CDR William Cameron McCool, USN
Willie McCool is a national hero with close ties to Anacortes. A teacher here once told Willie how excited he was to meet an astronaut. Willie replied, "Actually, your job is much more important than mine.” That encounter succinctly summarizes Willie’s humble character and high regard for academics. He graduated second in a class of 1,083 in 1983 at the U.S. Naval Academy, earned a Master of Science Degree in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, and a Master of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He was recognized as the Outstanding Student and for the Best Developmental Test Thesis for U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Class 101. Willie was simply the best of the best.
He was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1986, and was assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington for EA-6B Prowler training. His first tour was with VAQ-133, where he was designated a wing-qualified Landing Signal Officer (LSO). In November 1989, he was selected for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School/Test Pilot School (TPS) Cooperative Education Program. After graduating from TPS in June 1992, he was attached to the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Following this tour, Willie returned to Whidbey Island, and was assigned to VAQ-132 aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). While there, he received notice of his NASA selection.
Willie and his Columbia crew were tragically lost on February 1, 2003 upon reentry for Shuttle mission STS-107. He was posthumously awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM), and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.