Merryl Tengesdal’s accomplishments are sky high. The Air Force pilot was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and is the first and only African-American woman U-2 pilot ever. Since 2004, Tengesdal has flown more than 3,400 hours and has taken on combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, according to WPTV.
"I feel like I've made it to the top. Being an astronaut would be the cream. But I've got the whole cake and everything. I'm good," said Tengesdal to WPTV.
As a child growing up in the Bronx, New York, Tengesdal dreamed of going to space. Her favorite subject was math and she was a big fan of Star Trek. She went on to attend and graduate from the University of New Haven, in Connecticut, with a degree in engineering in 1994, according to the Department of Defense.
She continued her education at the Navy’s Officer Candidate School where she went through training, first flying the Navy's Seahawk helicopter. Tengesdal wasn’t satisfied and desired to fly at higher altitudes, leading her to enroll in a nine-month training program for an elite force of 1,000 U-2 pilots.
"It is very uncommon, even for this day and age, to be a female pilot, much less a female minority," Tengesdal said according to a Department of Defense blog. "My career field is very male dominated, but I hope I have helped other females with similar aspirations to realize this is an option. I think we are all limitless as to what we can accomplish."
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(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)