Willie McCool, U.S. Naval Academy Class of ’83, gave his life OTD in 2003 while piloting Space Shuttle COLUMBIA mission STS-107 which disintegrated over the southern U.S. upon reentry to the atmosphere with seven souls aboard, including Israel’s first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ronan.  His classmate, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro posthumously promoted Wille from Commander  to Captain.   Willie was a classmate, friend and enduring inspiration.  His inimitable style: 

  • TEAMWORK: Graduated second in our ’83 Class of over 1000 Midshipmen before becoming an EA-6B PROWLER pilot and then NASA astronaut.  He was an elite runner and Captain of  the USNA Cross Country team in 1982. 
  • TONE:  One of Willie’s – and America’s – most personal and unique memorials resides on the Naval Academy Cross Country Course in Annapolis. A stone tablet sits just behind the 15th tee. The opposite side of the memorial bears the STS-107 mission patch and in large bold letters, “16 MINUTES FROM HOME.” The COLUMBIA broke apart on re-entry 16 minutes before its scheduled landing at 0915.  The memorial was erected where McCool would have been 8:27 into his fastest race – about 1 3/4 miles into the almost five-mile course —sixteen minutes from the finish of a 1982 race when he set a Navy record for that course.
  • TENACITY:  Willie’s legacy lives on.  Several schools, tracks, parks, and buildings are named in his honor. There are even memorials to him spread across the solar system, to include  Asteroid 51829 Williemccool and McCool Hill on Mars.

– Rear Admiral Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a motivational and national security keynote speaker.  He is a leadership professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and the CEO of The Becker T3 Group. In 2016, The Naval Intelligence Community established “The Rear Admiral Becker ‘Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity Award for Leadership” in his honor.  To connect with Paul, visit his website: https://TheBeckerT3Group.com

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