Rear Admiral Penniman graduated from the United States Naval Academy with the class of 1979 and was designated a naval aviator in 1981.
Following an instructor pilot tour in the A-4 “Skyhawk”, Penniman reported to Fighter Squadron (VF) 124 for training in the F-14A “Tomcat”. His first operational assignment was with VF-211, where he deployed twice to the Persian Gulf aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). Following an instructor pilot tour with VF-124, he reported to VF-114 where he served as maintenance officer and deployed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in support of Operation Desert Storm. Penniman returned to VF-124 to serve as operations officer and then executive officer. In the spring of 1993, he helped to establish Fighter Wing Pacific and subsequently served as the wing's first operations officer.
Upon release from active duty in March 1994, Penniman held multiple assignments as assistant chief of staff for operations with Reserve units supporting Commander, Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet. In October 2002, he assumed command of Naval Reserve Carrier Group 0194. Recalled to active duty in January 2003, Penniman was assigned to the Joint Forces Air Component commander's staff, U. S. Central Command, where he served as night director, Combat Plans Division during the opening months of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In October 2004, Penniman was reassigned to 3rd Fleet Joint Forces Air Component Commander 0194 where he served as chief staff officer until assuming command of the unit. Penniman's first flag assignment was as deputy commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet. His subsequent assignment was to the staff of U.S. Pacific Fleet, where he served alternatively as the deputy commander and chief of staff, reserve deputy commander, and director of maritime operations.
During his career, Penniman logged in excess of 3,000 flight hours and 430 carrier-arrested landings. He is a graduate of the Naval Post Graduate School's Aviation Safety Program and completed the Harvard Kennedy School's program for Senior Executives in National & International Security Affairs. His military awards include the Legion of Merit (3); Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (2); Air Medal; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (4), the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), and other unit, campaign and personal decorations.
In civilian life, Penniman is managing partner of Penniman & Associates, LLC, a financial services company. He is married to the former Carol Lawson Gordon, of Whittier, California. They have two children, Elizabeth, a graduate of Boston College, and Rex, a graduate of California Maritime Academy and Coast Guard licensed 3rd engineer.