Colonel Robert Pridgen was born in Aiken, South Carolina. Upon graduating the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1988, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and was assigned to Hotel Company, The Basic School, Quantico, Virginia. After graduation from The Basic School, he reported to NAS Pensacola in February 1989 for naval flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1990.
Upon completion of CH-53E replacement aircrew training at HMT-302, MCAS Tustin, California in February 1991, Pridgen was assigned to HMH-461, MAG 26, MCAS New River until May 1995. During this period Pridgen deployed twice with HMM-261 (Rein) supporting OPERATIONS DENY FLIGHT and SUPPORT DEMOCRACY. Contingency deployments during the same period with HMH-461 included OPERATION VICTOR SQUARED in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and a deployment with HMH-362 (Rein), Marine Forces - Caribbean supporting operations in Haiti.
Pridgen graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in March 1997 with a Master of Science in Systems Management. His follow-on assignment to the H-53 Program Office, Naval Air Systems Command (PMA-261) as the Deputy Program Manager, Avionics and Night Vision Systems included the management of seven avionics projects affecting three type/model/series helicopters within the Heavy Lift and Executive Helicopter Program Office with a total budget of $2.1 billion.
Pridgen returned to MCAS New River in July 2000, and served as the Operations Officer and Executive Officer of HMH-461. From 2002 to 2004, he deployed three times to the Horn of Africa and Persian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom – once as Detachment Officer-in-Charge for an eight aircraft detachment to HMM-261 (Rein), once as Executive Officer of HMH-461 and finally as Detachment Officer-in-Charge, Detachment Bravo, CJTF-Horn of Africa.
Upon return from Africa in November 2004, Pridgen assumed command of HMH-461, MAG 29, MCAS New River. While in command, he provided sustained support for OEF and OIF heavy lift detachments and led a composite squadron during three weeks of humanitarian relief operations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita made landfall.
Upon completion of Top Level School as a Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellow with IBM Global Business Services in June 2007, Pridgen was assigned as the lead for the Marine Corps’ Heavy Lift Helicopter Replacement Program, CH-53K, PMA-261, PEO(A) until re-assigned to PEO(A) staff as the Operations Officer during the period of June 2009 to December 2010. Promoted to Colonel in October 2009, his staff tour included a 12-month special duty assignment as the V-22 In-Service lead in PMA-275.
In January 2011, Colonel Pridgen returned to PMA-261, where he served as Program Manager, H-53 Helicopters until May 2014.
Colonel Pridgen’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, two gold stars in lieu of third award, and the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal. His education includes a BS in Physics from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s in Systems Management from the Naval Postgraduate School. He is a member of the Defense Acquisition Professional Community with a Level III certification in Program Management.