Bon Voyage From Baghdad
You could normally find NASA engineer Bill McQuade at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he works on the fuel cells that will power the Space Shuttle Discovery during its Return to Flight mission. But as the work continues on Discovery, McQuade is half a world away filling a far different role.
He's in Baghdad, helping to restore legal order as Lieutenant Colonel William McQuade, a reservist with the U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General Corps.
Image at Right: Lt. Col. McQuade serves in the Justice section of the U.S. Army's Governorate Support Team in Baghdad. Attached to the Third Infantry Division, he is a member of the 174th Legal Support Organization Team 3 based in Orlando. Image credit: Bill McQuade
But even though he's far from home, the Space Shuttle isn't far from his heart. So McQuade and those who serve with him in Iraq have found a way to be part of Discovery's upcoming mission to the International Space Station.
Inspired by a January meeting with the STS-114 astronauts at Kennedy just before deploying to Iraq, McQuade and his Governorate Support Team in Baghdad have expressed their support by signing a "Go Discovery" banner sent to them by his co-workers at the space center. The soldiers hope displaying the banner at Kennedy will send the message to the Discovery crew that Americans everywhere are behind them, even those serving their country in Iraq.
"There is great enthusiasm here for the upcoming Shuttle launch and great support for the space program, in general," says McQuade. "So even here in the middle of a war zone in Baghdad, Iraq, the Shuttle Program is closely followed."
Image at Left: 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
Click to view a larger image with the names of those pictured.
McQuade's presence at the U.S. Embassy Annex in Baghdad -- headquartered in a palace of the former regime -- has brought the space program to his fellow soldiers on a more personal level. "When people here find out that I am a NASA engineer who works on the Space Shuttle, they like to talk to me about the space program."
From the banner: |
"You're living my dream! Good luck Discovery!"|
-- Capt. Deanne Bryant
"Let's do it for the USA one more time."
-- Spc. Richard J. Bennett
"To the crew of STS-114 -- wish I could be there for launch. Godspeed!"
-- Lt. Col. William McQuade
"You are the bright shining hope of the nation -- shine on!"
-- Sgt. D.W. de Ganne
The soldiers' ability to express their support and feelings about their country's space program on the banner has been a morale booster. But it's also a way for the soldiers to thank McQuade's colleagues in Florida for the support they've shown through several care packages that have arrived in Baghdad.
McQuade is grateful for the impressive send-off he received at Kennedy just before his deployment.
His colleagues arranged for him to meet the visiting Discovery crew, and the astronauts invited him to accompany them that afternoon for their scheduled events around the space center.
"Some of them are military, and most seemed to have friends or relatives either here (in Iraq) or in Afghanistan," says McQuade of the STS-114 crew.
McQuade's colleagues at Kennedy obviously think he's fully deserving of such a send-off.
"Bill is very special to us," says co-worker Janette Martin, "not just because he is one of our engineers, but also because he is a hero to us for what he is doing for our country and the Iraqi people, as well."
For his part, McQuade is humbled by all the attention. "Right before I left, I told them that I don't deserve all the unexpected -- and, in my view, unwarranted -- attention, since I am just one of tens of thousands who are over here serving their nation," he says.
Image at Right: Just prior to his deployment in January, McQuade accompanied the STS-114 astronauts during their activities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Pictured by the Vehicle Assembly Building, they are, from left, Soichi Noguchi, Andrew Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, Eileen Collins, McQuade, James Kelly, Charles Camarda and Stephen Robinson. Image credit: Bill McQuade
But McQuade says that "the response was instantaneous and unanimous." It was the Kennedy employees' way of showing support for all the troops. "And so they continued to do all those terrific things for me, and now also for the entire Governorate Support Team."
In turn, his respect for the co-workers he hopes to rejoin by early next year is evident. "It is an incredibly humbling experience for me to work with such thoughtful, talented, creative, supportive and loyal friends."
Back at the Kennedy Space Center, those friends are making plans to display the banner for the crew prior to the launch of STS-114, so it can continue to inspire the encouragement and goodwill that has carried it around the world and back home again.
And as they do, they also look forward to the day when they will welcome back their friend, too.
+ Read about McQuade's return to NASA.
Cheryl L. Mansfield, KSC Staff Writer
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center