Saturday, 17 October 2015


   BLACK    SOCIAL     HISTORY                                                                                                                                        Merryl Tengesdal

Lieutenant Colonel Merryl Tengesdal (born 1971)[1] is the first and only African American woman to fly the United States Air Force's Elite U-2 spy stealth plane which is used for risky reconnaissance missions. Tengesdal is one of only five woman and three African Americans ever to be accepted into the U-2 program.


Tengesdal is a U-2S pilot and the 9th RW Inspector General. She is responsible for providing policy guidance, procedures, planning, oversight, and direction for implementing the Air Force's Inspection System, Complaints Program, and Fraud, Waste, and Abuse (FWA) Program at center, wing, and installation levels.
A native of The BronxNew York, she graduated from the University of New Haven with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1994. She was one of three women to make it through the program.[1]
After graduating from the University of New Haven, 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 Seahawk 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 T-6A 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[clarification needed] "was one of my best flight students, and it doesn't surprise me that she's doing so well."[citation needed]
Tengesdal has said 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.
Once completed with her Navy obligation, Tengesdal continued her military career by transferring over to the Air Force and being selected 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 Afghanistanin Iraq and combating terrorism and piracy on the Horn of Africa. While stationed at Beale, she held the positions of 9th Reconnaissance Wing Chief of Flight Safety and 9th Physiological Support Squadron Director of Operations.
After her tour at Beale AFB, Tengesdal continued her career by becoming 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.
After her Command tour, Tengesdal worked at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) J8 Staff. She was 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, Tengesdal was invited to attend the University of New Haven's 30th Annual Alumni Scholarship Ball to be honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award. The ball is the university's primary scholarship fund-raising initiative. Attended by over 300 guests each year, the 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.
Also in 2013, Tengesdal returned to Beale AFB and was assigned to be the Deputy Operations Group Commander. In this position, she was responsible for organizing, training and equipping multiple units executing missions with the U-2, T-38RQ-4 and the MC-12. While serving as the Deputy Operations Group Commander, Tengesdal was selected to the rank of Colonel (O-6).

Flight rating

  • Rating: Senior Pilot
  • Flight Hours – more than 3,400 with over 330 combat hours
  • Aircraft Flown – T-34C, TH-57 B/C, SH-60B, T-6A, T-38A/B/C, U-2S


  • Officer Candidate School, NAS Pensacola, Florida, June 1994 – September 1994
  • Aviation Pre-Flight Indoctrination, NAS Pensacola, Florida, September 1994 – March 1995
  • Undergraduate Pilot Training, NS Corpus Christi, Texas, March 1995 – September 1995
  • Helicopter Flight Training, NAS Pensacola, Florida, September 1995 – August 1996
  • SH-60B Fleet Replacement Squadron, NS Mayport, Florida, September 1996 – September 1997
  • SH-60B Pilot, NAS Mayport, Florida, September 1997 – June 2000
  • T-34A Pilot Instructor Training, NS Corpus Christi, Texas, June 2000 – December 2000
  • T-6A Pilot Instructor Training, Randolph AFB, Texas, December 2000 – October 2001
  • T-6A Instructor, Moody AFB, Georgia, October 2001 – March 2004
  • U-2 Student Pilot, Beale AFB, California, March 2004 – April 2005
  • U-2 Instructor Pilot/Sq Chief of Safety, Beale AFB, California, April 2005 – June 2006
  • U-2 Instructor Pilot/ Wing Chief of Flt Safety, Beale AFB, California, June 2006 – July 2007
  • U-2 /T38-A Instructor Pilot/9 PSPTS Director of Operations, Beale AFB, California, July 2007 – November 2008
  • Commander Det 2/WR-ALC Plant 42, Palmdale, California, November 2008 – December 2010
  • NORAD/NORTHCOM J8 Staff, Peterson AFB, Colorado, December 2010 – August 2013
  • Deputy Operations Group Commander, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, California, September 2013 – 2014
  • Inspector General, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, California, since 2014

Awards and decorations


Effective dates of promotion

  • Ensign – 9 September 1994
  • Lieutenant Junior Grade – 9 September 1996
  • Lieutenant – 9 October 1998
  • Major – 5 April 2004
  • Lieutenant Colonel – 1 February 2010
  • Colonel – Date to be determined