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Speakers | Unmanned Systems in the Future Fight | Potomac Officers Club

Chris Pehrson

Chris Pehrson

Vice President, Strategic Development of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Chris Pehrson is Vice President for Strategic Development at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. In this capacity, he develops business strategy and leads a team of business development professionals to promote the company’s full line of remotely piloted aircraft and sensor payloads to the Department of Defense and other U.S. Government customers. He is responsible for a business capture portfolio that includes the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C Gray Eagle, Avenger UAS, Advanced Programs, Mission Payloads, and ISR services lines of business. He and his team are focused on providing customers with effective, reliable and affordable mission solutions. Prior to joining GA-ASI in 2010, Mr. Pehrson served in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a colonel. During his military career he commanded two squadrons and an operations group, and was rated as Command Pilot and Electronic Warfare Officer. Mr. Pehrson completed staff tours at Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Headquarters Air Force, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he served as the Department’s representative to the interagency for the formulation of national cyber security and domestic counterterrorism policies. Mr. Pehrson holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University, and a master’s degree in Logistics from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Air War College.


Peter Gersten

Maj Gen Peter Gersten

Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs (AF/A5/8) of U.S. Air Force

Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten is Commander, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The USAFWC's mission is developing innovative leaders and full spectrum capabilities through responsive, realistic and relevant Air Force and joint testing, tactics development and advanced training across all levels of war. The center ensures deployed forces are well trained and well equipped to conduct integrated combat operations. From operational testing and tactics development programs to the advanced training schools, exercises and venues, the center provides Airmen with proven and tested technology, the most current tactics, superb academic training and a unique opportunity to practice integrated force employment. The center functions as a team of innovative, highly skilled Airmen providing effective weapons, tactics and command and control integrated across air, space and cyberspace for the Joint Force Commander. The USAFWC is organized under Air Combat Command into four wings, two named units and one detachment with more than 11,000 Airmen serving in the 57th Wing, 53rd Wing, 99th Air Base Wing, 505th Command and Control Wing, the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Air Force Joint Test Program Office. General Gersten entered the Air Force in 1989 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School and the U.S. Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in human factors engineering, and a minor in mathematics. He graduated from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot training in 1991, and is a command pilot with more than 2,800 total flying hours and more than 400 combat hours over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Bosnia. The general has commanded a fighter squadron, fighter operations group, was the commander of the U.S. Air Force’s lead remotely piloted aircraft wing and air expeditionary wing. He has served as the Deputy Commander- Operations and Intelligence, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, Commander, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force- Levant, Air Combat Command, Southwest Asia and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Programs leading a staff of military and civilians in the development, integration, evaluation and analysis of the Air Force Program across the Future Years Defense Plan. Prior to his current assignment, he was the Director of Strategic Plans, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.


Jim Thomson

Jim Thomson

Acting Deputy/Sr. Advisor, Future Vertical Lift CFT of Army Futures Command

Mr. Jim Thomson is a Highly Qualified Expert (HQE) assigned to the U.S. Army Futures Command Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team (FVL-CFT) as a Senior Advisor to the Director. Serving as the Acting Deputy Director he provides critical input in direct support of the Director’s vision of enhancing U.S. Army vertical lift dominance of the future through the development of next generation capabilities leveraging advanced teaming with manned and unmanned systems. Mr. Thomson is dedicated to creating an organizational climate that values each member of the team while fostering a culture of collaboration, communication, and innovation. Mr. Thomson is a 30 year veteran of the U.S. Army culminating as a Command Sergeant Major serving at the enterprise level of the Army. After serving as the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Command Sergeant Major, Mr. Thomson went on to lead the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development and the U.S. Army’s Center for Army Leadership before retiring from active duty in June 2018. Mr. Thomson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Maryland University College and received his Master of Science degree in Leadership from Trident University International. Mr. Thomson’s awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, and the Master Aircraft Crewmember badge.


Scott Wierzbanowski

Scott Wierzbanowski

Program Manager, Experimental Spaceplane and Gremlins of Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)

Mr. Scott Wierzbanowski joined DARPA in November 2016 as a program manager in the Tactical Technology Office. His interests include technology development and demonstration for aircraft and weapons with a focus on autonomous and semi-autonomous air systems, manned/unmanned teaming, and reusable space launch. Prior to joining DARPA as a PM, Mr. Wierzbanowski was the executive director for space and advanced technologies at ManTech International Corporation where he steered the company’s growth into advanced technology organizations such as DARPA, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). He also served 20 years in the US Air Force as a test pilot, program manager in advanced weapon programs, and international affairs specialist. He was a command pilot with more than 2,000 hours, primarily in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and AT-38 Talon, including 50 combat hours in Operations Northern Watch and Provide Comfort. Mr. Wierzbanowski holds a Bachelor of Science in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master of Sciences in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama, and a Master of Science in systems engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is also a graduate of the École du Personnel Navigant d'Essais et de Réception, the test pilot school for the French Military.