Skilled to Work: Silver Snoopy award given to first HEMSI paramedic

From left, Marshall Center Director Jody Singer, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Silver Snoopy honoree Tony Ceci, and astronaut Rex Walheim.
From left, Marshall Center Director Jody Singer, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Silver Snoopy honoree Tony Ceci, and astronaut Rex Walheim.

The award was presented to Tony Ceci by two astronauts who flew on the final missions of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.

Posted: Aug 15, 2019 11:30 AM

Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (HEMSI) paramedic Tony Ceci wasn’t born in the Rocket City, but he is a Huntsville man through and through.

"My family moved to Huntsville when I was two-years-old, so I basically just grew up in Huntsville. No memory of anywhere else. And of course, you know, like most families that move to Huntsville, my father was deployed on the Arsenal,” said Ceci.

According to Calhoun Community College, the median salary for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics is $32,875. There are about 132 annual openings for EMTs in a 60 mile radius from Calhoun's campus.

Ceci started working with Huntsville’s ambulance service in 1990 and began working at Marshall Space Flight Center in 2007.

A year later, he took a lead role in upgrading Marshall’s automated external defibrillator (AED) system.

"Actually, when I came here there was a smaller AED-type program. It had no central point of control,” said Ceci.

That work paved the way for him to receive the prestigious Silver Snoopy award. The pin is given to fewer than one percent of NASA employees and contractors.

It’s awarded to those who have “significantly contributed to the human space flight program to ensure flight safety and mission success,” according to NASA.

Out of the nearly 4900 pins that have been awarded at Marshall, Ceci is the first HEMSI paramedic to receive the award.

“I didn’t know that contractors were eligible to win. So the thought of ever actually getting one was never really there,” said Ceci.

The pin is always awarded by an astronaut because “it is the astronauts' own award for outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety and mission success.” The pins have also all been to space aboard a Space Shuttle mission.

Ceci received his from former New Mexico Senator and Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt along with Ret. Col. Rex Walheim, who flew on STS-110, STS-122 and STS-135.

"So they were both basically closing those two projects of their time. So that was kind of neat to meet both of them,” said Ceci.

Occupational Health Officer David Thaxton nominated Ceci for the award.

"We’ve had great paramedics and staff in years past, but Tony has really stepped up to the plate and instituted our AED program and built if from the ground up. And we thought that was worthy of recognition,” said Thaxton.

It's good. It’s nice to be recognized,” said Ceci. “Whenever we can get people the tools to keep bad things from happening, that’s a good thing.”

The Silver Snoopy recipient is now working to update to the latest AED equipment and find more ways to improved safety at Marshall.

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