State of Our Nation’s Defense and How Businesses are Capitalizing

The Future of Austin, A panel Discussion

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

A Panel Discussion with
Captain Craig C. Sicola ’94,
Matt Prochaska ‘86,
COL (Ret) Frank Coppersmith.

Captain Craig C. SicolaCaptain Craig C. Sicola ’94: Director of Training and Readiness for Commander Naval Air Forces; Commanding Officer USS NIMITZ (CVN-68)
Captain Craig C. Sicola is a 1994 graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering. He is a 2016 graduate of the Navy Nuclear Training pipeline in Washington DC and earned a Masters in Mechanical Engineering Management from Old Dominion University in 2018. He was designated a Naval Aviator in 1997. Sicola is currently serving as the Director of Training and Readiness for Commander Naval Air Forces in San Diego, CA.

Sicola’s sea tours include Commanding Officer of USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in Bremerton, WA; Commanding Officer of USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in Yokosuka, Japan; Executive Officer of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in Norfolk, VA; Executive Officer and Commanding Officer for the “Stingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 in Lemoore, CA; Department Head and Junior Officer for the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 in Lemoore, CA; and first assigned to the “Dragon Whales” of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 8 in Norfolk, VA following completion of flight training. Ashore assignments include the Navy Personnel Command as an aviation detailer; U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) joint duty assignment to include a ground deployment in Iraq with SOCOM in 2007; Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) as the F-35 requirements officer.

Sicola has accumulated more than 3,400 flight hours. His decorations include the Legion of Merit; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (2 awards); Air Medal (5 total awards: 1 individual, 4 Strike/Flight); Navy Combat Action Ribbon, as well as other various personal, unit, service and campaign decorations.

Matt ProchaskaMatt Prochaska ’86 Chief Development Officer at BlueForge Alliance
Matt has held leadership roles over the past 25 years that have shown proven success in economic development and manufacturing. He has over two decades of experience in c-level positions partnering in economic development opportunities and has held numerous volunteer positions at both the state and local levels of economic development. He is a flexible and creative problem solver, particularly in highly dynamic situations, who brings a collaborative and analytical approach to any situation. Matt is a devoted husband of 32 years to Merrilee, and a proud father to his two children, Anne-Marie and Joshua. Matt received his Bachelor of Arts – in Speech Communication in 1986 and Master of Arts, Speech Communication from Texas A&M in 1997.

Frank CoppersmithFrank Coppersmith, CEO at Smarter Reality
Frank is the CEO of Smarter Reality, a developer of custom software applications with demanding user experience and business requirements serving entrepreneurs and innovative business leaders. Frank ensures delivery of on-time and on-budget projects via business-aligned objective definition, clear scope commitments, rigorous project management and dedication to quality control.

Frank chairs the International Game Developers Association, Austin Chapter, is a frequent keynote speaker on entrepreneurship and technology, and is colonel in the US Air Force Reserves.

Frank earned an MBA from Wharton, a law degree from Samford University and an engineering degree from The Citadel. Smarter Reality has been awarded the Inc. 5000 and Austin “Fast 50” by the Austin Business Journal.