Don Jewell passed away unexpectedly on Oct. 12. For more than nine years, Don wrote the Defense PNT monthly e-newsletter column for GPS World, after a distinguished 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as Deputy Chief Scientist for Air Force Space Command with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. A celebration of his life was held Oct. 20 in Colorado Springs.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Don earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. He served in the U.S. Air Force as an aviator, navigator and space subject matter expert, and completed two Command assignments at Schriever Air Force Base.
His involvement with GPS began in 1978, either as a test system evaluator or user. As Politico-Military Affairs Officer in the Reagan White House, he worked with foreign embassies making critical export control decisions concerning sophisticated military hardware and software.
After the Air Force, Don worked seven years as senior space executive at Motorola and General Dynamics and as senior VP at Infofusion.
He worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) as a member of several advisory committees to the Department of Defense and U.S. government: the GPS Independent Review Team (IRT), Space Programs Assessment Group for SMC, Independent Assessment Team for WAAS and as Co-Chair of Military Critical Technologies Program for Space.
A close friend said, “Don was a real pillar for the PNT community and consummate spokesman for the truth, always offering constructive criticism where needed. An exemplary personality who always ‘did the right thing.’”
Another colleague remembered, “Don was a key player in all tasks undertaken in response to the Commander Space Command. One of his many significant roles was as key IRT debriefer of warriors returning to the U.S. through Ft. Carson following operational deployments, to get candid inputs on what shortfalls in PNT they had using GPS to execute their missions, so that Don could make sure DoD leadership didn’t get complacent in management and operation of GPS.
“His use of PNT as a vehicle for constant improvement was driven by Don selflessly serving our national security, helping our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and others operating in harm’s way to serve our country well in his passionate and very candid role with his ‘constructive criticism’ counsel to Air Force and DoD leadership to assure the troops’ mission success, returning home safely often after intense combat. A tragic loss to our Nation, as he did this for many years.”
Don began writing the Defense PNT e-newsletter for GPS World in April 2007. His first column is lost in the mists of time, but here is an excerpt from his second column, May 2007:
“To think that all these billion-dollar companies, and the start-ups as well, depended to such a great degree on a ubiquitous utility that only became available on a global basis because of a seemingly insignificant, but in the end, deadly navigation error. Add to this the naked aggression and paranoia of the former Soviet Union and the benevolence and caring of a legendary U.S. President, and you have the beginnings of a tale that has changed our world forever, and whose final chapter may never be written.”
Don was active in the Military Division of the Institute of Navigation (ION). From 2010–2015, he helped assemble and co-chaired the Warfighter Crosstalk Panel in the Joint Navigation Conference (JNC); this was and remains today one of the most interesting and informative sessions of that conference, focusing on needs of military and first responder users for PNT.
Don regularly led weekly bible study meetings for more than 20 years and was recently appointed as president of Christ the King Lutheran Church.
Readers’ and friends’ appreciations appear at gpsworld.com/donjewell. Send further remembrances to email@example.com. Contributions in Don’s memory may be made to Christ the King Lutheran Church or the Amyloidosis Foundation.