Captain Randy Cruz, former senior advisor to the NASA administrator, received a “Yes, If” coin on July 23, for serving as a constant advocate for Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) at NASA.
It was a pleasant surprise for Cruz when Russ DeLoach, chief of SMA, presented the coin during an Organizational Safety Assessment (OSA) outbrief meeting.
“Russ DeLoach stood up and said, ‘I just want to take a moment to recognize someone,’ and I wondered to myself, who’s he talking about?” said Cruz. “For one who prides himself on having situational awareness, I had no idea. I am just so honored to be highlighted for really just doing my job, and I hope it inspires others because it’s not about the recognition, it’s about the mission, and more importantly, taking care of one another.”
Recipients of the “Yes, If” coin exemplify the spirit of ingenuity, creativity and commitment to safety that the agency was built upon. To learn more about the “Yes, If” Program, visit the Safety Culture web page.
Cruz accepted the detail position of the senior advisor to the NASA administrator in 2018 and immediately focused his attention on working hand-in-hand with the Technical Authorities (TAs): the Chief of OSMA, Chief Engineer, and Chief Health and Medical Officer. Cruz also provided an independent look into the Commercial Crew Program and aircraft operations and management and advised the administrator, Mission Directorate leadership and TAs. Cruz worked with the Organizational Safety Assessment (OSA) team to perform assessments for contractors to ensure all risks were being mitigated at the right levels and diving smartly into exploring human spaceflight again. Tracy Dillinger, OSA Team Chief, described Cruz’s contributions as significant and selfless.
“Randy has participated in a way unlike anyone else,” said Dillinger. “He’s been a great interviewer, analyst, team member and advisor. We’ve been fortunate to have his support, and it’s made a difference to safety and our programs in profound ways. People might not know it, but he’s been fighting for them and their success his entire time at the agency. And it’s never been about him; he’s been humble yet forthright, and his focus has been to make a difference and be productive.”
“SMA is a critical component of our agency,” said Cruz. “It’s about the people and for the people. I appreciate this recognition and hope folks realize how important safety is. I hope it’s not lost on anybody — it’s definitely not lost on me.”
Cruz is currently on active duty in the U.S. Navy and was, as he describes, “on loan” to NASA for three years. He is returning to the Navy as the executive assistant and military deputy for air warfare and naval weapons applications for the Office of Naval Research, where he will be doing research on technology for naval aviation and weapons systems and looking at new developments for the Navy.
“I spent the last 20 years working with the things that we have,” said Cruz. “Now I will be on the other side of that, trying to figure out what to get to the sailors and soldiers out there who are doing good work, whether it be for peace or for national defense.”
Cruz is a Navy captain and, prior to his detail at NASA, flew the E-2C Hawkeye as a naval flight officer for 20 years. Cruz attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School, then went on to perform developmental tests for the E-2 Hawkeye. He then traveled to the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf where he planned Tomahawk Land Attack Missile missions. After a year, he left Bahrain and performed acquisition work for the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to ensure it was ready for Initial Operations Capability. He went on to become a weapons and tactics instructor, teaching aircrew how to lead battles successfully. The Navy then selected Cruz for command, where he commanded an operational squadron — about 200 people and 4 aircraft — onboard the USS Harry S. Truman in the Persian Gulf. When he returned, he went to work in San Diego, California, training Carrier Strike Groups how to fight high-end threats before deployment.
Cruz is ready to return to the Navy but says he will miss NASA and leaving is bittersweet.
“Every day I take pride in putting that NASA pin on my lapel,” said Cruz. “It could be 100 degrees outside, but I’ll put my jacket on so people can see the NASA logo because I’m so proud of what we do as an agency.”
“I do my job not for this fabulous recognition of the coin, I do it because it’s important,” said Cruz. “I appreciate that this program exists, and I hope others learn that safety is important and that the agency and country are relying on us to do things safely and properly.”