Freedom Swimmer

Late into the night of August 23, 1967, Pedro “Pete” Luis Rustan Jr. (EE ’70, M.S. ’70) leapt from the shores of Communist Cuba into the dark waters of Guantánamo Bay, swimming one mile to the United States Naval Station and scaling over the Cactus Curtain to freedom.

More than 43 years later—with 27 of those years in distinguished service with the United States Air Force—Rustan is still swimming.

Freedom Swimmer
Delta Tau Delta brothers on the American side of Niagara Falls, 1970

For many who know Rustan, none would be surprised to learn that the super-achiever was recently offered the position of director of the Mission Support Directorate at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va. It will be the third NRO move in six years for Rustan, who has also served as director of Science and Technology as well as director of Ground Enterprise for the organization, which builds and operates the nation’s surveillance satellites. In his new role, Rustan works with the community of satellite users—other intelligence agencies, the military, law enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security, among others—to facilitate the devices’ capabilities, including data interpretation and retrieval, the availability of various products, and the types of services offered or types that can be designed to meet a user’s needs.

When Rustan retired as a United States Air Force colonel in 1997, employment at the NRO was not on his radar. Instead, he became a successful consultant in the private sector, advising companies on matters ranging from potential aerospace projects to the latest technologies for high-speed communications links. Then the September 11 attacks occurred, and in their aftermath Rustan found that his feelings for his new country sent him on a once-familiar course.

Read the full story on Illinois Tech Magazine