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Lieutenant Colonel Merryl Tengesdal was the first and is the only African American woman to fly the Air Force's Elite U-2 spy stealth plane which was used for risky reconnaissance missions. Lt Col Tengesdal is one of only five woman and three African Americans ever to be accepted into the U-2 program.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Lt Col Merryl Tengesdal (David) grew up in the Bronx, New York. Wanting to become an astronaut, she graduated from the University of New Haven with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1994.

After graduating from the University of New Haven, Lt Col Tengesdal attended Officers' Candidate School. Upon graduation she earned her commission as an ensign. She then graduated from the U.S. Navy's fight-aviation program in Pensacola, Florida where she began her military career by flying the SH-60B Sea Hawk Helicopter at Naval Station Mayport, Florida. During her time there, she deployed on two long cruises and multiple short cruises to the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean. After a three-year sea tour in helicopters, she went on to become a T-34C and T-6A Instructor Pilot. Upon completion of her T-6A Instructor Training, she became one of four Navy Instructors to train Navy and Air Force students at Joint Student Undergraduate Pilot Training (JSUPT) at Moody Air Force Base in southern Georgia. Her former Navy flight instructor, Commander Ron Robinson, has said that David "was one of my best flight students, and it doesn't surprise me that she's doing so well."[citation needed]

Lt Col Tengesdal says that her greatest challenge while in the Navy's fight-aviation program was

Each phase of the program has its own challenges: running, swimming, doing my first solo in an airplane. In helicopter flying, the biggest challenge is learning how to hover--keep the craft steady in just one spot. It's the hardest thing you can do, especially when you're in the wind. But I have to say it's also the best feeling when you accomplish it.

[citation needed]

Once completed with her Navy obligation, Lt Col Tengesdal continued her military career by transferring over to the Air Force to fly the Lockheed U-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California. She was deployed to multiple locations in support of Operations Olive Harvest, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and combating terrorism and piracy on the Horn of Africa. While stationed at Beale, she held the highly esteemed positions of 9th Reconnaissance Wing Chief of Flight Safety and 9th Physiological Support Squadron Director of Operations. She is a senior pilot with more than 3,200 flight hours and over 330 combat hours. She was selected for promotion in January 2008 to Lieutenant Colonel.

Lt Col Tengesdal was the commander of Det 2 WR/ALC at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where she was in charge of flight test and Program Depot Maintenance for the U-2S and TU-2S. She had government oversight for approximately 300 military, civil service and contractor personnel and was also the designated Service Government Flight Representative for Site 2.

Lt Col Tengesdal currently works at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) J8 Staff. She is responsible for developing the Command's position on capability gap assessment(s), development and integration for senior-level documents submitted to the Joint Staff.

In 2013 Lt Col Tengesdal was invited to attend the University of New Haven's 30th Annual Alumni Scholarship Ball to be honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award. This signature event is the University’s primary scholarship fund-raising initiative. Attended by over 300 guests each year, the Scholarship Ball celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished alumni and raises critical scholarship funds for deserving students who otherwise would not be able to pursue their dreams of earning a college education.

Flight rating[edit | edit source]

  • Rating: Senior Pilot
  • Flight Hours: More than 3,200 with over 330 combat hours
  • Aircraft Flown: T-34C, TH-57 B/C, SH-60B, T-6A, T-38A/B/C, U-2S

Assignments[edit | edit source]

Officer Candidate School, NAS Pensacola, FL, June 1994 – September 1994
Aviation Pre-Flight Indoctrination, NAS Pensacola, FL, September 1994 – March 1995
Undergraduate Pilot Training, NS Corpus Christi, TX, March 1995 – September 1995
Helicopter Flight Training, NAS Pensacola, FL, September 1995 – August 1996
SH-60B Fleet Replacement Squadron, NAS Mayport, FL, September 1996 – September 1997
SH-60B Pilot, NAS Mayport, FL, September 1997 – June 2000
T-34A Pilot Instructor Training, NS Corpus Christi, TX, June 2000 – December 2000
T-6A Pilot Instructor Training, Randolph AFB, TX, December 2000 – October 2001
T-6A Instructor, Moody AFB, GA, October 2001 – March 2004
U-2 Student Pilot, Beale AFB, CA, March 2004 – April 2005
U-2 Instructor Pilot/Sq Chief of Safety, Beale AFB, CA, April 2005 – June 2006
U-2 Instructor Pilot/ Wing Chief of Flt Safety, Beale AFB, CA, June 2006 – July 2007
U-2 /T38-A Instructor Pilot/9 PSPTS Director of Operations, Beale AFB, CA, July 2007 – November 2008
Commander Det 2/WR-ALC Plant 42, Palmdale, CA, November 2008 – December 2010
NORAD/NORTHCOM J8 Staff, Peterson AFB, CO, December 2010 – Present

Awards and decorations[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

  • 1994 Bachelor of Science Electrical Engineering, University of New Haven, CT
  • 2005 Air Command and Staff College, Non-Resident Program, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
  • 2008 Masters of Aeronautical Science, Embry Riddle University, Florida

Effective dates of promotion[edit | edit source]

  • Ensign: 9 September 1994
  • Lieutenant Junior Grade: 9 September 1996
  • Lieutenant: 9 October 1998
  • Major: 5 April 2004
  • Lieutenant Colonel: 1 February 2010

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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