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Former teacher opts for new orbit

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – 2nd Lt.Whitney Chenault, 6th Warning Squadron crew chief, graduated from officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. in September 2016. Chenault, received her master’s in teaching with a focus on physics and astronomy. (Courtesy photo provided by 2nd Lt. Chenault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – 2nd Lt.Whitney Chenault, 6th Warning Squadron crew chief, graduated from officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. in September 2016. Chenault, received her master’s in teaching with a focus on physics and astronomy. (Courtesy photo provided by 2nd Lt. Chenault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – From as early as she could remember, 2nd Lt. Whitney Chenault, a crew chief with the 6th Space Warning Squadron at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., knew she was destined to be a teacher. Her mother and aunt were both teachers and teaching was in her blood. She attended Texas A&M to get her master’s degree in teaching and never doubted for a second that’s what she wanted to do.

“It became something I enjoyed and I like being in the teaching and learning environment,” Chenault said.

While at Texas A&M she took a heavier course load in physics and astronomy than a teacher normally takes, and came to focus on those fields and teaching in those fields.

After graduating, she went on to teach 6th grade in the College Station Independent School District in College Station, Texas. She enjoyed teaching and spent a good part of the year teaching her specialty in physics and astronomy.

She found the students to be engaged and excited to learn about these advanced concepts.

“The kids enjoyed all of the space stuff and theory of relativity. There was no limit to how much they wanted to learn,” said Chenault.
To enrich the classroom experience even more, Chenault contacted NASA to see what help they could be.

NASA ended up surprising her by sending the class a mock space suit used in training, a helmet from the shuttle and models of the Saturn V rocket and space shuttle.

One day a student brought Chenault an advertisement for a recruiting drive that NASA was conducting. The student recommend that Chenault apply to be an astronaut.

“I didn’t think I was qualified to be an astronaut, but it got me thinking about the field that I was teaching. The more I thought about it the more I realized that I wanted to be in the field instead of teaching about it,” Chenault said.

After doing some research she realized there weren’t very many options for someone to work in that field outside of NASA. Until she heard about the Air Force’s space mission.

She talked with a recruiter to find out more about the chances of working in the USAF space community. Turns out chances were good.

“It was really great, I was able to come in as an officer and there were lots of openings in the space community,” said Chenault.

After finishing officer candidate school in September, she was stationed at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts, where she is a crew chief with the 6th Space Warning Squadron. “In just a matter of months I went from teaching 6th grade science to being part of space situational awareness. I just wanted to be a part of the space community,” Chenault said.

Being at Cape Cod has given her that opportunity. While she hasn’t completed her basic level training yet, she’s already hit the ground running and is researching everything she can about space situational awareness and concepts.

“One of the first things I’ve learned is exactly how much stuff is being tracked up there,” said Chenault, “seeing the active catalog of every satellite and space debris around the planet is just mind blowing.”

Even though she’s just started in the space community she’s excited to see where it takes her and is looking forward to the next several years.

“I just want to experience the most I can in the space community, wherever it takes me I’ll be happy,” Chenault said, “I just want to be the best operator I can and an expert in the field.”



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