Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31

Dust Devil Mission

  • We are an active squadron in the United States Navy uniquely comprised of a team of highly trained and experienced active duty, government and contract personnel. We exist to ensure that the Navy and Marine Corps are prepared to fight and win our nation’s wars.

  • We do this primarily through the SAFE, effective and relevant developmental and integrated test and evaluation of Navy and Marine Corps strike aircraft and weapon systems before they are used in the fleet.

  • We will maintain a constant state of readiness for search, rescue and incident response in the R-2508 Complex and the surrounding high desert and mountains as well as other locations if flight operations dictate.

  • We will educate and train our Aviators, Aircrewmen, Sailors, Marines, Maintainers, Engineers and Support Personnel to the benefit of not only our organization but to the greater benefit of the Navy, Marine Corps and our country.

Command Philosophy

  • Purpose – Everything we do, we will do for a reason. That reason must support our mission. If you don’t understand the why behind what we are doing, ask. If there is not a good reason behind what we are doing, then maybe there is a better way to do it or maybe we shouldn’t be doing it all.

  • Standardization – When we know the right way to do something, we will continue to do it that way. In doing so, it will become a habit and when it is documented, it becomes the standard. Everyone will know what to expect and we can spend more time thinking about what is different today and preparing for what may be different in the days to come.

  • Pride – You are a member of a world class organization performing a unique and critically important mission. Be proud of your contribution to it and to call yourself a Dust Devil. Also, take time to recognize the efforts of others in our incredible organization.

Cmdr. Andrew Gephart

Commanding Officer, VX-31

Cmdr. Andrew Gephart is a native of Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics and an Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was designated a naval aviator in Kingsville, Texas, in May 2001.

Upon completion of replacement pilot training in the F-14A with the "Grim Reapers" Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, he was assigned to the "Checkmates" of VFA-211 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, where he deployed aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) flying combat sorties in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from 2003-2004. Gephart completed the transition to the F/A-18F with his squadron at NAS Lemoore, California, in March 2005. He then reported to Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, graduating with Class 129 in June 2006. His follow-on test tour was at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, conducting flight test and evaluation of the F/A-18E/F, EA-18G, and T-45. During this tour, Gephart was deployed as an Individual Augmentee with the 1-28th Army Infantry Battalion to FOB Falcon, Iraq, from September 2007 to June 2008.

In September 2008, he reported to the "Gladiators" of VFA-106, where he completed replacement pilot training in the F/A-18C. Gephart returned to the fleet as a department head with the "Valions" of VFA-15 at NAS Oceana, where he deployed aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on her 2011 maiden deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. From June 2012 to October 2015, Gephart was the Chief Test Pilot and then the Director at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Directorate at Webster Outlying Field in St. Inigoes, Maryland from June 2012 to October 2015. In November 2015, he returned to the Naval Test Pilot School as an instructor until March 2017. Gephart reported to VX-31 as the incoming Chief Test Pilot in June 2017, then became the commanding officer in January 2019.

Gephart has accumulated over 2,400 military flight hours in numerous fixed wing, rotary wing and variable-geometry-wing aircraft. His personal decorations include the Meritorius Service Medal, Air Medal (Strike/Flight), Navy Commendation Medal (3), Army Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

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James Coppersmith

Technical Director, VX-31

James Coppersmith, a native of Bellville, Ohio, graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and served 24 years in the United States Marine Corps.

Coppersmith is a 2002 graduate of the United States Navy Test Pilot School (Class 121) and a graduate of the Marine Aviation Tactics and Weapons Squadron- 1 Weapons and Tactics Instructor course in the AV-8B Harrier II+ aircraft.

Coppersmith’s operational experience included Fleet Marine Forces assignments with the VMA-214 “Blacksheep” from 1996 through 2000 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. He deployed with HMM-364 (REIN), 13th MEU (SOC) aboard the USS Boxer (LHD-4) and again with the 13th MEU(SOC) while attached to HMM-161 (REIN) aboard the USS Tarawa (LHA-1). In June of 2000, Coppersmith was assigned to Class 121 at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. 

Upon graduating from Test Pilot School in June 2001, Coppersmith was assigned as an operational test director at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 9, where he executed the operational evaluation of the first Joint Direct Attack Munition-capable operational flight program for the AV-8B. During this assignment, Coppersmith attended Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course and concurrently led a Tactics Development and Evaluation effort that introduced JDAM tactics to AV-8B Fleet squadrons. In June 2003, he was reassigned to VX-31 and the AV-8B Joint Systems Support Activity (JSSA).

In January 2006, Coppersmith was selected for the Marine Corps’ Acquisition Management Primary Military Occupational Specialty and assigned to PMA-257 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, as the AV-8B aircraft assistant program manager for Systems Engineering and as the AV-8B US Military Deputy Program Manager in a multi-nation joint development and sustainment program. In June 2009, he was assigned to the Marine Aviation Detachment China Lake-Point Mugu, California, as the detachment’s executive officer and additionally served as the Pacific Ranges chief test pilot. In July 2014, Coppersmith assumed the duties of the officer-in-charge of the Marine Aviation Detachment, where he served until his retirement in June 2016.

Coppersmith left active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel having flown over 2,200 mishap-free flight hours in over 35 different aircraft. His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. 

 

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Cmdr. Michael F. Duez

Executive Officer, VX-31

Cmdr. Michael F. Duez is a native of Pana, Illinois. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2002 with a BS in Oceanography. Upon completing flight training at NAS Kingsville, Texas, Duez earned his wings as a naval aviator in May 2004 and reported to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 for fleet replacement training in the EA-6B Prowler.

Duez’s first operational tour was with the "Garudas" of VAQ-134, where he deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan in 2005, 2007, and 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During these deployments, Duez flew over 280 combat sorties in support of U.S. and Coalition forces.

Following his tour with the Garudas, Duez earned his Prowler Tactics Instructor (PTI) qualification and reported to the Electronic Attack Weapons School (EAWS) as a staff instructor. While assigned to EAWS, Duez served as the EA-6B defensive tactics subject matter expert, instructed in the PTI course, and provided tactical instruction to the VAQ community through the Electronic Warfare Advanced Readiness Program (EWARP) and Prowler Weapons and Tactics Program. In 2011, He reported to the "Gray Wolves" of VAQ-142 to serve as training officer through their deployment workup cycle on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their transition to the ICAP III Prowler.

In November 2012, Duez joined the "Patriots" of VAQ-140 as a Department Head while they were embarked aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69) deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon completion of the Patriots' final deployment in the EA-6B in 2013, Duez served as the Operations Officer through the squadron’s transition and establishment as an EA-18G Growler squadron. He subsequently served as Maintenance Officer through the Patriots' deployment workup cycle for their maiden EA-18G deployment on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

Following his department head tour, Duez reported again to EAWS where he served as the administrative officer, operations officer, and director of aircrew training. In addition to serving as a staff instructor, he was responsible for the management, modernization, and execution of all EAWS aircrew training programs.

Duez reported to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 as executive officer in July of 2018.

Duez’s personal decorations include the Air Medal (14 Strike/Flight Awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two awards), and various campaign medals and unit citations. He has accumulated over 2700 hours, primarily in the EA-6B and EA-18G.

 

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Lt. Col. Dail T. Fields

Chief Test Pilot, VX-31

Lt. Col. Dail T. Fields is a former resident of Atlanta, Georgia, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps at the completion of Officer Candidates School in April 1998.

Fields completed The Basic School in October 1998 and reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for Aviation Pre-Flight Indoctrination. He completed primary flight training in the T-34C with VT-2 in Milton, Florida, in August of 1999. After completing intermediate flight training in the T-2C Buckeye and advanced flight training in the T-45C Goshawk, Fields was designated a naval aviator in December 2000.

In June 2002, he completed initial training in the F/A-18 Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 and  reported to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan for service with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 212, the Marine Corps’ only permanently forward-deployed fighter squadron. In November 2005, Fields reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for service with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He deployed with the 24th MEU to the middle east in June 2006 and supported operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Djibouti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq.

In January 2007, Captain Fields reported to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, where he served as an instructor in the F/A-18 Fleet Replacement Squadron. During his time as an FRS instructor, he duties included: Assistant Training Officer, Basic Fighter Maneuvering Standardization Officer, Strike Standardization Officer, Fighter Weapons Standardization Officer, Night Systems Instructor, Low Altitude Tactics Training Instructor, T-34C Low Safe pilot, and F/A-18 East Coast Demonstration team pilot.

Fields reported to Edwards Air Force Base, California, CA in June 2009 to attend the USAF Test Pilot School. There he served as the class leader for Class 09B and earned a Masters of Science in Flight Test Engineering in June 2010. He subsequently served with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 in China Lake, California, working as a test pilot, project officer, and operations officer.

He reported to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, in August 2013 for service with the VMFA-122 Crusaders. There he served as the Operations Officer and the Executive Officer. In July 2015, Fields reported to NAS Patuxent River for service with the VX-23 “Salty Dogs.” There he served as the F-35 Operations Officer and the F-35 Government Flight Test Director.

Fields reported to the AV-8B Program Office (PMA-257) in August 2017, where he served as the Propulsion Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead. He then joined the F/A-18 Program Office (PMA-265) for service as the F/A-18 A-D IPT Lead.

He became VX-31’s chief test pilot in January 2019.

Fields has a DAWIA Level 3 Certification in Test and Evaluation. He is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Class 03-2004), and has a Certificate in Systems Engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School. Fields’ personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Korean Defense Service Medal.

 

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Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31

Dust Devil Mission

  • We are an active squadron in the United States Navy uniquely comprised of a team of highly trained and experienced active duty, government and contract personnel. We exist to ensure that the Navy and Marine Corps are prepared to fight and win our nation’s wars.

  • We do this primarily through the SAFE, effective and relevant developmental and integrated test and evaluation of Navy and Marine Corps strike aircraft and weapon systems before they are used in the fleet.

  • We will maintain a constant state of readiness for search, rescue and incident response in the R-2508 Complex and the surrounding high desert and mountains as well as other locations if flight operations dictate.

  • We will educate and train our Aviators, Aircrewmen, Sailors, Marines, Maintainers, Engineers and Support Personnel to the benefit of not only our organization but to the greater benefit of the Navy, Marine Corps and our country.

Command Philosophy

  • Purpose – Everything we do, we will do for a reason. That reason must support our mission. If you don’t understand the why behind what we are doing, ask. If there is not a good reason behind what we are doing, then maybe there is a better way to do it or maybe we shouldn’t be doing it all.

  • Standardization – When we know the right way to do something, we will continue to do it that way. In doing so, it will become a habit and when it is documented, it becomes the standard. Everyone will know what to expect and we can spend more time thinking about what is different today and preparing for what may be different in the days to come.

  • Pride – You are a member of a world class organization performing a unique and critically important mission. Be proud of your contribution to it and to call yourself a Dust Devil. Also, take time to recognize the efforts of others in our incredible organization.

Cmdr. Andrew Gephart

Commanding Officer, VX-31

Cmdr. Andrew Gephart is a native of Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics and an Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was designated a naval aviator in Kingsville, Texas, in May 2001.

Upon completion of replacement pilot training in the F-14A with the "Grim Reapers" Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, he was assigned to the "Checkmates" of VFA-211 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, where he deployed aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) flying combat sorties in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from 2003-2004. Gephart completed the transition to the F/A-18F with his squadron at NAS Lemoore, California, in March 2005. He then reported to Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, graduating with Class 129 in June 2006. His follow-on test tour was at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, conducting flight test and evaluation of the F/A-18E/F, EA-18G, and T-45. During this tour, Gephart was deployed as an Individual Augmentee with the 1-28th Army Infantry Battalion to FOB Falcon, Iraq, from September 2007 to June 2008.

In September 2008, he reported to the "Gladiators" of VFA-106, where he completed replacement pilot training in the F/A-18C. Gephart returned to the fleet as a department head with the "Valions" of VFA-15 at NAS Oceana, where he deployed aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on her 2011 maiden deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. From June 2012 to October 2015, Gephart was the Chief Test Pilot and then the Director at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Directorate at Webster Outlying Field in St. Inigoes, Maryland from June 2012 to October 2015. In November 2015, he returned to the Naval Test Pilot School as an instructor until March 2017. Gephart reported to VX-31 as the incoming Chief Test Pilot in June 2017, then became the commanding officer in January 2019.

Gephart has accumulated over 2,400 military flight hours in numerous fixed wing, rotary wing and variable-geometry-wing aircraft. His personal decorations include the Meritorius Service Medal, Air Medal (Strike/Flight), Navy Commendation Medal (3), Army Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Download biography

James Coppersmith

Technical Director, VX-31

James Coppersmith, a native of Bellville, Ohio, graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and served 24 years in the United States Marine Corps.

Coppersmith is a 2002 graduate of the United States Navy Test Pilot School (Class 121) and a graduate of the Marine Aviation Tactics and Weapons Squadron- 1 Weapons and Tactics Instructor course in the AV-8B Harrier II+ aircraft.

Coppersmith’s operational experience included Fleet Marine Forces assignments with the VMA-214 “Blacksheep” from 1996 through 2000 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. He deployed with HMM-364 (REIN), 13th MEU (SOC) aboard the USS Boxer (LHD-4) and again with the 13th MEU(SOC) while attached to HMM-161 (REIN) aboard the USS Tarawa (LHA-1). In June of 2000, Coppersmith was assigned to Class 121 at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. 

Upon graduating from Test Pilot School in June 2001, Coppersmith was assigned as an operational test director at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 9, where he executed the operational evaluation of the first Joint Direct Attack Munition-capable operational flight program for the AV-8B. During this assignment, Coppersmith attended Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course and concurrently led a Tactics Development and Evaluation effort that introduced JDAM tactics to AV-8B Fleet squadrons. In June 2003, he was reassigned to VX-31 and the AV-8B Joint Systems Support Activity (JSSA).

In January 2006, Coppersmith was selected for the Marine Corps’ Acquisition Management Primary Military Occupational Specialty and assigned to PMA-257 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, as the AV-8B aircraft assistant program manager for Systems Engineering and as the AV-8B US Military Deputy Program Manager in a multi-nation joint development and sustainment program. In June 2009, he was assigned to the Marine Aviation Detachment China Lake-Point Mugu, California, as the detachment’s executive officer and additionally served as the Pacific Ranges chief test pilot. In July 2014, Coppersmith assumed the duties of the officer-in-charge of the Marine Aviation Detachment, where he served until his retirement in June 2016.

Coppersmith left active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel having flown over 2,200 mishap-free flight hours in over 35 different aircraft. His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. 

 

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Cmdr. Michael F. Duez

Executive Officer, VX-31

Cmdr. Michael F. Duez is a native of Pana, Illinois. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2002 with a BS in Oceanography. Upon completing flight training at NAS Kingsville, Texas, Duez earned his wings as a naval aviator in May 2004 and reported to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 for fleet replacement training in the EA-6B Prowler.

Duez’s first operational tour was with the "Garudas" of VAQ-134, where he deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan in 2005, 2007, and 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During these deployments, Duez flew over 280 combat sorties in support of U.S. and Coalition forces.

Following his tour with the Garudas, Duez earned his Prowler Tactics Instructor (PTI) qualification and reported to the Electronic Attack Weapons School (EAWS) as a staff instructor. While assigned to EAWS, Duez served as the EA-6B defensive tactics subject matter expert, instructed in the PTI course, and provided tactical instruction to the VAQ community through the Electronic Warfare Advanced Readiness Program (EWARP) and Prowler Weapons and Tactics Program. In 2011, He reported to the "Gray Wolves" of VAQ-142 to serve as training officer through their deployment workup cycle on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their transition to the ICAP III Prowler.

In November 2012, Duez joined the "Patriots" of VAQ-140 as a Department Head while they were embarked aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69) deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon completion of the Patriots' final deployment in the EA-6B in 2013, Duez served as the Operations Officer through the squadron’s transition and establishment as an EA-18G Growler squadron. He subsequently served as Maintenance Officer through the Patriots' deployment workup cycle for their maiden EA-18G deployment on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

Following his department head tour, Duez reported again to EAWS where he served as the administrative officer, operations officer, and director of aircrew training. In addition to serving as a staff instructor, he was responsible for the management, modernization, and execution of all EAWS aircrew training programs.

Duez reported to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 as executive officer in July of 2018.

Duez’s personal decorations include the Air Medal (14 Strike/Flight Awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two awards), and various campaign medals and unit citations. He has accumulated over 2700 hours, primarily in the EA-6B and EA-18G.

 

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Lt. Col. Dail T. Fields

Chief Test Pilot, VX-31

Lt. Col. Dail T. Fields is a former resident of Atlanta, Georgia, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps at the completion of Officer Candidates School in April 1998.

Fields completed The Basic School in October 1998 and reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for Aviation Pre-Flight Indoctrination. He completed primary flight training in the T-34C with VT-2 in Milton, Florida, in August of 1999. After completing intermediate flight training in the T-2C Buckeye and advanced flight training in the T-45C Goshawk, Fields was designated a naval aviator in December 2000.

In June 2002, he completed initial training in the F/A-18 Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 and  reported to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan for service with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 212, the Marine Corps’ only permanently forward-deployed fighter squadron. In November 2005, Fields reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for service with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He deployed with the 24th MEU to the middle east in June 2006 and supported operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Djibouti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq.

In January 2007, Captain Fields reported to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, where he served as an instructor in the F/A-18 Fleet Replacement Squadron. During his time as an FRS instructor, he duties included: Assistant Training Officer, Basic Fighter Maneuvering Standardization Officer, Strike Standardization Officer, Fighter Weapons Standardization Officer, Night Systems Instructor, Low Altitude Tactics Training Instructor, T-34C Low Safe pilot, and F/A-18 East Coast Demonstration team pilot.

Fields reported to Edwards Air Force Base, California, CA in June 2009 to attend the USAF Test Pilot School. There he served as the class leader for Class 09B and earned a Masters of Science in Flight Test Engineering in June 2010. He subsequently served with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 in China Lake, California, working as a test pilot, project officer, and operations officer.

He reported to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, in August 2013 for service with the VMFA-122 Crusaders. There he served as the Operations Officer and the Executive Officer. In July 2015, Fields reported to NAS Patuxent River for service with the VX-23 “Salty Dogs.” There he served as the F-35 Operations Officer and the F-35 Government Flight Test Director.

Fields reported to the AV-8B Program Office (PMA-257) in August 2017, where he served as the Propulsion Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead. He then joined the F/A-18 Program Office (PMA-265) for service as the F/A-18 A-D IPT Lead.

He became VX-31’s chief test pilot in January 2019.

Fields has a DAWIA Level 3 Certification in Test and Evaluation. He is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Class 03-2004), and has a Certificate in Systems Engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School. Fields’ personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Korean Defense Service Medal.

 

Download biography