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AF officer honored with space operations award

  • Published
  • By Chris Calkins
  • 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Samuel A. Little, director of operations, 45th Launch Support Squadron was recently named by the National Space Club as recipient of the prestigious General Bernard Schriever Award, honoring excellence in military space operations and acquisition.

Little was selected by a panel of experts from across the aerospace and defense industry. He will be presented the award at the National Space Club's Goddard Memorial Dinner on March 7 in our nation's capital. The annual Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner is the major event of the Washington space calendar, first celebrated in 1958.

A 1997 graduate from the University of Florida, and a Central Florida native, Little was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program.

He never thought his career path would reach to the stars. He didn't pick Space as a career; Space picked him.

"As an environmental engineering major at UF, I fully expected an Air Force assignment in the Civil Engineer arena. But that didn't happen," he said.

"Only one of us went the CE route and the rest were commissioned as 62Es [Developmental Engineer]. "In addition, I was selected for the Operational Space and Missile Tour program. That program put me in an operational space and missile tour for my first assignment and then sent me to an acquisition tour second.

"So, I went to Undergraduate Space and Missile Training at Vandenberg AFB and on to the 3rd Space Ops Squadron as a satellite vehicle operator," he added.

He has been a member of the 45th Space Wing Sharks since 2011.

According to Col. Matthew Skeen, commander, 45th Launch Group, Little successfully led his squadron as they integrated and launched six Department of Defense satellites, provided Air Force support to three successful Falcon 9 launches and piloted the groundbreaking Global Positioning System III pathfinder satellite.

Little, who acknowledged great honor in earning the award, said any accolades that come his way are a reflection on the team he is a part of, and the magnitude of the work they do.

"The best part of our team's job here at the Cape is hearing that the spacecrafts we ushered through launch have been fully checked out and are entering operational life," Little said.

"That means we did everything right and gives us a huge sense of accomplishment. Building on that, we've gotten feedback from the users of these satellites about the impact they have on missions close to home and downrange," Little said.

"Our team also works with the Falcon 9 program on their certification effort to become a DoD launch provider. So seeing a successful Falcon 9 launch is a huge reward for us."

He also emphasized how little room [meaning none] there is for error in his unit's job performance.

"One hundred percent mission success is our driver for how we manage our force. We have one shot at success in the launch mission and these satellites are crucial to the nation," Little said with emphasis.

"We instill this mindset in all our folks to keep them focused on mission assurance and doing all they can to ensure a successful mission."

He also said there is always room for improving his unit's methods and processes.

"We also look to innovate in the manner we conduct mission assurance activities. We are always re-evaluating our mission execution after each launch to identify areas where we can improve or change processes to bolster mission assurance. We have to do this to be successful now and in the future," he said.

"Colonel Little led the squadron to a flawless performance in a year with the most demanding operations tempo in the squadron's history," wrote Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, commander, 45th Space Wing, in a memorandum to Air Force Space Command Headquarters.

"Sam also guided his team of young military engineers and experienced Noncommissioned Officers as they adapted to a dynamic schedule. He also leveraged his unrivaled space operations expertise and extraordinary leadership ability to make invaluable contributions to our nation's space capabilities this year," she wrote.