United States Air Force Academy

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Colonel Houston R. Cantwell

Vice Superintendent

Headquarters Air Force Academy

Colonel Houston R. Cantwell
Contact Information

(719) 333-7731


Colonel Houston R. Cantwell is the Vice Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He directly supports the Superintendent directing a four-year regimen of military training, academics, athletic and character development programs leading to a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant.

Prior to his current assignment, Colonel Cantwell was the 49th Wing Commander, Holloman AFB, N.M. In this capacity he was the installation commander supporting 17,000 Airmen, civilians, and their dependents. The primary mission of the 49th Wing was to graduate the Air Force’s finest combat-ready MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators.

Colonel Cantwell was commissioned in 1994 from the University of Virginia as a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program. He completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus AFB, Miss, and has since flown combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan in the F-16 and MQ-9. He led the daily airfield operations at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, as the 455th Operations Support Squadron Commander. Later, he led 24/7/365 remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) combat operations across multiple combatant commands as the 732d Operations Group Commander at Creech AFB, NV.


Capitol Hill Workshop, Alan L. Freed Associates, Washington D.C. (2018)

Leadership Enhancement Program, Center for Creative Leadership, California (2017)

Enterprise Leadership Seminar, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina (2015)

Master of Arts degree in National Security Strategy, National War College, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. (2012)

Air War College (correspondence) (2008)

Master of Arts degree in Airpower Art & Science, School of Advanced Air & Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama (2007)

Master of Arts degree in Military Operational Art and Science, Air Command & Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama (2006)

Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management, George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (2002)

Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama (1999)

Bachelor of Science degree in systems engineering, University of Virginia (1994)

Professional Experience

Vice Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado (2018-present)

Commander, 49th Wing, Holloman AFB, New Mexico (2016-2018)

Director of Operations, U.S. Forces Japan, Yokota Air Base, Japan (2014-2016)

Commander, 732nd Operations Group, Creech AFB, Nevada (2012-2014)

Student, MQ-9 transition course, Holloman AFB, New Mexico (2012)

Student, National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C. (2011-2012)

Commander, 455th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan (2010-2011)

Executive officer to the Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany (2009-2010)

Staff officer, Policy & Doctrine and Operations Divisions, Third Air Force, Ramstein Air Base, Germany (2007-2009)

Student, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama (2006-2007)

Student, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama (2005-2006)

F-16CJ instructor pilot, later, Flight Commander and Wing Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, Misawa Air Base, Japan (2002-2005)

Intern and graduate student, Headquarters Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. (2000-2002)

F-16CG aircraft commander, Moody AFB, Georgia (1999-2000)

F-16CG aircraft commander, Osan Air Base, South Korea (1997-1999)

Student, F-16 training, Luke AFB, Arizona (1996-1997)

Student, undergraduate pilot training, Columbus AFB, Mississippi (1994-1996)

Rating: Command pilot
Flight hours: more than 2,100, including more than 400 combat hours
Aircraft flown: T-37, T-38, F-16, and MQ-9

Honors & Awards

Defense Superior Service Medal

Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster

Bronze Star Medal

Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster

Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters

Aerial Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster

Japan Defense Cooperation Medal


“Beyond Butterflies: MQ-1 Predator and the Evolution of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Air Force Culture,” graduation thesis, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, AL, 2007

“Operators of Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Breaking Paradigms,” Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2009

“Controversial Contrails: The Costs of Remotely Piloted Foreign Policy,” Joint Forces Quarterly, Jan 2013

“Colonel John Boyd’s Innovative DNA,” Air & Space Power Journal, Sept-Oct 2015