Col. Andrew Roberts retires after 30 years of service

Col. Andrew Roberts prepares for takeoff in the WB-57 for a science global climate change flight to 65,000 feet. Colonel Roberts retired today after 30 years of combined active-duty and Reserve service. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Andrew Roberts prepares for takeoff in the WB-57 for a science global climate change flight to 65,000 feet. Colonel Roberts retired today after 30 years of combined active-duty and Reserve service. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Andrew Roberts tries flying in the NASA zero-G aircraft, commonly called the vomit comet. Colonel Roberts retired today after 30 years of combined active-duty and Reserve service. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Andrew Roberts tries flying in the NASA zero-G aircraft, commonly called the vomit comet. Colonel Roberts retired today after 30 years of combined active-duty and Reserve service. (Courtesy photo)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Growing up the son of a diplomat, Air Force Reservist Col. Andrew Roberts was accustomed to continuously moving and traveling to exotic destinations. So it was only logical at the age of 15 he decided he wanted to become a pilot.

Today he retires with 30 years of combined active-duty and Reserve service; flying more than 8,000 hours in more than 22 aircraft.

Colonel Roberts was commissioned in 1977 and has operationally flown the C-141A/B. He was also an instructor to the international fighter pilots at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training School in T-38A aircraft.

In his civilian job at Johnson Space Center in Houston, he was a flight examiner and instructor to the International Astronaut Corp., where he served as program manager and pilot for NASA. 

He also manages the SOFIA platform, which is a 747 aircraft with a Hubble class telescope, for Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. The program is scheduled for its first flight next week. Within the last month, the colonel has become the Suborbital Program Executive at NASA and directs the entire Science support aircraft fleet for the agency.

"NASA's got to be the greatest job. Where else do you get paid to fly for a living in a zero-g aircraft," he said. "We support other states and countries in a wide range of scientific research projects."

Since 2002, Colonel Roberts has served as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) for the Arnold Engineering Development Center commander.

"The IMA program is based on the idea that we are attached to an active-duty person," he explained. "If that person has to be deployed or goes into a contingency operation, we get activated. The theory is we jump into that person's shoes and replace them."

In another capacity, Colonel Roberts runs the Reserve program at AEDC.

"I make sure we get reservists to AEDC and that they are utilized properly," he said. "When I came here in 2002 I was the only line officer and there were two centrally managed people. Today we have a 17."

Colonel Roberts ensures that reservist fill vacancies which support the direction each commander sets.

"I want to see the reservists who are coming here fulfill a very useful function and do what needs to get done. I try to stay attuned to what are the needs of the organization are, and is there someone I can bring in to fill a space and do that job? A lot of it is looking at the commander's vision and direction and how the reserves can support that vision."

Lt. Colonel Mike Morgan will replace Colonel Roberts. Selected for promotion to colonel, he is the program support specialist for the Department of Treasury in Birmingham, Ala., where he is responsible for all the maintenance, repair and construction of the leased and owned land of the department. He reported to AEDC earlier this week.

After retirement, Colonel Roberts will continue to work for NASA. In his new capacity, he will continue to lead and strengthen entire airborne science fleet of aircraft for the agency from Washington.