CAP Officer Earns National Award Through Commitment to Diversity

Capt Mordechai Levin - Leading the Way
Civil Air Patrol Volunteer September-October 2008

By Janet Adams


U.S. Air Force Capt. Kenny Ruffin, a former pupil of Mordechai Levin's, is an F-16 fighter pilot.

Mordechai Levin of Civil Air Patrol’s Illinois Wing takes every opportunity to promote diversity in the exciting world of aviation and aerospace. So when he was recently awarded the prestigious American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2008 Barry M. Goldwater Educator of the Year Award, it was no surprise that he used his acceptance speech as an opportunity to challenge other noted educators to encourage women and people of color to pursue careers in the sciences, technology and engineering.

In his speech at the AIAA Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., Levin noted that from 1995 to 2004, only 1 percent of all master’s degrees in aerospace engineering were awarded to African-Americans and 2 percent to Hispanics. He added that over the past decade, “less than 4 percent of Air Transport Pilot Certificates were awarded to women.”

Surrounded by scores of the most inspirational players in aerospace history from the past 65 years — including the then secretary of the Air Force — Levin challenged participants to achieve proportionate representation of women and people of color in aerospace education programs by 2020.

Capt. Mordechai Levin prepares to pilot an Orientation Flight for Cadet Daniel Berkin — then a Cadet Airman, now Cadet Staff Sergeant — during a round of such flights for the Palwaukee Composite Squadron at Chicago Executive Airport. Photo by Capt. Brian Pokuta, Illinois Wing

Levin is already doing his part. He is developing career exploration programs promoted by aerospace education leaders who visit classrooms from the primary to high school levels to inspire the next generation of aerospace professionals, especially women and minorities. It is his belief that these students will pursue aerospace careers if people who look like them — in color and in gender — visit their classrooms and are emerging as their teachers and leaders.

In addition, Levin initiated the Waukegan Area Aerospace Career Exploration Academy, co-sponsored by the Masterflight Foundation, George Williams College of Aurora University and many others.

Students participated in the week-long residential summer program. Coursework included flying planes, learning aerodynamics and air traffic control communications and participating in an interactive computerized simulation of mission control, as well as numerous flight and space related activities.

In a testament to the success of the course and his other aerospace education activities, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded Levin the 2008 Great Lakes Region Flight Instructor of the Year Award.

In recounting a particularly poignant story related to a challenging flight-training situation during the 2007 Johnson Flight Encampment in Mattoon, Ill., Levin spoke of working with a young woman who had previously been a brilliant flight student. Her best friend had been killed while piloting a small aircraft, and she was not sure she wanted to continue pursuing a career in aviation. “We took almost one hour to complete our preflight inspection. Fighting tears, and with a quivering voice, she made her initial radio transmission to taxi. By the end of that lesson,” Levin continued, “her smile stretched from ear to ear. Her CAP career skyrocketed from that moment on.”

Capt. Mordechai Levin coaches Civil Air Patrol cadets during an International Space Station/Johnson Control Center simulator mission sponsored by the Masterflight Foundation at the Challenger Center in Woodstock, Ill. Photo by Capt. James Kalemis, Illinois Wing.

Through his active involvement teaching young Civil Air Patrol cadets, conducting CAP orientation flights and being a check-pilot examiner for the Illinois Wing, and by leading flight instruction and aerospace education laboratories, Levin has demonstrated time and again the value of reaching out to women and minorities, encouraging them to find their rightful place in aviation and aerospace. He is a worthy recipient of the AIAA award, which honored him for:

“a lifelong commitment to … increasing access to aerospace education and careers for women and diverse populations.”

More about Ruffin

Through countless orientation flights, Capt. Mordechai Levin has shared the thrill and enchantment of flight with tomorrow’s aerospace leaders. He was introduced to Civil Air Patrol in 1998 through an opportunity to provide orientation flights, flight instruction and aerospace education laboratories to a diverse group of young men and women at Chicago’s Midway Airport.

Kenyatta Ruffin reminds students that "whatever you do, you must use your life to make a positive difference in this world."

One of Levin's primary flight training students that first summer,Kenyatta Ruffin, went on to become the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2003 class vice president and the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Ruffin is now an F-16 fighter pilot assigned to the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base in Japan. During the summer of 2007, he deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his deployment, he flew 49 missions and logged nearly 200 combat hours.

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