Following dad’s advice

By Bo Joyner
Headquarters, Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

What’s your story? Brig. Gen. Richard Scobee likes to ask this question to every Airman he meets, and he encourages others to do the same.

“The next time you see an Airman, ask what his or her story is,” Scobee said. “I guarantee you will come away inspired and impressed.”

Brig. Gen. Richard Scobee and his son, Andrew, kneel near the grave of Dick Scobee earlier this year during the NASA Day of Remembrance. Dick Scobee was the commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded shortly after launch in 1986. His grave is near the memorials to the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia in Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 46. (Courtesy photo)
Brig. Gen. Richard Scobee and his son, Andrew, kneel near the grave of Dick Scobee during the NASA Day of Remembrance Jan. 31, 2014. Dick Scobee was the commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded shortly after launch in 1986. His grave is near the memorials to the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia in Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 46. (Courtesy photo)

Scobee, commander of 10th Air Force at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas, has an inspiring story of his own to tell. He’s the son of astronaut Dick Scobee who commanded the Space Shuttle Challenger that was destroyed after takeoff in 1986.

Scobee was a senior at the United States Air Force Academy when his father commanded the Space Shuttle Challenger for Space Transportation System mission 51-L in January 1986. The operation was designed to deploy a satellite to study the approaching Halley’s Comet, and to inaugurate the Teacher in Space program. The launch was delayed numerous times because of bad weather and technical issues. When Challenger finally lifted off the launch pad, an O-ring seal failure led to an explosion that destroyed the shuttle 73 seconds into the flight, killing Scobee’s father and the other six members of the crew.

“The whole world got to see how my dad died. I wish they could have seen how he lived,” Scobee said. “He was a great father. I was not the most talented kid growing up, but when my dad was around, it was like every pitch I threw was a strike and every time I swung the bat it was a home run. He had a way of making you feel special.”

Scobee said his dad was a mechanic at heart who kept pushing himself to reach greater heights after enlisting in the Air Force in 1957 and serving as an engine mechanic at Kelly AFB, Texas.

“Dad was the first enlisted astronaut and the first mobility Air Force astronaut,” the general said.

His father attended college in his off-duty time and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Arizona in 1965 – the same year he received his commission. He earned his pilot’s wings in 1966 and served as a combat aviator in the Vietnam War before becoming a test pilot and, eventually, an astronaut.

“I remember asking him one time how (he went) from turning wrenches to being the commander of the space shuttle, and he said, ‘Just do the best you can in whatever job you are doing at the time, and always be prepared,’” Scobee said.

The general has tried to follow that advice wherever he has gone in his Air Force career. He said his No. 1 priority is to provide the best combat Air Force at the least possible cost for American taxpayers. He believes the way to do that is to rely on the 16,000 people who work throughout 10th AF.

“I know it’s a little cliché, but our Airmen truly are our greatest asset,” he said. “I know if I can take care of our Airmen, they can take care of the mission.”