Airmen from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., salute during the national anthem prior to a Boston Red Sox playoff game in Boston at Fenway Park. Todd Maki/USAF
Photo Caption & Credits

Faces of the Force

Sept. 2, 2022

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Airmen 1st Class Samari Rivera-Rodriguez, left, Kade Jones, and Sabin Venable. Staff Sgt. Alexander Cook

Staff Sgt. William Au and Airman 1st Class Kade Jones, of MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., acted on a “gut feeling” when they went on patrol in Tampa Bay in June. Their vigilance proved life-saving when they encountered a capsized boat and eight civilians in the water, with a bull shark circling the vessel. They called for backup, and Airmen 1st Class Samari Rivera-Rodriguez and Sabin Venable responded quickly. Together, the four Airmen were able to get the civilians out of the water and into their own boats to level out weight distribution.

From left are Col. Everett Hume, Commander, Northeast Region; Cadet Leah Vigevani; Brig. Gen. Virginia Gaglio, Assistant Adjutant General-Air, Massachusetts National Guard; Cadet Col. Sarah Vigevani; and CAP Col. W. Tim Nelson, Commander, Massachusetts Wing. Timothy Sandland/CAP

Sisters—and Cadet Colonels—Leah Grace Vigevani and Sarah Ashley Vigevani reached the highest levels of the Civil Air Patrol, receiving the coveted General Carl A. Spaatz Award in an August ceremony. Brig. Gen. Virginia Gaglio, commander and chief of staff of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, said the sisters both receiving the award simultaneously was “​​nothing short of amazing.” Roughly five out of every 1,000 cadets receives the Spaatz Award, named after the Air Force’s first Chief of Staff. Both sisters will be attending the University of North Dakota.

An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron search for flood victims in Eastern Kentucky Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear/ANG

In the aftermath of historic flooding in eastern Kentucky this July, Airmen from the Kentucky ANG’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to assist with search and rescue operations. Over the course of four days, the 23-person team rescued 19 individuals stranded by the floods as well as two dogs. The squadron also led command and control efforts that coordinated 29 rotary aircraft missions, recovered four bodies and helped direct operations, assisted by MWD Callie, the only certified search-and-rescue canine in the U.S. military.

Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Sotomayor at his squadron’s headquarters at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Fla. Tech. Sgt. Chelsea Smith/ANG

Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Sotomayor, of the 202nd RED HORSE unit of the Florida ANG, was recently selected as the 2022 Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year. A former crew chief for the F-15E, Sotomayor joined the 202nd RED HORSE and quickly led a complete rebuild of the awards and decorations program, significantly boosting unit morale. He also worked to promote Air Force awareness campaigns and professional military education programs, resulting in a 10 percent increase in participation.

Senior Airman Bryan Post, Staff Sgt. Zachary Pennington and Tech. Sgt. Johnathan Page won the Air Force’s inaugural EOD National Team of the Year Grand Finale Competition. Courtesy

Senior Airman Bryan Post, Staff Sgt. Zachary Pennington, and Tech. Sgt. Johnathan Page of the 775th Explosive Ordnance Flight, took home the title of EOD Team of the Year in July in Indiana. Teams were placed in “realistic, unfamiliar urban environments” to test different mission areas and scenarios. As the winners, the 775th EOD Flight will represent the Air Force at the U.S. Bomb Technician Association’s Top Bomb Technician Competition in November.

Senior Master Sgt. Edward Lewis, right, salutes Col. Matthew Fritz after receiving a Bronze Star Medal at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Senior Airman Erica Webster

Senior Master Sgt. Edward Lewis was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in a July ceremony at Hill AFB, Utah, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2021. Lewis served as Superintendent of the Aerial Port Flight at Erbil International Airport in Iraq, helping to move 12,000 passengers and 8,000 tons of cargo enduring over 1,700 combat missions, all while being exposed to imminent danger from 57 unmanned aerial threats. His team of 42 Airmen and civilians also had a 100 percent on-time take-off rate.

Senior Airman Alexander Rowe, 8th Security Forces Squadron, prepares to patrol at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Staff Sgt. Isaiah Soliz

Senior Airman Alexander Rowe, was selected as the 2022 Service Member of the Year for United States Forces Korea. Rowe had previously been named Airman of the Year for USFK and was also named Guardsman of the Quarter while performing Honor Guard duties. During a real-world event, Rowe’s training kicked in and his swift actions drew praise from peers and supervisors. He also serves as a trainer for other security forces. Rowe was able to meet with senior leaders of USFK for a “one-on-one style interview.”

Dyess Air Force Base Rapid Airman Development Team after earning the 4-Daagse March Team Medal in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. 1st Lt Kaitlin Cashin

Eighteen Airmen with the Rapid Airman Development (RAD) Team out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, earned the Vierdaagse 4 Days March Foreign Military Medal this July. The medal is given to those who complete the International Nijmegen Four Days March in the Netherlands, which dates back to 1909. Military participants in particular must march 40 kilometers, nearly 25 miles a day, while in uniform and carrying a 10-kilogram (22-pound) pack. Those who successfully complete the march receive a medal they are authorized to wear in uniform. The RAD team’s mission is to build skills in cultural competency, joint and foreign military training challenges, and professional growth.