Colleen Pramenko always knew she would follow her parents into the U.S. Air Force.

Both were officers working in the medical side of the service. Her dad retired from the Air Force as a bioenvironmental engineer and now works as a civilian physicist, and her mom is a nurse.

“Watching them helping others was a large part of my childhood,” she said. “They instilled a sense of service to others in me which made the Air Force an easy choice for me.”

On May 15, Pramenko will graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in meteorology from the College of Natural Resources and Environment and commission as an Air Force second lieutenant.

She spent four years in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, where she served as the regimental commander, the highest rank a cadet can achieve, during the spring 2019 semester and was a bugler with the Highty-Tighties, the regimental band.

Now, Pramenko will put the entirety of her college experience to use as an environmental science officer with the 28th Operational Weather Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

“My job will be to manage and direct weather operations that have a direct effect on the activities of the U.S. military,” she said. “These duties primarily involve integrating current and forecasted atmospheric and space weather conditions into operations and planning. I will also develop, direct, and coordinate meteorological weather studies and research.”

Her goal is to become an Air Force launch weather officer in support of the new United States Space Force, which was established in December 2019 to protect U.S. and allied interests and provide space capabilities to all branches of the military.

That goal formed during summer 2019, when Pramenko interned as a research assistant for the 45th Weather Squadron out of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Under the guidance of Air Force Maj. Omar Nava, professor of atmospheric science in the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management, she analyzed data from 28 weather towers near Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The results will help the Air Force pinpoint where thunderstorms are likely to develop and improve the weather prediction program for the Cape Canaveral space launch site.

As part of the internship, Pramenko watched a nighttime Falcon Heavy SpaceX launch, which solidified her long-term goal to work with the space program.

Col. Eric Dorminey, professor of aerospace studies and commander of Virginia Tech’s Air Force ROTC program, said Pramenko will make an exceptional Air Force officer. 

“In her time here at Virginia Tech, she has demonstrated the solid foundational character required of high-caliber leaders,” Dorminey said. “She has credibility built on a solid intellect informed by natural curiosity and personal reflection. She is critically self-aware, seeking to improve herself every day.  And she has a friendly engaging personality and is willing to share her perspective and mentor those she leads.”

Pramenko came to Virginia Tech in part because her father worked for Dee Dodson Morris, who graduated in 1976 as part of the first group of women to enroll in the Corps of Cadets. At age 9, she went to work with her father and was awed by the cadet saber hanging in Morris’s office.

“Throughout my cadet career, I held the memory of meeting Dee Morris during that Take Your Daughter to Work Day close to heart,” Pramenko said. “It was a constant reminder that I was part of something greater than myself. I was responsible to help continue the legacy and opportunities the corps provided me, so other people could create their own legacy.”