Black History In The Now
March 13, 2011 - When people think about celebrating
Black History month they normally envision high profile
individuals from the past such as Phyllis Wheatley; the
first African-American woman to publish a book in 1700s;
W.E.B. Du Bois the first African American to earn a
doctorate degree from Harvard University in 1800s.
But if you are Air Force Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal your
dreams lead you to research people like Dr. Mae Jemison
who became the first African-American woman astronaut
aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992, which
inspired other African American women such as Colonel
Tengesdal toward her goal of becoming the first African
American female to fly the Air Force's elite U-2
Though these people are great in their own right, the
fact is we don't have to look so far back into the past
to see great African American role models because they
work around us every day. Currently stationed at U.S.
Northern Command, Colonel Tengesdal has a story to tell
about achieving her goals.
|Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal, currently stationed at the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, was the first African American woman to fly the U-2 reconnaissance plane.|
would be surprised to know that it's not a bitter or sad story
about how others tried to keep her back based on her color. Her
story is one of opportunity, hard work and determination. It's a
story of a young black girl from
she was inspired as most kids were who watched Star Trek in the
'70s, but her inspiration didn't fade as she grew into her
teenage years. Colonel Tengesdal reinforced her desires by
excelling in math and science courses in high school and then by
majoring in electrical engineering at the
college graduation, she applied for Naval Officer's candidate
school and was selected for the U.S. Navy's flight aviation
program. It was after her OCS graduation that she began a career
of flying the Navy's SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter. Colonel
Tengesdal spent 10 years flying in the Navy before transferring
to the Air Force in 2004 to fly the U-2 reconnaissance plane.
"I was one of five women in my class and the only female that graduated, I just stayed focus as I went through the training process," she said. "The U-2 plane is used for reconnaissance and can reach above 70,000 feet in the air while lasting over nine hours in the sky. One of my greatest highlights was providing ground troops pertinent information during Operation Enduring Freedom."
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