U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD), where he is responsible for executive-level management of activities for the Center. CCLD’s mission is to advance the understanding, scholarship, practice, and integration of character and leadership development for 4,000 cadets and permanent party in service to the nation. The Center hosts several large forums per year including the annual National Character and Leadership Symposium and conducts leading-edge research, instruction, and assessment to advance understanding of the Profession of Arms into the 21st century. The Center is integral to the Academy’s mission of graduating officers of character and helping to instill the Air Force’s Core Values of Integrity, Service, and Excellence throughout the institution’s faculty, staff, and cadets.

Dr. Torkelson served previously as an assistant professor in the United States Air Force Academy’s Department of Military and Strategic Studies, as Wing Commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, as Vice Wing Commander of the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan, and as Speechwriter to Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh III. He has accumulated over 4,800 flight hours primarily in the KC-135R and C-21A, including over 300 combat support hours in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn, and Unified Protector. He is married to his amazing wife Debbie (USAFA ’93), and they share four children.


Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science, United States Air Force Academy (1992)

Squadron Officer School (correspondence and residence) (1998)

Master of Arts in Economics, University of Oklahoma (2003)

Air Command and Staff College (correspondence) (2003)

Weapons Instructor Course, Distinguished Graduate (2004)

Master of Logistics Management, Air Force Institute of Technology, Distinguished Graduate (2006)

Master of Airpower Art and Science, Air University (2007)

Air War College (correspondence) (2007)

Joint Professional Military Education II, Joint Forces Staff College (2015)

Doctor of Philosophy, Military Strategy, Air University (2017)

Professional Experience

Student, Undergraduate Pilot Training, Reese AFB, TX (1992 – 1993)

KC-135R Aircraft Commander, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, Kadena AB, Japan (1994 – 1996)

Chief of Training, Assistant Chief Standardization and Evaluation, C-21A Instructor and Evaluator Pilot, 12th Airlift Flight, Langley AFB, VA (1996 – 1999)

Flight Commander, Assistant Chief Standardization and Evaluation, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, and Chief, Standardization and Evaluation KC-135R Branch, 18th Operations Group, Kadena AB, Japan (2000 – 2003)

Tanker Planner, 615th Air Mobility Operations Squadron, and Assistant Chief Strategy Division, 15th Air Mobility Operations Squadron, Travis AFB, CA (2003 – 2005)

Student, Intermediate Developmental Education, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (2005 – 2006)

Student, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, AL (2006 – 2007)

Chief, Strategic Concepts, USNORTHCOM Strategy and Policy Division, Peterson AFB, CO (2007 – 2009)

Chief of Safety, 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, UK (2009 – 2010)

Commander, 351st Air Refueling Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, UK (2010 – 2012)

Speechwriter to the Chief of Staff, Pentagon, Washington D.C. (2012 – 2013)

Lorenz Fellow/SDE Student (2013 – 2014)

Vice Wing Commander, 18th Wing, Kadena AB, Japan (2014 – 015)

Wing Commander, 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, UK (2015 – 2017)

Assistant/Adjunct Professor; Chair, Airpower Innovation & Integration, Department of Military and Strategic Studies, USAF Academy, CO (2017 – 2020)

Assistant Professor; eSchool of Graduate Professional Military Education, Air University, Maxwell AFB, AL (2018 – 2021)

Director of Leadership Development, Mountain Springs Church, Colorado Springs, CO (2019 – 2021)

Deputy Director, Center for Character & Leadership Development, USAF Academy, CO (Jan 2021 – present)

Research and Scholarly Interests

Character and Leadership Development

Organizational Leadership

Coercive Airpower & Deterrence

Strategic Studies & Military Strategy