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Spence M. Armstrong
Armstrong in 1987
Nickname "Sam"
Born 1934 (age 86–87)
Place of birth Columbia, Tennessee
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1956–90 (34 years)
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands held
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Other work NASA

Spence M. "Sam" Armstrong (born 1934[1]) is a retired United States Air Force general officer, combat veteran, and test pilot. In his thirty-four years of military service, he served in command assignments at five different levels in the Air Force and retired as vice commander of Air Force Systems Command.

Armstrong spent eleven more years as a senior executive at the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) leading the agency's human resources efforts and programs with academia.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Armstrong was born in 1934 in Columbia, Tennessee and graduated from Hay Long High School in 1951. He spent a year at Vanderbilt University before entering the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. In 1956, he graduated with distinction earning a bachelor of science degree in engineering.[1][2] Armstrong accepted his commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.[3]

Military career[edit | edit source]

Armstrong earned his pilot's wings in 1957 after completing flight training at Greenville Air Force Base in Mississippi. He attended F-86 gunnery school at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, followed by F-100 gunnery school at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. In April 1958, Armstrong was assigned to the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina.[1] After three years flying F-100s, he attended the University of Michigan where he earned master's degrees in astronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering.[3] In 1963, Armstrong was assigned to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico where he served as a guidance and control engineer.[1]

Flight test and Vietnam[edit | edit source]

USAF TPS Class 64C. Armstrong is standing, fourth from the left

In 1964, Armstrong was selected to attend the Aerospace Research Pilot School (now known as the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School) at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He graduated with class 64C, the third class to start in 1964.[4] In 1965, Armstrong was assigned as the F-106 test project officer at Holloman Air Force Base. After two years in flight test, Armstrong prepared for a combat tour in Southeast Asia by completing F-105 combat crew training at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. He was assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron based at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand where he flew 100 combat missions in the F-105. In July 1968, Armstrong returned to flight test as an instructor and later as the deputy commandant at the Aerospace Research Pilot School.[1]

Training commands[edit | edit source]

In August 1971, Armstrong attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and graduated in May 1972. After a tour as the senior Air Force representative at the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Armstrong was assigned in 1973 to the 12th Flying Training Wing as the base commander at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. In July 1974, he became the commanding officer of the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base. Armstrong returned to academia in 1976–78 to complete senior management courses at Columbia University in New York City and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In April 1978, Armstrong was assigned to USAF headquarters in Washington, D.C. as director for program integration. He then served as the deputy director of space systems and command, control and communications before returning to Randolph AFB in 1980 as the deputy chief of staff for technical training. Armstrong was then assigned as commander of the Air Force Military Training Center, Lackland Air Force Base.[1]

Final military years[edit | edit source]

In August 1983, during the Iran–Iraq War, Armstrong was assigned as chief of the joint United States Military Training Mission whose mission is to train, advise, and assist the Saudi Arabian Army. After two years in this assignment, he was promoted to lieutenant general and served as vice commander of Military Airlift Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. In July 1987, Armstrong was assigned as vice commander of Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.[1] In April 1990, after 34 years of military service, Armstrong retired from the U.S. Air Force.[2]

NASA career[edit | edit source]

Dan Goldin, John Adamczyk, and Spence Armstrong at NASA's Turning Goals Into Reality aviation conference

After retiring from military service, Armstrong joined President George H. W. Bush's Space Exploration Initiative as director of program architecture for the Synthesis Group that was charged with developing architectures to return astronauts to the Moon and then to Mars.[3] In 1991, he was named associate administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Human Resources and Education office where he helped create industry-recognized programs for the development of executives and program managers.[2]

In 1998, Armstrong was named associate administrator for the Office of Aerospace and Space Transportation Technology responsible for measuring progress on NASA's ten goals that supported the three pillars of global civil aviation, revolutionary technology, and access to space.[5][6] At the Turning Goals Into Reality aviation conference, he hosted a celebration of individual and team accomplishments toward these goals.[3]

General Armstrong has served this nation with exceptional distinction during both his military and NASA careers.

In 2000, Armstrong was named senior advisor to the NASA administrator. Armstrong directed the agency's efforts to find new ways of increasing participation with universities and industry.[2] Armstrong's areas of responsibilities included export control, information technology, security, and grants.[3] He initiated and moderated a series of interactive webcasts with universities and colleges that included presentations of new partnership opportunites with NASA and question-and-answer sessions with agency leaders.[7] After three years in charge of university programs for NASA and eleven years with the agency, Armstrong retired on December 31, 2002.[8][3]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

As of 2015, Armstrong and wife Beth (née Webb) have two children and four grandchildren. In his career, he flew over 50 different types of aircraft and logged over 4,500 hours of flying time.[2] As of 2014, Armstrong remains active in aviation sharing his experiences with the public.[9]

Honors[edit | edit source]

Decorations[edit | edit source]

Armstrong was awarded the following decorations for his military service.[1]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Insignia Command pilot
Row 1 Defense Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Row 2 Legion of Merit w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Distinguished Flying Cross w/ 2 oak leaf clusters Meritorious Service Medal
Row 3 Air Medal w/ 11 oak leaf clusters Air Medal w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Army Commendation Medal
Row 4 Air Force Commendation Medal Joint Meritorious Unit Award Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ valor device and 2 oak leaf clusters
Row 5 Combat Readiness Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ service star Vietnam Service Medal w/ 3 service stars
Row 6 Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon Air Force Longevity Service Award with six oak leaf clusters Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Row 7 Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal Saudi Arabian King Abdelaziz Badge (Second Grade)

Other honors[edit | edit source]

During his career at NASA, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.[3] He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Akron in Ohio.[1]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 "USAF Biography: Lieutenant General Spence M. Armstrong". United States Air Force. September 1987. http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/107787/lieutenant-general-spence-m-armstrong.aspx. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Cooper, Rich; Glasser, Scott (August 15, 2002). "Senior Advisor to the Administrator: Lieutenant General Spence (Sam) Armstrong, USAF (Ret.)". NASA. http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codea/codeac/WWW/bio.html. Retrieved June 6, 2016. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Mirelson, Doc; Dunbar, Brian (November 27, 2002). "Spence M. Armstrong to Retire from NASA". NASA. http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2002/02-228.txt. Retrieved June 6, 2016. 
  4. Young, James (1994). USAF Test Pilot School 50 Years and Beyond. Privately published. 
  5. Eschenbach, Ralph (September 15, 1998). "Recommendations on Committee Guidance for FY 2001 and Meeting Minutes". FAA/NASA Research Cooperation. FAA. https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ang/offices/tc/about/campus/faa_host/RDM/media/pdf/minutesAndReport-FullComm_09151998.pdf. Retrieved June 26, 2016. 
  6. Brown, Dwayne C. (May 7, 1998). "Armstrong Named Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology". NASA. http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/news/05-07-98.txt. Retrieved June 19, 2016. 
  7. Cast, Jim (June 5, 2001). "NASA Administrator Hosts Agency-University Partnership Conference". NASA. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/2000/10/05/nasa-administrator-hosts-agency-university-partnership-conference. Retrieved June 27, 2016. 
  8. Clayton, Mark (February 18, 2003). "Where Are NASA's New Ranks?". The Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0218/p17s01-lehl.html. Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  9. "Dodging Missiles". Air & Space/Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. January 29, 2014. http://www.airspacemag.com/videos/dodging-missiles/. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force website http://www.af.mil.
 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

External links[edit | edit source]

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