On Tuesday, February 7, 2023, the event, “Inspiring Change,” took place in celebration of Black History Month both virtually and in-person at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake, California.
Guest speaker Capt. Victor “Ike” Glover began his presentation with a quote from Carter G. Woodson, “We should emphasize not Negro history, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” Woodson launched Negro History Week in 1926 during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson’s concept was later expanded to Black History Month.
“This inspired how I trained for and flew my mission on the space station,” said Glover. “NASA wanted to make it about me being the first Black man living on the space station. This month is to make sure we agree to telling the whole story.”
Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 while serving as a legislative fellow in the U. S. Senate. He most recently served as pilot and second-in-command on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Resilience, which landed May 2, 2021, for a long duration mission aboard the International Space Station. He also served as flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 64.
During his presentation, Glover talked about the love and support of his parents, his mother in particular, that got him to the point where he had options in his life and career. He also discussed how two teachers inspired him.
Noticing that Glover would finish his work early, his fifth grade science teacher suggested he go around and assist his fellow students instead of talking in class freely.
“This put a seed in my head of helping people, my peers,” Glover explained. “He also said that I was really good with STEM, and that one day if I really focused, I could become an engineer. I didn’t even know what that was but his belief in me inspired me. I have three engineer degrees now because of that man.”
His high school math teacher found Glover working on a homework equation on the chalk board before class, and was so impressed he had Glover teach the equation in class.
“He changed my life,” Glover said. “At 16, my dream was to go to college and play football but I wasn’t dreaming big enough. Sports and my friends were more important to me than academics. He noticed a pattern in my math homework; math was speaking to me. I wasn’t confident in my academic ability but this day changed that.”
Glover attended California Polytechnic State University on a wrestling scholarship, where he discovered the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, a historically African American fraternity, and its focus on service.
“The theme of helping peers and helping others has been a thread running through my life story,” he said.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in general engineering in 1999. He went on to earn a master’s in flight test engineering from Air University, Edwards Air Force Base, in 2007, a master’s in systems engineering from Naval Postgraduate School in 2009 and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science from Air University in 2010.
Glover joined the Navy in 1998 and earned his wings of gold on December 14, 2001. His career led him to the Marine Fleet Replacement Squadron, VMFAT-101, in Miramar, California, in 2002, the Blue Blasters of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-34 in Oceana, Virginia, in 2003, and later as the Navy’s exchange pilot to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School. He was designated a test pilot in 2007 and served with the Dust Devils of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 in China Lake, California. In 2009, Glover received orders to the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and later reported to the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-195, in Atsugi, Japan. In 2012, Glover became a legislative fellow and was selected in 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class.
“For astronaut training, you have to learn to speak and read Russian because half of the international space station is made by Russian aerospace companies,” he said. “Speaking that language creates a bridge between us.”
Vice. Adm. Carl Chebi, NAVAIR commander, kicked off the event.
“We derive tremendous strength from working together as teams of diverse individuals united by a common mission,” Chebi said. “Leveraging our full workforce – our different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs – is instrumental to our success and provides us new insights and perspectives on how we can best deliver the warfighting capability the fleet needs, at a cost we can afford.”
John Meyers, executive director, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), and NAVAIR African American Pipeline Action Team (APAT) executive champion, echoed those views in his closing remarks.
“Diversity of culture, backgrounds and thought strengthens us all,” Meyers said. It’s a proven fact that a diverse workforce leads to better productivity and a better environment where people look forward to contributing to something greater than themselves. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Change,” and each of us has the power to do just that. Every effort – small and large – makes a difference.”
Regarding astronaut training, Glove continued, “You have to learn how to work the robotic arm in order to grab cargo vehicles and stick it to the space station. And, you have to learn how to do space walks. All to become qualified as an air crewmen in T-38. Minute-for-minute it is the best training.”
In 2015, he graduated in the first and only class comprised of both men and women. In 2018, he started training for first operational mission, which launched in 2020.
“You get your gold pin when you go into space,” he said. “I lived in space for 167 days, completing 200 to 300 experiments including making medications better, communications better and new propulsions for space craft. The science we do up there is really important. I also did five space walks in 45 days to upgrade the space station.”
He considers it his sixth deployment.
“I don’t miss the mission,” he said. “I miss the people. It was our home.”