NOAA 2004-R839
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani

NOAA News Releases 2004
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Capt. Stephen Kozak, NOAA Corps, assumed command today of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center, relieving NOAA Corps Capt. Robert Maxson, who served four years as commanding officer and is retiring from the NOAA Corps. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Aircraft Operations Center is housed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. Most of NOAA’s 14 research aircraft, including the NOAA WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft and Gulfstream-IV hurricane surveillance jet, are based there. The commanding officer is responsible for overseeing AOC’s daily operations on a worldwide basis.

“Capt. Maxson’s performance in command is marked by his ability to keep operations running smoothly under arduous circumstances. Our nation has had superb support from AOC during his tenure, not only during the recent landfalling hurricanes this year, but during all of the research projects our aircraft take part in,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Capt. Kozak’s experience as an aircraft navigator and his leadership experience make him an excellent choice to keep AOC moving forward in support of NOAA’s mission.”

Kozak joined the NOAA Corps in 1991 after serving as a flight officer in the U.S. Navy. His NOAA experience includes flights into hurricanes as a navigator aboard a NOAA P-3, and a three-year billet as a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate. Kozak is a native of Zanesville, Ohio, and a 1981 graduate of Ohio University. He holds a master’s degree in financial management from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a master’s degree in national resource strategy from National Defense University. He resides in Tampa, Fla. He and his wife, Donna, have two sons, Stephen Jr. and Thomas, and a daughter, Elizabeth.

Maxson joined the NOAA Corps in 1978 and was selected for the agency’s flight program in 1983. In 1996 he was selected to be the lead pilot of NOAA’s new G-IV hurricane surveillance jet when it first became operational; in 2000 he became director of the Aircraft Operations Center. At the change of command ceremony, he received a personal commendation medal for his exemplary service to NOAA, and accepted, on behalf of AOC, a unit citation for the center’s outstanding performance during the challenging 2004 hurricane season.

The citation states, “With the constant pace of all three heavy aircraft, and with so many storms threatening the AOC employees’ homes and families, one might have expected more frayed tempers and lost focus. I am proud to say it was just the opposite, a sharp eye-on-the-ball awareness that meant increased vigilance had to be the norm.” Maxson oversaw the evacuation of AOC four times while carrying on flights during the four landfalling hurricanes.

Maxson resides in Valrico, Fla., with his wife, Mary Ellen (Missy); they have two daughters, Leigh and Katelyn. He graduated from Rome Free Academy at Griffiss Air Force Base in New York in 1974, and holds a bachelor’s degree in physical oceanography from the Florida Institute of Technology (1978). He received a master’s degree in meteorology and physical oceanography from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1992.

AOC is charged with the management of NOAA research aircraft, personnel, budget and aircraft facilities. AOC is part of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes civilians as well as officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps pilots and navigators and civilian flight engineers, meteorologists and electronic engineers are highly trained to operate NOAA’s hurricane aircraft during the most severe weather conditions. Much of the scientific instrumentation flown aboard NOAA aircraft is designed, built, assembled and calibrated by AOC’s Science and Engineering Division.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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