Serving America And All Humanity: Leadership And Teamwork As An Army Aviator And Astronaut

Shane Kimbrough


Shane Kimbrough was born into an Army family. His father commissioned through Florida Southern University ROTC and served as a Field Artillery and Aviation Officer, and his mother was a teacher. Shane enjoyed growing up in Germany (among other Army assignments) before the family eventually settled in Atlanta. Growing up, he enjoyed math and science and was always involved in sports. Baseball became his pathway to West Point. He was recruited as an outfielder and hitter, but became a pitcher because Coach Roberts saw his potential as a left-handed closer. On R-Day, he remembers saying goodbye to his parents at Michie Stadium, and he found Beast to be challenging. Even though he grew up in an Army family, he felt that he had a lot to learn about the military and really enjoyed the summer training. He became an Aerospace Engineering Major, and performed well enough to be selected as Company Commander his Firstie (senior) year. He branched Aviation and his initial assignment was the 24th Infantry Division. The unit was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield / Storm, and he became a Platoon Leader immediately after showing up to the battalion. One of the key lessons he learned was how to lead Warrant Officers in an Aviation unit. His platoon was deployed along the border and flew missions deep behind enemy lines. Frequently, his helicopters landed and waited for their support to catch up to them. After the war, he was tasked with leading the humanitarian mission of cleaning up the battlefield. His next assignment was at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where he commanded an Apache Helicopter Company and the Regimental Headquarters Company in the 229th Aviation Regiment. He then earned a master’s degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1998 and taught Math at West Point. Even though he was not initially thrilled to be assigned to USMA, he found the role very rewarding and he enjoyed teaching leadership lessons to the Cadets. By this time in his career, he had applied many times to NASA and was picked for their Aircraft Operations Division in Houston, where he flew flight simulator missions with the Space Shuttle pilots. In May 2004, he was selected to be an Astronaut Candidate, eventually specializing in operating robotics and space walking. As an Astronaut, he flew three missions on three different spacecraft: the Space Shuttle, a Russian Soyuz Rocket, and the SpaceX craft. He has logged 388 days in space, and has completed 9 space walks for a total of over 59 hours outside the International Space Station. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his West Point experiences, and his Army and NASA career. He reflects on some of the most challenging aspects of his service as an Astronaut, including learning Russian and the times the International Space Station “tumbled.” Finally, he reflects on serving the nation and humanity as an Army Officer and astronaut, and discusses the importance of West Point.


name Shane Kimbrough
institution USMA
graduation year 1989
service Aviation
unit 1st Battalion, 24th Aviation, 24th Infantry Division; 229th Aviation Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division; Math Department USMA; NASA
specialty Astronaut
service dates 1989