Suzanne Honeycutt

One evening in September of 1991, the earth shook, the sky burst into a huge glow, and the loud rumbling sound lingered what seemed like for hours. Actually lasting only minutes, that was my first viewing of a space shuttle launch. Not knowing what to expect since it was dark outside, I didn’t bother bringing a camera or binoculars. But the sight of that glowing magical masterpiece still burns in my memory.

Living on the Space Coast of Florida for the next six years allowed me the great fortune to view many more beautiful successful launches. As with every launch, the entire area came to a screeching halt as excitement and anticipation filled the air. Cars pulled off-side the roads, every radio and television station were tuned in to the pending countdown and lift-off. And during every launch, I got this intense sense of patriotism that my chest wanted to burst with pride of being an American. Standing there in awe, viewing a launch left me speechless. And those who know me know I am rarely without words.

Several years later, while employed at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, I closely watched as engineers worked on the shuttle’s external tanks. I experienced first-hand the unique event of the tanks being carefully transported down the road and loaded onto a barge with Florida and the space shuttle being their final destination. These experiences will remain with me forever as will my years serving in the U.S. Air Force.

As an airborne communicator assigned to the 9th Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, I was awestruck when I got my job assignment of flying and being part of an aircrew. I was so proud to serve my country. And being a radio operator onboard an EC-135J aircraft was right up my alley. (Remember, I do enjoy the gift to gab.) When not passing position reports to the ground stations or relaying secure messages on the radios, I would seize the opportunity to lay in the boom pod, an area under the aft belly of the aircraft, in order to view air-to-air refueling. I watched from small windows as the boom operator carefully guided a fighter jet to connect to our plane’s flying boom to receive the fuel. This was an absolutely amazing experience to witness the sheer flying skill and accuracy by both pilots, the detailed instructions and guidance provided by the boom operator, all arriving at stunning precision for the fuel transfer. Later, I would go to the cockpit and sit upfront as we flew over Diamondhead Crater in Honolulu or peek out at the towering mountains over Japan.

I was only one of two women of 100 attendees in Basic Survival School and Prisoner of War (POW) School. The most difficult task I have ever faced in my life, physically, was going through survival school. My idea of fun is not hiking with a 70 pound backpack in -2 degree weather up snowy mountainous terrain with my team of nine guys. I was physically prepared as possible but nothing would ever truly prepare me for those six long cold days. But I was bound and determined NOT to fail because I certainly did not want to repeat the course. So I toughened up and trekked on. Sure I was scared, definitely out of my comfort zone, but I wanted my Air Force wings and this was the only route to get them. And POW school was no cake walk either. Again, frightened, locked in a dark cell, I put my classroom skills to work and took measures to alert my crewmates when it was day light, shared pieces of gum I had found, all while being repetitively interrogated and supremely tested mentally. Never in my life have I been so relieved and proud when I laid eyes on the American flag after all of it was over. This training, by far, was the toughest I have ever experienced; and yet the best I have ever received. It made me stronger and more resilient than I ever dreamed possible.

Back in those days, women were not allowed to be pilots. Again, I was only one of two females in the communications section of my squadron. We had a couple of female navigators, a couple of female flight stewards and that was it. In fact, there were few women among aircrews, in general. Over the coming years, more females joined the ranks. But I must admit, the predominately male environment made me a stronger woman. I knew there was an expectation, perhaps self-imposed, to do better and achieve more than my male counterparts. So I studied harder and learned as much as I could. I had to remain tough, pull my weight and then some.

During my time on active duty, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree from Hawaii Pacific University in Human Services. I also succeeded in getting accelerated promotions, exceptional details and temporary duty assignments to places like Guam, Wake Island, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Thailand.

We truly never know where life and our career path may take us. I think it is important to be open to new opportunities, and be willing to take risks. Fear of the unknown is frightening but should never leave us frozen. Fortunately, my career has been one diverse and exciting adventure after another.
After being honorably discharged, I landed a great job in Hawaii with ASK-2000, Hawaii’s non-profit organization which was a statewide information and referral center for health and human services.

Later, I was thrilled to begin my federal procurement career in 1992 with the Defense Contract Management Command as a High Scholar Contract Management Intern. This was a two-year intensive training program with rotations to other functional areas and to other agencies. Several years later, I left the government to accept a sales position with a major pharmaceutical company. But that did not turn out to be what I expected so I gladly returned to federal civil service.

Reflecting back, I know that my good grades opened doors for me and allowed me to achieve an overall successful and rewarding career. I am confident that my positive “can do” attitude and having a great team mentality played a large factor as well. And whatever you do, always give it your best and always try to weave in some fun. Laugh often, it helps diffuse and lighten most situations! Most importantly, treat others with great respect and empathy. Remember to give someone your smile each and every day!

I believe achieving a successful career is way more than just being at the right place at the right time, or who you know. We must learn the art to effectively communicate and to expand our networking skills. I think a successful career is a result of hard work, not taking oneself too seriously, and divine intervention all interwoven. Have I worked hard? Absolutely. Has my hard work paid off? Most definitely. Have I been blessed? Positively, without a doubt! And for all of that, I am truly thankful.

Photo of Suzanne Honeycutt


Suzanne Honeycutt began working for the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) in March of 2006. Since that time, she has held several positions within the NSSC Procurement Division, but most notably, the Lead program coordinator for the Agency’s Purchase Card Program. Suzanne manages more than 2,200 Agency cardholders with direct support from purchase card coordinators from each Center. These holders are assigned to every NASA Center; spending on average $78 million per year on general supplies and services in support of NASA’s mission. Suzanne has also served as the contracting officer responsible for procuring onsite training for NASA civil servants across the country. Suzanne takes great pride and ownership in her work and attributes the program’s success to open communication and cohesive teamwork. Throughout her 20 year career serving in a Federal Procurement Office, Suzanne has worked as a contracting officer, contracting specialist, contract administrator, and a procurement analyst for several other agencies. These agencies include: the Defense Contract Management Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Air Force at Patrick Air Force Base, and the Defense Plant Representative Office at Harris Corporation in Palm Bay, Florida. The footprint of NASA is stamped throughout Suzanne Honeycutt’s career. She caught her first glimpse of a Space Shuttle on the back of a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (a modified Boeing 747 jetliner) while serving on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. A rotational work assignment afforded her the opportunity to take a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during her Federal civil service career in procurement at Patrick Air Force Base. Suzanne also witnessed numerous awe-inspiring shuttle launches that created lasting impressions and memories while living on Florida’s coast for seven years. Finally, Suzanne had the opportunity to work at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans alongside engineers who worked directly on the shuttle’s external fuel tanks. All of these proved to be stepping stones that would lead her to work for NASA. While serving in the U.S. Air Force, Suzanne earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Hawaii Pacific University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She also earned an Associate of Arts Degree in Communication Operations Technology from the Community College of the Air Force. Suzanne is an honor graduate of Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Mississippi, as well. When she is not working, Suzanne enjoys gardening, watching football, and traveling.