Air Force Print News
Air Force astronaut reflects on 23 years of service By Staff Sgt. Matthew Rosine, Air Force Print News
HOUSTON (AFNEWS) – After more than 23 years of service, Pamela Melroy is finishing her Air Force career with a splash.
The Air Force colonel spent her last day before retirement, Jan. 31, undergoing water survival training at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab.
But as she continues her space career at NASA as the mission commander for STS-120, she also continues to use her Air Force experience to make the mission happen.
“I think we all see that there are some pretty big crossovers between the military, especially in the flying world, and NASA,” she said. “Basically, you are doing something that is very challenging and putting people’s lives at risk, so the discipline, I think, and the teamwork are direct crossovers.”
Colonel Melroy also emphasized the importance of proper training.
(NASA water survival training) “isn’t that different from the training that I’ve had for years and years as a military pilot,” she said. “We have to do water survival training every few years. We worry about what happens if you have to bale out over water. You have to be able to get out from under a parachute. You have to be able to release the parachute in a high-wind situation. And, you have to learn how to survive. So a lot of this is the same training.”
While Colonel Melroy was busy training hard on her last day as an Airman, after 23 years and eight months of wearing Air Force blue, reflecting on her career made her smile.
“I just want to say how proud I am of my Air Force service and being a part of the Air Force,” she said soaking wet after her training. “The only thing I would ever leave my job as a test pilot to go do was to come to NASA – because it was so exciting. But, I am very proud of that identity and I’m proud of all the people in the Air Force, past and present.”
She began her Air Force career with a commission in 1983 through the Air Force ROTC. After graduating from Undergraduate Pilot Training in 1985 at Reese Air Force Base, Texas, Colonel Melroy flew KC-10 Extenders for six years at Barksdale AFB, La., as a co-pilot, aircraft commander and instructor pilot.
Colonel Melroy served in operations Just Cause, Desert Shield and Desert Storm adding up more than 200 combat and combat support hours. In June 1991 she attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif. After graduating she was assigned to the C-17 Globemaster III Combined Test Force. As a test pilot, Colonel Melroy completed more than 5,000 flying hours in more than 45 different aircraft.
She was selected as an astronaut candidate in December 1994. After completing a year of training, she qualified as a shuttle pilot. Initially assigned to astronaut support duties for launch and landing, she has also worked Advanced Projects for the Astronaut Office. Colonel Melroy served on the Columbia Reconstruction Team and also served as deputy project manager for a crew survival investigation team. She also worked as the capsule commander in mission control.
The colonel served as pilot on two space flights – STS-92 in 2000 and STS-112 in 2002. She has logged more than 562 hours in space. Currently, she is assigned to command the STS-120 mission scheduled to deliver the Node 2 connecting module to the International Space Station in September 2007.
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