Commander Cassidy Norman (BS ASE ’93) has been appointed to a position in the Pentagon supporting the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He will serve in the J-8 Directorate, responsible for developing capabilities, conducting studies, analysis and assessments, and evaluating plans, programs and strategies for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Norman was selected to serve in the Pentagon after a successful tour as the commanding officer of VFA-83, an operational squadron comprised of 10 F/A-18C aircraft and about 220 personnel. During his tour from 2009 to 2012, his squadron deployed twice on the USS Eisenhower, directly supporting US and Coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Over the last year and a half, Norman was in charge of transitioning the squadron to a newer version of the F/A-18C while rebuilding operational readiness for another deployment scheduled for this summer.
“Leaving the squadron was bittersweet. The job was very rewarding because I saw my squadron succeed by building a high level of readiness and high morale despite challenging schedules and dangerous operations,” Norman said. “So it was difficult to leave the great people in the squadron – the motivated Sailors and Naval Aviators. I’ll miss the environment and the camaraderie.”
Norman’s military career began when he was accepted to the Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) after graduating from UT. As the Distinguished Graduate of his AOCS class, he was commissioned in the Navy in October 1993. He earned his wings of gold at the Naval Air Station Kingsville, TX, in 1996.
Norman is also a graduate of the US Naval Test Pilot School. He holds an Aviation Systems Master of Science Degree from the University of Tennessee Space Institute and graduated with distinction from the Naval War College in Newport, RI, where he earned a MA in National Security and Strategic Studies.
He logged 698 traps and 116 combat missions in the F/A-18C over three operational tours. Including a test pilot and a carrier air wing staff tour, he has accumulated over than 3,000 flight hours in 42 aircraft. Norman’s military awards include various meritorious individual and unit awards, including awards earned by VFA-83 during his command tour: the 2009 Battle Efficiency Award for the most outstanding F/A-18C squadron on the East Coast, the 2009 Michael J. Estocin Award for the best F/A-18C squadron in the US Navy, the 2010 CNO Aviation Safety “S” Award for remarkable performance and contribution to safety excellence in Naval Aviation and the 2011 “Golden Wrench” Award for maintenance excellence.
His three-year position at the Pentagon will begin in June. Norman, who has deployed overseas eight times on aircraft carriers, believes this experience will not only give him a better understanding of the capabilities and cultures of other military services but also their integration in the Washington DC and on the battlefield.
“I’m looking forward to working in the Pentagon because I know it is important and relevant – and because I’m interested to see how the broader military arm of our government works,” Norman said. “Traveling to work in the Pentagon on a daily basis is a great way, if not the only way, to fully appreciate and understand our Department of Defense.”
Norman credits his success in the Navy to his foundation in the Aerospace Engineering Department at The University of Texas.
“A lot of military opportunities simply depend on timing,” Norman said. “But I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the opportunities I had without the foundation I received from my professors at The University of Texas.” Norman attributes his strong problem-solving skills to his background in aerospace engineering.
“Understanding the physics of atmospheric flight from my aerospace degree definitely helped my career as a Naval Aviator. But I learned something much greater than just that – the fundamentals of how to approach and develop effective solutions to complex problems.”
Norman’s leadership skills as a student led him to win a College of Engineering Outstanding Leadership Award in 1993. His wife Michelle (BS PGE ’92) also won the award the same year. The two met while attending UT. Michelle worked as a petroleum engineer for few years then transitioned to become an award-winning environmental engineer working as a civil servant for the US Navy.
As an accomplished pilot, Norman had the unique opportunity to become a memorable part of UT athletics. As a student in 1988 and 1989, Norman walked-on to the UT baseball team, but never made the traveling team. An injury finally forced him to give up his aspirations to play ball. Last spring, Norman was asked to fly over a UT baseball game as part of Austin Navy Week. “Flying over the same field I used to play on as a baseball player was quite a memorable personal experience,” he said.
After flying over the baseball game, he was invited back for Veterans Recognition Day flyover of the Texas Tech football game this past fall. “I’ll also never forget flying over Memorial Stadium and looking down, seeing the stands filled with burnt orange and the band forming a perfect shape of Texas on the field.”
The Longhorns won both games. “What a great way to pay tribute to my alma mater,” he said. “Hook ‘Em!”