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VIDEO: Oklahoma Native Retires As Head Of Space Command


An Oklahoma native who commanded the U.S. Air Force Space Command has retired after 38 years of service.

Gen. William Shelton was born in Tulsa and graduated from Moore High School in 1972. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in astronautical engineering.

The Oklahoman reports that before being named Space Command commander in 2011, Shelton served in several assignments, including research and development testing, space operations and staff work.

Although he spent part of his childhood in the shadow of Tinker Air Force Base, Shelton said most of his exposure to aviation came at Will Rogers World Airport, where he learned to fly “every single Piper engine ever made.” Living in Moore gave him advantages that would help him later on, Shelton said. He had good math and science teachers who helped kindle his interest in those subjects. The curriculum at the Air Force Academy leans heavily toward math and science, so it’s important that cadets be proficient in those areas, he said. “If you’re a slouch in one of those subjects, you’re not going to make it,” he said.

The Air Force Space Command is responsible for running the U.S. Department of Defense's space operations, including launching and operating American military satellites.

The command has been faced with budget cuts in recent years. The command slashed about $1 billion from its annual budget in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years combined.

Those cuts have forced officials to make difficult decisions, he said. Although the command’s readiness has been affected, it’s still able to fulfill its mission, he said. “I wish I left it in better shape financially,” Shelton said. “You don’t get to choose your timing or your circumstances.”


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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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