Army astronaut ‘phones home’ to Fort Rucker – AL.com


Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain, shown here in a NASA interview, video linked from the International Space Station with her former colleagues at Fort Rucker, Ala.

Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain, shown here in a NASA interview, video linked from the International Space Station with her former colleagues at Fort Rucker, Ala.

ByLee Roop | lroop@al.com

An Army astronaut phoned home from the International Space Station this week for a videoconference with the former colleagues at Alabama’s Fort Rucker she calls “the best people I’ve worked with in Army.”

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciated serving with them and the lessons I learned from them,” Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain said afterward.

Her old Army team returned the feeling. Retiree Jim Kalahan, who attended the videoconference said McClain was “hands down, bar none, the best commander I’ve ever had in my career.”

McClain was selected for the astronaut corps in 2013 and is a flight engineer on the space station with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Canadian astronaut Dr. David Saint-Jacques. She is scheduled to return to Earth in July.

She was commissioned as an Army officer in 2002 and immediately went to graduate school at the University of Bath. Her research there into aerodynamics was published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

McClain was a Kiowa helicopter pilot in the Army and flew 216 combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She holds the Bronze Star and Air Medal with valor, among other awards and decorations. After Iraq, she was assigned to Fort Rucker as battalion operations manager and Kiowa instructor pilot.

McClain said Army Aviation taught her camaraderie and leadership. “From day one I’ve always been judged on my merits and what I brought to the team,” she said. “And there’s a high bar. We joke with each other a lot, but at the end of the day, we are a tight group, and we rely on each other with our lives every day.”

“We thought it would be nice if she got a chance to talk to the people that flew with her when she was in command (at Fort Rucker) and express to her how much we care about her, and how excited we are that she made it and is doing what she is doing,” said Brian Jacobson, an Army civilian employee at Rucker who coordinated the videoconference.

The live link connected McClain and 50 Army Aviation professionals at the Seneff Building on Fort Rucker.

“If I make you guys proud, I’ve accomplished something,” McClain said.

Russell Kruse, a deputy chief for standardization for the 110th Aviation Brigade, said he will continue to expect great things from McClain. “If there’s a NASA Next, she’ll be part of it, whether it’s the south part of the moon or to Mars,” Kruse said.

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