A 'Silver Snoopy' for lifetime of service

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- NASA recognized a member of the 45th Operations Group's Human Space Flight Support team for his lifetime of work and support to human spaceflight. 

Simon Levka, program engineer for HSFS, recently received a Silver Snoopy Award from astronaut Jose Hernandez at a ceremony at the Manatee Cove Marina. 

A retired Air Force major, Mr. Levka began his career in support of NASA missions, and said, "Now I'm supporting NASA again at the end of my career." 

Mr. Levka joined the Air Force in 1966. His first assignment was to Hickam AFB, Hawaii, where he was a C-130 pilot. 

Among the missions he flew were search and rescue missions in support of three of the Apollo space flights, including Apollo 13. The C-130 aircraft was fitted with trackers that homed in on radio beacons given off by the capsules. A rescue ship carrying a helicopter was then dispatched to the site where the capsule had landed in the Pacific Ocean. 

In addition to the Apollo flights, Mr. Levka was also credited with 26 "saves" of downed Airmen, where higher command determined that the search and rescue mission Mr. Levka led was what saved the life of the pilots. 

Arriving at Patrick AFB for the first time in 1979, Mr. Levka continued to work in support of NASA. One project Mr. Levka was involved with was the surveying out of transoceanic abort landing (TAL) sites in Africa. These sites are activated on shuttle launch days to provide a safe landing area in case of a situation where the shuttle cannot make it to orbit. 

Mr. Levka retired from the Air Force in 1986 and became a civil servant in 1989. Today, as a member of HSFS at Patrick, he coordinates requirements for the TAL site at Moron Air Base, Spain. 

"We bring in medical people, aircraft and weather people. We tell the base who's coming and what they're doing," said Mr. Levka. 

"He's an awesome pick and it's easy to see why he'd be chosen for this prestigious honor," said Lt. Col. James Seaward, chief of HSFS. "We will miss him dearly when he retires in August." 

Having spent 40 years supporting manned space launches and overseeing the precautions that en-sure the safety of our astronauts, Mr. Levka said, "A lot of training goes into it, when you get to use that training productively, it's a good feeling."