Henry Okraski Selected for I/ITSEC Lifetime Achievement Award
Hank Okraski, NCS Hall of Fame member and longtime board member, has received a lifetime achievement modeling & simulation award given by the National Training & Simulation Association (NTSA).
Okraski’s honor will be recognized this year at the virtual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), but will be presented at next year’s I/ITSEC, which is expected to be in person in November 2021.
A founder of NCS, Okraski served as the chairman of the board from 1993 to 2003 and helped build a strong foundation that grew in membership from eight to 250 members before his retirement in 2019. Although “retired,” he continues to help companies find new markets for their products and services, and also worked with his alma mater, Clarkson University, to get alumni involved in research programs.
“Hank has made — and continues to make — a difference in what he has dubbed the “wonderful world of simulation,” said George Cheros, NCS president and CEO. “His lifetime of heartfelt passion for our industry, and his never say never attitude, make Hank an outstanding choice for the NTSA lifetime achievement award. With his experiences and education in the simulation and training world, as a member of industry, academia, and government, Hank’s important lessons learned give an outstanding insight into how the MS&T industry has evolved throughout his lifetime.”
Okraski’s story begins at age 11, when he mailed in a label from a box top of Wheaties and received a “paper cockpit” flight simulator—a cardboard control panel that allowed him to follow flight instructions from the radio character “Sky King.”
He began his career in simulation upon graduation from Clarkson University in 1958, when he joined Link Aviation in Binghamton, N.Y., as a field engineer, servicing jet aircraft simulators for the Air Force throughout the country. In 1962, he joined the Naval Training Device Center in Port Washington, N.Y., finally relocating to Orlando in 1965.
Okraski was a pioneer in 1966 with his published paper and presentation at the first Naval Training Device Center/Industry Conference, in Orlando, Fla.,the precursor to today’s I/ITSEC. He continued to communicate his life’s work by publishing and presenting in 1967, 1968, and again in 2016 at the 50th anniversary celebration for I/ITSEC. Okraski was named as the I/ITSEC 2017 Fellow and continues to be a leading presence in the MS&T community, not missing a single I/ITSEC in 53 years.
Okraski moved up the civil service ranks from a GS-11 engineer to the Senior Executive Service as director of research and engineering, deputy technical director, and chief scientist. His government work touched many people, providing them with more effective tools for training. After a very successful and rewarding career, he retired from government service in 1994, and since has internationally consulted simulator manufacturers in the areas of research, design, systems engineering, trainer reliability, maintainability, and integrated logistics support.
Okraski spent a good portion of his career dedicated to developing the STEM/Modeling & Simulation workforce, working with school districts, teachers and students, and has been instrumental in developing academic programs at the University and second school levels in Central Florida, and extending to Virginia.
“Hank led a team of industry, academia, and government personnel to develop a four-year high school curriculum in modeling and simulation, as well as an industry certification in modeling and simulation, approved by the Florida Department of Education,” Cheros said. “He is passionate about MS&T education and workforce development, and he supports this passion by serving on numerous academic institutions’ advisory boards, as well as giving lectures as a subject matter expert to students of all ages. With all that he has accomplished in support the MS&T industry and the future of it, I can’t think of a more deserving person than Hank Okraski to receive the NTSA modeling and simulation lifetime achievement award.”