Back From Baghdad
For NASA engineer Bill McQuade, going to work is truly coming home.
Upon his return from a one-year deployment to Iraq as a reservist with the U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General Corps, his colleagues at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida threw him a homecoming celebration at the Launch Control Center.
"I look forward to getting back into the swing of things here," McQuade said. "I told everybody over there that I've got two families -- my biological family and my NASA family. What a great family you all are. Thank you very much."
Image at Left: Bill McQuade receives an all-American NASA welcome home from coworkers gathered at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Control Center. Image credit: NASA
He said the homecoming he received from his co-workers reinforced his belief that the entire work force at Kennedy, both government and contractor alike, is part of a large family. Everyone has been tremendous in helping McQuade reintegrate into his job, he said.
"Because of the great support shown by many colleagues over the last year, in some respects they were a part of my deployment," McQuade said. "So I am honored to be able to share my experiences with them. It is only natural for them to want to get a fresh view of the situation over there from someone who just recently returned. I am happy to answer their questions from the perspective I have."
During his service, many of the soldiers, civilians and Iraqi individuals McQuade worked with expressed an interest in the U.S. space program when they found out he worked for NASA.
"I worked in the Third Infantry Division Governorate Support Team (GST)
in Baghdad with about 20 other soldiers," he said. "Their strong support for NASA and especially our return-to-flight effort was exemplified by their eagerness to make a team photo with us holding placards reading 'GO DISCOVERY' that we sent back to Kennedy prior to STS-114's launch."
Image at Right: Members of the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division Governorate Support Team stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, are shown holding the 'GO DISCOVERY' banner they signed to show their support for NASA's Return to Flight. Image credit: Bill McQuade
+ Read More
The team members followed the STS-114 mission as closely as they could and were thrilled by its success. Most people he met were particularly interested in NASA's plan for returning to the moon and future plans to visit Mars.
Among his multiple accomplishments while deployed to Baghdad, McQuade assisted the Iraqi judiciary, police and prison ministries in modernizing their capabilities in tracking detainees and prisoners through the criminal justice system by using computer technology.
He also helped one of the Baghdad area law schools obtain funding for renovating and restocking its law library, which had been destroyed during the war.
Image at Left: McQuade talks to colleagues interested in his first-hand account of his experiences serving in Baghdad. Image credit: NASA
McQuade said he thought of every day he was stationed in Baghdad as a day closer to coming back. "It's nice to be back where people are not shooting at me just because of the uniform I'm wearing," he said. "And it's also nice to be able to drive down the road without the threat of a car bomb. I thought of all of you every day and could not wait to get back."
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center