Merryl Tengesdal

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Merryl Tengesdal
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
 United States Air Force
Years of service1994-present
RankUS-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands heldDet 2/WR-ALC Plant 42
Battles/warsOperation Enduring Freedom
Iraq War

Colonel Merryl Tengesdal (born 1971)[1] is the first and only African American woman to fly the United States Air Force's U-2 spy plane which is used for specialized high-altitude reconnaissance missions.[2] Tengesdal is one of only five women and three African Americans ever to be accepted into the U-2 program.


Colonel Merryl (David) Tengesdal is the Director of Inspections for The Inspector General (TIG) of the Air Force, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Pentagon, Washington DC. The Inspections Directorate develops, revises, coordinates, and implements Air Force inspection policy, and provides oversight and reporting of inspection programs to TIG, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Secretary of the Air Force on the readiness, economy, efficiency, compliance and state of discipline of the Air Force. Colonel Tengesdal is also the Executive Secretary of the Air Force Inspection System Council.

A native of The Bronx, New York, Colonel Tengesdal is a graduate from the University of New Haven with a Science Degree in electrical engineering. She was one of three women to make it through the program.[1] After Officer Candidate School commissioning, she began a career as a Naval Aviator by flying the SH-60B Seahawk Helicopter at Naval Station Mayport, Florida. During that time, she deployed on two long cruises and multiple short cruises to the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean. After a three-year sea tour in helicopters, Colonel Tengesdal went on to become a T-34C and T-6A Instructor Pilot. After completing T-6A Instructor Training, she became one of four Navy T-6A Instructors to train Navy and Air Force students at Joint Student Undergraduate Pilot Training (JSUPT) at Moody Air Force Base, GA. Her former Navy flight instructor, Commander Ron Robinson, has said that David[clarification needed] "was one of my best flight students, and it doesn't surprise me that she's doing so well."[citation needed]

Once she completed her Navy obligation, she continued her military career by transferring over to the Air Force to fly the Lockheed U-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California. Colonel Tengesdal was deployed to multiple locations in support of Operations OLIVE HARVEST, ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM and HORN OF AFRICA. While stationed at Beale AFB the first time, she held the positions of 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9th RW) Chief of Flight Safety and 9th Physiological Support Squadron Director of Operations. After her tour at Beale AFB, Colonel Tengesdal continued her career by becoming the Detachment Commander of Detachment 2 WR/ALC Palmdale, California where she was in charge of flight test and Program Depot Maintenance for the U-2S aircraft. Thereafter, Colonel Tengesdal worked at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) J8 staff. As Chief of Studies and Assessments Branch, she was responsible for developing the Command’s position on capability gap assessment(s), development and integration for senior-level documents submitted to the Joint Staff. Prior to her current assignment, Colonel Tengesdal returned to Beale and held the positions of Deputy Operations Group Commander and Inspector General, 9th RW, Beale AFB, CA.

In 2013, Tengesdal was invited to attend the University of New Haven's 30th Annual Alumni Scholarship Ball to be honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award. The ball is the university's primary scholarship fund-raising initiative. Attended by over 300 guests each year, the ball celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished alumni and raises critical scholarship funds for deserving students who otherwise would not be able to pursue their dreams of earning a college education.

Flight rating[edit]

  • Rating: Command Pilot
  • Flight Hours – more than 3,400 with over 330 combat hours
  • Aircraft Flown – T-34C, TH-57 B/C, SH-60B, T-6A, T-38A/B/C, U-2S


  • Officer Candidate School, NAS Pensacola, Florida, June 1994 – September 1994
  • Aviation Pre-Flight Indoctrination, NAS Pensacola, Florida, September 1994 – March 1995
  • Undergraduate Pilot Training, NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, March 1995 – September 1995
  • Helicopter Flight Training, NAS Pensacola, Florida, September 1995 – August 1996
  • SH-60B Fleet Replacement Squadron, NS Mayport, Florida, September 1996 – September 1997
  • SH-60B Pilot, NAS Mayport, Florida, September 1997 – June 2000
  • T-34A Pilot Instructor Training, NS Corpus Christi, Texas, June 2000 – December 2000
  • T-6A Pilot Instructor Training, Randolph AFB, Texas, December 2000 – October 2001
  • T-6A Instructor, Moody AFB, Georgia, October 2001 – March 2004
  • U-2 Student Pilot, Beale AFB, California, March 2004 – April 2005
  • U-2 Instructor Pilot/Sq Chief of Safety, Beale AFB, California, April 2005 – June 2006
  • U-2 Instructor Pilot/ Wing Chief of Flt Safety, Beale AFB, California, June 2006 – July 2007
  • U-2 /T38-A Instructor Pilot/9 PSPTS Director of Operations, Beale AFB, California, July 2007 – November 2008
  • Commander Det 2/WR-ALC Plant 42, Palmdale, California, November 2008 – December 2010
  • NORAD/NORTHCOM J8 Staff, Peterson AFB, Colorado, December 2010 – August 2013
  • Deputy Operations Group Commander, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, California, September 2013 – 2014
  • Inspector General, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, California, September 2014 - October 2015
  • Director of Inspections, Office of the Air Force Inspector General, Washington, October 2015 – Present

Awards and decorations[edit]

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png Command Air Force Pilot Badge
Naval Aviator Badge.jpg United States Naval Aviator Badge
US Air Force Inspector General Duty Badge.JPG Air Force Inspector General Badge
USAFCommanderBdg.jpg Air Force Commander's Insignia
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with two width-8 white stripes at distance 4 from the edges.
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Air Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal
Navy Achievement Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Joint Meritorious Unit Award with oak leaf cluster
Air Force Meritorious Unit Award
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters
Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal
Bronze star
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze service star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with two bronze oak leaf clusters
Air Force Training Ribbon
  • ACC Aerospace Physiologist of the Year 2008


Effective dates of promotion[edit]

  • Ensign – 9 September 1994
  • Lieutenant Junior Grade – 9 September 1996
  • Lieutenant – 9 October 1998
  • Major – 5 April 2004
  • Lieutenant Colonel – 1 February 2010
  • Colonel – 1 October 2015

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sutherland, Andrea (22 February 2011). "U-2 pilot says fascination with space, flying started early". The Gazette. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  2. ^ Cummings, Air Force Senior Airman Bobby. "Face of Defense: U-2 Pilot Blazes Trail". U. S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 12 April 2016.

External links[edit]