Air Force ROTC is the best place to launch your career after college. You will gain valuable experience that will serve you well — whether you stay in the military or not. Take a look at our featured graduates. Air Force ROTC was the stepping-stone that provided them a solid leadership foundation for life.
Name: Colonel Eileen Marie Collins (USAF)
Achievement: NASA Astronaut
College: Syracuse University
With good grades, flying experience and a letter of recommendation from her Air Force ROTC supervisor, she became one of the first women to go straight from college into Air Force pilot training. "That was by far the biggest break of my life, getting into pilot training."
Since becoming a NASA astronaut in 1991, Eileen Collins has logged over 537 hours in space and served as pilot on two Shuttle missions – STS-63 (February 3-11, 1995) and STS-84 (May 15-24, 1997). While being the first woman to command a Shuttle mission (STS-93 Columbia, July 23-27, 1999) may be her claim to fame, her life before NASA is no less impressive. Born on November 19, 1956, in Elmira, New York, Eileen grew up in a family with two brothers, a sister and "two very supportive parents." Her parents, Jim and Rose Collins describe her as "a very ordinary person, a down-to-earth individual. She's very thoughtful. Nobody handed her anything. Everything she is today, she's earned." About high school she said, "I began reading voraciously about famous pilots, from Amelia Earhart to Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who played an important role in WWII. Their stories inspired me. I admired the courage of these women to go and fly into dangerous situations!" By 1977 Eileen had saved enough money to earn a pilot's license and the following year graduated with a Bachelor's degree in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University. With good grades, flying experience and a letter of recommendation from her Air Force ROTC supervisor, she became one of the first women to go straight from college into Air Force pilot training. "That was by far the biggest break of my life, getting into pilot training." This is the point where Eileen set her goals on staying competitive for becoming an astronaut.
She has also earned two Master's degrees – one from Stanford University and another from Webster University. She graduated from Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, in 1979, and served as instructor pilot for various aircraft at different Air Force bases until 1985 before spending a year as a student with the Air Force Institute of Technology. From 1986 to 1989, Eileen was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, where she was an assistant professor in mathematics and a T-41 instructor pilot. She was selected for the astronaut program while attending the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California and graduated in 1990.
Eileen has logged over 5,000 hours in 30 different types of aircraft during her career in the Air Force. She has also earned considerable recognition and honors, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury, October 1983), French Legion of Honor, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and NASA Space Flight Medals.
Her space flight experience includes the following shuttle missions:
STS-63 (February 3-11, 1995) was the first flight of the new joint Russian-American Space Program. Mission highlights included the rendezvous with the Russian Space Station Mir, operation of Spacehab, the deployment and retrieval of an astronomy satellite, and a space walk. Collins was the first woman pilot of a Space Shuttle.
STS-84 (May 15-24, 1997) was NASA's sixth Shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. During the flight, the crew conducted a number of secondary experiments and transferred nearly 4 tons of supplies and experiment equipment between Atlantis and the Mir station.
STS-93 Columbia (July 23-27, 1999) was the first Shuttle mission to be commanded by a woman. STS-93 highlighted the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Designed to conduct comprehensive studies of the universe, the telescope has enabled scientists to study exotic phenomena such as exploding stars, quasars and black holes. On STS-93, Collins was the first woman Shuttle CommanderCommanderThe officer in charge of running an Air Force unit's day-to-day operations. .
Eileen is not only an astronaut but also a wife and the mother of a young daughter. She met her husband, Pat, while they were flying C-141s together in the military. It was while at the USAF Academy that they married in the Academy chapel. At the official announcement of Commander Collins as the First Woman Space Shuttle Commander in the White House on March 5, 1998, Eileen smiled broadly and said, "When I was a child, I dreamed about space – I admired pilots, astronauts, and I've admired explorers of all kinds. It was only a dream that I would someday be one of them. It is my hope that all children, boys and girls, will see this mission and be inspired to reach for their dreams, because dreams do come true!"
Source Credit: NASA Official Biography and NASA Quest website
Name: Colonel Span Watson (retired)
Achievement: One of the original Tuskegee Airmen
College: Howard University
Name: Frank Gifford
Achievement: ABC Sportscaster; "I played football for the detachment. We beat the Navy."
College: University of Southern California
Name: General "Chappie" James
Achievement: First African American to hold the highest Air Force rank
College: Tuskegee University
Name: Lieutenant Colonel Fitzhugh L. Fulton
Achievement: Pioneer test pilot and NASA test pilot
College: Auburn Air Corps
Name: Rick Boutwell
Achievement: USAF Thunderbirds, Left Wing
College: Troy State University
Name: Roger Wicker
Achievement: First Congressional District Representative
College: University of Mississippi
Name: Two-star Major General Joseph McNeil (retired)
Achievement: Part of the Greensboro four sit-in. "What we did had been done many times before. The truth is, this was the event that caught on and jump-started the civil rights movement."
College: North Carolina State A&T University