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Inspirational Leader

Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut Maj. Gen. Bolden Visits CGA
David M. Santos
Director of Communications
U.S. Coast Guard Academy

March 29, 2019

Cadets on the EagleNEW LONDON, Conn. -- A combat pilot and veteran of two wars. An astronaut. A U.S. Marine Corps Major General. The leader of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It’s hard to believe that these are the accomplishments of one person.

Yet, when you read the biography of retired Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. you will find all that and more. These achievements are more striking when you consider that he grew up in the segregated South, overcoming great obstacles to accomplish all that he has.

Bolden visited the Academy March 27 as the 24th Hedrick Fellow. The annual Coast Guard Foundation Hedrick Fellowship brings renowned political, military and industry leaders to CGA to share knowledge and insight, and provide an opportunity for future officers to learn from the experiences of distinguished and inspirational leaders.

A 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Bolden became a Marine aviator and test pilot. Shortly after graduating from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Md., he flew the A-6A Intruder attack aircraft completing more than 100 sorties into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1972 to 1973 during the Vietnam War.

It didn’t take long before he started flying higher. Bolden was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1980, and remained a member of the astronaut corps until 1994. A veteran of four space flights, he has logged over 680 hours in space.

Bolden served as the Mission Commander with a crew of six on Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-60). Their mission marked the historic first joint-American–Russian Space Shuttle mission with the participation of Russian cosmonaut and Mission Specialist Sergei Krikalev. The flight launched February 3, 1994, from Kennedy Space Center. The crew conducted a series of joint American/Russian science activities, and orbited the Earth 130 times before landing back at the center eight days later.

After his service as an astronaut, he became Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. In 1998, Bolden was assigned as the Commanding General of the Marine expeditionary force attached to Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. His last military assignment prior to his retirement from the Marine Corps in 2004 was as Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

Following a military career spanning 40 years, his service to the country was not over. President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Bolden as NASA administrator in May, 2009, and he was confirmed by the Senate that July.

As the 12th NASA Administrator, Bolden was only the second astronaut to hold that position and the first African American to lead the agency on a permanent basis. While leading NASA he oversaw the transition from the space shuttle system into an era of change that was focused on the International Space Station (ISS) and aeronautics technology development.

Speaking to cadets during his Hedrick Fellow address, Bolden spoke about his experiences working with and getting to know the two U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates who served as astronauts CDR Bruce Melnick and CAPT Dan Burbank (who was in the audience.) He also mentioned two other Academy graduates, CAPT Holly Harrison and LCDR LaShanda Holmes, who served with him in NASA as White House Fellows.

“The thing I love about the Coast Guard Academy, and one of the reasons I’m one of your biggest recruiters, is because you train every single day for what you do every single day when you get out into the fleet. You train to serve.”

He told the cadets that during natural disasters and search and rescue operations, “you are the face of our government.”

“You are the government. And you will be the government for people in time of need,” Bolden said, “that’s what you’re training to do here, so be incredibly proud of what you do and the organization to which you belong.”