2018 Hall of Fame Honoree
Willis C. Hardwick attended Oklahoma Military Academy from 1951 to 1956, serving as Corps Commander and Commander of A Company during his last graduating year. He graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 1956 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University in January 1959. He was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, entering active service at the Army Air Defense Center in Fort Bliss, Texas where he was assigned to Orogrande Missile Range, White Sands, New Mexico.
After serving multiple Air Defense, Army Aviation and General Staff assignments to include serving on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, he retired in February 1980 in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel with 21 years active service.
Hardwick is a graduate of the U.S. Army Aviation Flight Training School in Fort Rucker, Alabama where he was awarded the Army Aviator Badge. After 15 years of flying and accumulating some 3,800 hours of accident-free flight time, 700 of which were during two tours in Vietnam, he earned the title Master Army Aviator. Hardwick is a graduate of the Army Air Defense Artillery Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College and the Department of Defense Systems Management College. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Medal with Seven Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with One Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal.
After retiring from active Army service, Willis joined the Raytheon Company as the Hampton Roads Virginia Business Development Manager. He later joined Vought Aerospace Corporation’s Washington Operations, which became Loral Vought Systems Corporation and later merged with Lockheed Martin Corporation where he served some 24 years as the Company’s Manager of Air and Missile Defense business within the Washington, D.C. area.
During his service at the Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation, Willis was an active member of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) and was elected President, Virginia Peninsula Chapter AUSA and later elected President, 2nd Region AUSA. As President, 2nd Region, Willis served as a Trustee on the AUSA Council of Trustees and as a Member of the AUSA National Advisory Board where he promoted and assisted elected members of the Virginia General Assembly in legislating Virginia State Income Tax relief for Virginians serving on active duty. Willis was also an active member of the National Defense Industrial Association where he served as Chairman, Missile Defense Division and was awarded the Association’s Gold Medal for Meritorious Service.
Willis graduated from the University of Kansas in May 1972 with a Master’s Degree in Meteorology and authored articles related to weather in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NOAA Monthly Weather Review, October 1973 and the U.S. Army Research & Development Magazine, September – October 1973.
Willis C. Hardwick retired February 2008 from the Lockheed Martin Corporation as Director, Air and Missile Defense, serving in Washington Operations providing corporate oversight over all matters pertaining to the Patriot Advanced Capability Phase 3 (PAC-3) Missile program. The PAC-3 Missile was the first anti-ballistic missile interceptor to emerge from President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and is deployed ready to defend multiple countries from potential short-range tactical missile attacks.
Willis and his wife, Jean reside in the Manors of Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia. They have two sons, John of Lexington, Massachusetts, and Matthew of Richmond, Virginia, as well as four grandchildren, Jessica, Elizabeth, Kathrine, and William.