Rear Adm. Thomas Cropper is a graduate of Iowa State University and received his commission from the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1981. He was designated a naval aviator in 1982. Cropper graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval War College where he earned a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies. He holds additional master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee and the Catholic University of America.
His operational assignments include service with Attack Squadron (VA) 34, VA-176 and VA-85. He served as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 and later as commander, Carrier Air Wing 11. He completed eight extended deployments in USS America (CV 66), USS Forrestal (CV 59), USS Enterprise (CVN 65), USS Eisenhower (CVN 69) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68). He has flown nearly 5,000 hours in 43 different aircraft and has logged over 1200 carrier arrested landings.
His shore assignments include attendance at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where he subsequently served as a test pilot and instructor pilot. He has also served as an instructor pilot and as the aircraft maintenance officer in VFA-106, the Navy’s largest training squadron. Cropper served as military assistant in the Executive Secretariat of the Secretary of Defense from 1998-2000 and went on to serve as the Navy federal executive fellow at the Brookings Institution from 2000-2001. He later led “Strike U” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, and was the chief of staff, U.S. 3rd Fleet from 2005-2007. He was the chief of naval operations representative to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Working Group, chartered with the development of national level security strategy before serving as deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces, U.S. Central Command.
He is the recipient of the Michael Ripley Award as Naval Test Pilot School Instructor of the Year, and was selected as the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Pilot of the Year. His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and various service and campaign awards.