Brothers with Kirtland Ties Get Big AF Promotions

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Identical twin brothers with ties to Kirtland's Air Force Research Laboratory -- one active-duty, the other civilian -- got big promotions at nearly the same time.

Brig. Gen. William Cooley, who has served at Kirtland twice, was promoted to the one-star rank on March 1.

His twin, Thomas Cooley, was elevated to Scientific Professional, or ST, to conduct high-level scientific research. It is the highest rank a technical leader can achieve, considered to be the civilian equivalent of general.

And the twin's younger brother, Jim, recently made group leader for computational physics and methods at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Tom Cooley's parents, mother- and father-in-law, wife and daughters, his brothers and their families and many of his colleagues and supporters were at a promotion ceremony April 2 at Kirtland.

Tom jokingly acknowledged the support he received along the way with a quote by author Jarod Kintz: "I love teamwork. I love the idea of everyone rallying together to help me win."

Tom is now senior scientist for Space Situational Awareness for AFRL. William is the director of the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. He was stationed at Kirtland from 1997 to 2000 as the chief of AFRL's Laser Applications Group and branch chief of the Directed Energy Directorate's semiconductor laser branch. His second post at Kirtland, from 2010 to 2013, was as commander of the Philips Research Site and Materiel Wing and director of the Space Vehicles Directorate.

"As our wives say, it was a very good quarter for the Cooley brothers," Tom said. "It's a nice honor."

There are only 25 STs in the Air Force, according to David Hardy, director of AFRL's Directed Energy Directorate. At one time, he said, it wasn't a promotion that was tied to a great deal more responsibility.

"In my time, STs were like a lifetime achievement award," Hardy said.

He added that is no longer true. A lot more is being demanded of scientists with Tom's skills, Hardy said.

"Now we are faced with an extremely competitive world," he said. "You will be tested. Maintaining the United States' technical superiority is a real challenge for the coming decades and our national safety is dependent on that technical superiority."

The Cooley brothers grew up in Albuquerque and graduated from Highland High School in 1984.

They both attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. and graduated in 1988, Tom with a degree in electrical engineering, William with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Jim became an officer in the Navy before going on to work at Los Alamos.