A 1980 graduate of Auburn University, Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis was commissioned through the Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Upon completion of flight training and designation as a naval flight officer, he reported for his initial fleet tour in 1983 with the World Famous Red Rippers of Fighter Squadron (VF) 11, deploying aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) to the Eastern Mediterranean flying in support of the Multinational Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon.
In 1986, Gaddis reported to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 4 in Point Mugu, California, where he was assigned as the AIM-54C Air-to-Air Missile System Project officer and Operations department head until 1989. Upon completion of this tour, he served aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as assistant Air Operations officer and Flag Tactical Action officer; he was assigned to the Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 (CCDG-12), which included Red Sea operations in support of Desert Shield, and counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea aboard USS Bainbridge (CGN 25) and USS Yorktown (CG 48). In 1992, he reported to VF-84, Jolly Rogers, where he served as Operations and Maintenance department heads and deployed on Mediterranean Cruise 2-93 to the Adriatic Sea and Red Sea, flying combat air patrol and tactical reconnaissance missions in both Bosnia and Iraq.
Following this tour, he joined the Chief of Naval Operations Staff in 1994 and served as the fleet's requirements officer for the AIM-9M, AIM-9X, AIM-7, AIM-54, AIM-120 air-to-air missiles and the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System.
In 1997, Gaddis was designated an Aerospace Engineering duty officer and proceeded to earn a master’s degree in Financial Management from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, before he arrived at the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland. Since 1999, he has served as deputy program manager for the F/A-18 Test and evaluation, operations officer for program executive officer (Tactical Aircraft Programs); executive assistant to the commander, Naval Air Systems Command; program manager for F/A-18 and EA-18G (PMA-265); and program manager for Presidential Helicopters (PMA-274). In October 2008, he was assigned as commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division and assistant commander for Research and Engineering, Naval Air Systems Command.
In September 2010, he assumed his current position as program executive officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs [PEO(T)] at the Naval Air Systems Command, providing acquisition, engineering and technical services to the Navy for the F/A-18A-F, EA-18G, EA-6B, E-2, C-2, E-6B, AV-8B, Aircraft Protection Systems, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment, Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems, Air Traffic Control Systems and Combat ID, Air-to-Air missiles, Air Warfare and Information Distribution Systems.
A graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School - TOPGUN, he has accumulated more than 2,300 flight hours as a radar intercept officer in the F-14A/F-14B/F-4S aircraft to include 523 traps in the F-14 Tomcat. Gaddis' personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Strike Fighter Air Medal, and various other personal and unit awards.