- Associated Press - Sunday, August 24, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma native who commanded the U.S. Air Force Space Command has retired after 38 years of service.

Gen. William Shelton was born in Tulsa and graduated from Moore High School in 1972. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering.

The Oklahoman reported (http://bit.ly/1pVJYoP ) that before being named Space Command commander in 2011, Shelton served in several assignments, including research and development testing, space operations and staff work. He retired this month at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Living in Moore gave him advantages that would help him later on, Shelton said. He had good math and science teachers who helped kindle his interest in those subjects. The curriculum at the Air Force Academy leans heavily toward math and science, so it’s important that cadets be proficient in those areas, he said.

“If you’re a slouch in one of those subjects, you’re not going to make it,” he said.

The Air Force Space Command is responsible for running the U.S. Department of Defense’s space operations, including launching and operating American military satellites. That mission led to one of the biggest challenges of Shelton’s career, he said.

It came in 2008, when the command was faced with the decision to shoot down one of its own satellites.

The satellite was launched in 2006, and its electrical systems failed immediately after it was in orbit. Officials were concerned the satellite would come crashing to Earth, possibly releasing a cloud of toxic fuel.

Because the Earth’s surface is mostly water, odds are that the satellite would have crashed into the ocean, if it crashed at all, Shelton said. But in the end, officials decided to shoot the satellite down.

“You just don’t want to take a chance,” he said.

More recently, the command has been faced with a different set of challenges in the form of budget cuts. The command slashed about $1 billion from its annual budget in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years combined.

Those cuts have forced officials to make difficult decisions, he said. Although the command’s readiness has been affected, it’s still able to fulfill its mission, he said.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com