You may not have known this, but Mr. Nathan J. Meleo ’95, our mild-mannered math/computer science teacher and department chair, had been working double-time as both a Seawolf and an Airman in the United States Air Force during his time at Tabor.
For the last 9 years, despite the “triple-threat” demands of boarding school life, Mr. Meleo has also had another career; one that was as critically important to the future of our country as his role inspiring students in STEM skills at Tabor, but at a much larger scale. In that career, Lieutenant Colonel Nathan J. Meleo was Commander of the 439th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Westover Air Reserve Base, located near Springfield, MA. On November 2nd, he celebrated his retirement after 5 years as commander and with over 20 years of outstanding active duty and reserve service with the Air Force.
“The Air Force has been a large part of my life really since graduating from Tabor. It is a great privilege to have served in this way and have the impactful experiences I’ve had. Being in the reserve and working at a boarding school like Tabor was not always easy, and there is no way I would have been able to accept and serve in my command role effectively without the support, encouragement, and willingness to ‘cover for me’ that the faculty at Tabor has provided me, absolutely unwaveringly,” said Meleo.
Of course, all of us at Tabor are incredibly grateful and proud of Meleo’s extraordinary service to our country, and count ourselves extremely lucky to have attracted him back to Tabor for his civilian career in 2011. A powerful teacher, mentor, and role model to all his students, colleagues, and Airmen, Meleo epitomizes our mission tenets of personal responsibility, life-long love of learning, high standards of achievement, and care for others and committed citizenship. One Air Force colleague, Chief Master Sergeant Lee Hareld, said best what almost everyone here at Tabor would say about Meleo: “I learn something every time I talk to him. He has made me a better person and leader.”
At Westover Air Reserve Base, Colonel Meleo led over 180 enlisted Airmen and officers in one of the largest squadrons in the entire Air Force Reserve. As commander, he was responsible for setting the culture, focusing the effort, taking care of the people and utilizing resources. The personnel are proficient in nine different kinds of aircraft maintenance specialties for the C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft used by the United States Air Force, the largest in the fleet. The unit’s mission is to fix, maintain, and prepare aircraft and provide highly-trained mission-ready aircraft technicians to combatant commanders around the globe to be sure they can safely generate strategic airlift sorties on-demand 24/7. The aircraft entrusted to Colonel Meleo and his squadron are valued at over 1.4 billion dollars, though they are actually priceless as they carry the best pilots, equipment, relief supplies, and military personnel in the world into potentially precarious situations. It was a lot of responsibility, to say the least. “One thing people often don’t realize is that even though it’s the Reserve, our jets are always flying missions, and half of our people are working full-time at the base; it’s a non-stop operation out there and I was always the commander whether at the base or not,” Meleo said when speaking about the balancing of time at Tabor and time for the Reserve.
The squadron’s new Commander and Meleo’s former Maintenance Operations Officer, Major Chris Nissen said, “Lt Col Meleo has helped guide us through heavy operational demands while facing significant downsizing of unit personnel. His leadership helped ensure we could tackle issues with confidence. His coaching and high expectations helped us earn excellent ratings with zero negative findings during 2015 and 2017 Unit Effectiveness Inspections, rare for a unit our size. In addition to our operational success, Lt Col Meleo always focused on the development and progression of those under his leadership. The squadron earned 18 early promotions for our individual members, a significant track record of success and a testament to Lt Col Meleo’s leadership style and the guidance he provides to those around him.” Meleo’s former squadron 1st Sergeant, Senior Master Sergeant Alex Reno, commented, “Though I have worked for seven commanders, I have never worked with a commander who is more in tune with what it means to be a leader, the optics of leadership, and servant leadership. Lt Col Meleo is always doing what is right for the people he commands.”
Before joining the Air Force Reserve in 2005, while on active duty, Colonel Meleo worked various assignments that provided both tactical and strategic perspectives. As an aircraft maintenance officer for B-52H long-range bombers, Meleo oversaw sortie generation for both nuclear deterrent and conventional wartime operations, including combat taskings over Afghanistan for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Additionally, while serving as a strategic systems program manager, he was responsible for leading a 6-base, 158-million-dollar security upgrade initiative at nuclear weapon storage sites throughout the United States, incorporating technological advancements and working with a diverse team comprising military, government, and industry leaders. For his work with that program, he was recruited to be an executive action officer on a 3-star general’s command staff, overseeing executive tasks across a 12,000-person, 3-billion-dollar enterprise. Through these roles, he has acquired leadership and technical skills that have served him well throughout his life and help him be a better teacher for his students.
A lifelong learner, Meleo has been no stranger to the classroom throughout his career trajectory. After Tabor, Meleo graduated with distinction from the Reserved Officer Training Corps at the Rochester Institute of Technology, receiving his commission and Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics in 1999. He holds a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and is a top-third graduate of Staff Officer School and Air Command and Staff College. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Nuclear Deterrence Operations Medal, The Armed Forces Reserve Medal, The Air Force Commendation Medal and The United States Meritorious Service Medal with 4 oak leaf clusters.
We wish our colleague, friend, and alumnus all the best as he celebrates his illustrious career with his Air Force Reserve family and friends, as well as numerous Tabor coworkers and former students. It is safe to say we are happy and relieved that he will continue to serve and mentor his Tabor students and colleagues for many more years to come! As Major Nissen reminded us, “Tabor is lucky to have a leader of his caliber, not only caring about the mission but also the people. He knows it is the people that make the mission possible.”