CAP Salutes First Rhodes Scholar on National Science Day
Hila Levy as as an Air Force Academy cadet. (Source: U.S. Air Force)
by Capt. Brandon Lunsford, CAP, Oklahoma Wing
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (February 28, 2021) – Hila Levy, Civil Air Patrol’s 2004 Cadet of the Year and recipient of CAP's highest cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2008.
While a notable achievement in itself, she was not the first CAP cadet to do so. About 10% of Air Force Academy incoming freshmen each year are CAP cadets. She was, however, the first to earn top of her class honors, and she then went on to be CAP's first Rhodes scholar, receiving one of the only 32 prestigious scholarships awarded in the U.S. that year.
A former member of Civil Air Patrol’s Puerto Rico Wing, Levy aspires to be a NASA astronaut like other former cadets. In 2008 then-Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Boe became the first CAP cadet to pilot the International Space Shuttle. Frank Borman, commander of Apollo 8, was the first former CAP cadet to become an astronaut.
“Being a Civil Air Patrol cadet helped me to get to the Air Force Academy and start my way on my dream of becoming an Air Force officer,” Levy said. “As a cadet, I was able to help others who see me as a role model and also find my own role model. I was able to help save lives, learn about and help my community and basically just become a better person all-around.”
The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and best-known award for international study, were created in 1902 through the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. Applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the will, including high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.
Born in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Levy is now an Air Force Reserve major serving in the 352nd Special Operations Wing. She has a bachelor’s in biology at the Air Force Academy, three master’s degrees -- in historical research and in biology at the University of Oxford and in environmental planning and management at Johns Hopkins University — and a doctorate in zoology at the University of Oxford. She is fluent in Italian, Portuguese, Hebrew, French and Spanish.
Maj. Hila Levy, an Air Force Reserve individual mobilization augmentee, on a research trip to study penguins in the Antarctic. (Source: U.S. Air Force)
Levy is an individual mobilization augmentee intelligence officer at the Joint Reserve Intelligence Support Element, Royal Air Force Molesworth, United Kingdom. She is also a leader in the field of penguin genetics, spending up to four months each year studying the species in the Antarctic.
“My work on penguin disease has the potential to indicate whether human activities and warming temperatures are having a more negative impact than predicted,” she said in an Air Force interview in 2016.
“While our work on population genetics and population trends has shown that some species are at greater risk than others and merit stricter limits on where and how much krill and fish is taken from their habitats in the Southern Ocean.”
Levy is part of a rich Civil Air Patrol tradition of seeking excellence and serving others. CAP reflects on and celebrates her success, some of which she attributes to her start as a cadet, as she inspires a new generation of cadets to pursue their dreams.
Every year thousands of young people learn the virtues of individual achievement, teamwork, patriotism, physical fitness and character development through participation in Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program. These young people move on to all areas of society and strengthen and enrich the nation.
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About Civil Air Patrol
Now celebrating its 80th year, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and more than 2,000 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and performs about 90% of all search and rescue operations within the contiguous United States as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using innovative cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 130 lives during the past fiscal year. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. As a nonprofit organization, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs.