Adm. (ret) Robert F. Willard is a Los Angeles native and a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He has a Master’s degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University and is an MIT Seminar XXI alumnus.
An F-14 aviator, Willard served in a variety of west coast fighter squadrons; VF-24, VF-124, VF-2, and VF-51 aboard the aircraft carriers USS Constellation, USS Ranger, USS Kitty Hawk and USS Carl Vinson. He was operations officer and executive officer of Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and aerial coordinator for the movie. He later commanded the Screaming Eagles of Fighter Squadron 51.
Following nuclear-power training, Willard served as executive officer of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), commanded the amphibious flagship USS Tripoli (LPH 10) in the Persian Gulf during Operation Vigilant Warrior for which Tripoli received a Navy Unit Commendation and commanded the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
As a flag officer, Willard twice served on the Joint Staff, was deputy and chief of staff for U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, commanded Carrier Group Five aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and commanded the U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan. In March 2005, Willard became the 34th vice chief of naval operations; in May 2007, he assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet; and on October 19, 2009, he began his final assignment as the commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.
Willard’s decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and various other awards.