Grissom reservist shares love of STEAM with community

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rachel Barton

When the Air National Guard tried to nudge Maj. Linda Roehrborn towards retirement in 2021, she found a position with the Air Force Reserve at the Hoosier Wing instead. Roehrborn now serves here as the 434th Operations Group executive officer.

“No, I’m not ready to retire!” said Roehrborn. “I looked around at different units and finally got ahold of the reserve recruiter. He got me in within a month, right at the last minute before they were going to force me to retire.”

Roehrborn grew up on a strawberry farm in Wisconsin. She says the Challenger explosion made her want to become an astronaut.

“We just thought they were so brave, doing the job they love,” Roehrborn said. “There was the possibility that could happen and they still did it.”

With dreams of space filling her head, it was ultimately her father that inspired her to stay inside Earth’s atmosphere and join the Air Force.

“My dad had been in the Air Force for six years, so I kind of followed in his footsteps,” said Roehrborn. “I joined the Air Force in ’93, a couple years out of high school.”

However, this wouldn’t be the end of her astronaut aspirations. After four years on active duty as an enlisted radar maintainer, Roehrborn transferred into the Air National Guard. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, then commissioned in 2007.

Her civilian career progressed alongside her military career. She had a series of different duty stations and had started her Ph.D. in oceanography. While living in Texas, she had the opportunity to become a simulated astronaut for NASA.

To help understand the long-term effects that space travel could have on the human body, she entered a program where she would simulate traveling with other astronauts on a spacecraft to a distant asteroid.

“At NASA they have a building that has a mock-up module in it,” said Roehrborn. “Some of the things they put us through were to simulate stress-related incidents and then take saliva samples and blood samples to check cortisol levels and things like that."

Following that experience with NASA, she went back to Wisconsin to help take care of her elderly parents.

“When I moved back to Wisconsin, there’s no NASA and there’s no ocean, so I couldn’t do anything that I had been doing my whole career,” said Roehrborn. “I thought the next best thing is to teach it to kids.”

In 2020, she founded the Discovery Education Station, in Marshfield, Wisconsin where she shares her love of science, technology, engineering, art, agriculture and math with the next generation of young dreamers.   

“We do after-school programming, we do summer camps, and we work with a lot of special needs kids,” said Roehrborn. 

A year after its inception, Roehrborn was able to turn her foundation into a non-profit organization. Her military experience was likely a factor in the success of that endeavor. 

“I’ve learned in the military a lot of organization and going after things that I want to get done,” said Roehrborn. “I’m used to managing people in the military so that has rolled into it.” 

Although her parents have passed since her return to Wisconsin, Roehrborn has stuck around. She plans to continue serving at the Hoosier Wing, and keep sharing her love of all things STEAM with her community.