Space Force Lt. Col. Nathan Zahn, Air Force Honor Guard commander, became the first Guardian to lead a platoon and represent the service in a joint ceremonial detail at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Feb. 9. He was joined by counterparts from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard at a wreath-laying ceremony for Georgia’s visiting Defense Minister Juansher Burtchuladze.“Our country has a hard-fought legacy of freedom, secured by the warriors resting at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as all veterans, those currently serving our nation and their families,” Zahn said.
After wanting to leave his comfort zone in 2018, Air Force Senior Airman David Larsen, 6th Communications Squadron radio frequency transmission technician, reevaluated his life and left his job for America. Dual U.S.-Germany citizenship led Larsen to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. “I decided to sign a four-year contract with the Air Force for a challenge,” he said. “I soon discovered how much [the Air Force] seemed to care about my well-being.” His initial dream was to become a pilot, but he was too old. However, the rule changed while he was at tech school, and Larsen will soon take his USAF pilot test.
Capt. Jarod Washington, 15th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment commander, began his career at the Air Force Academy as only one of two African Americans in his pilot training class. He knew he had chosen the right career field after his first solo flight. “As soon as I landed, that was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Washington said. “I think it is really cool to think back to my six- or seven-year-old self, and reflect on how proud he would be to know that this is where he would be in 20 years.”
Airman 1st Class Alvin Auffant, a cyber surety specialist with the 156th Combat Communications Squadron, and also an artist, has developed designs representing his previous military organizations. Last June, he was selected to design the new 156th CBCS morale emblem, a mural of the legendary phoenix. “We wanted something special and unique,” Auffant said. Lt. Col. Troy Johnson, the 156th CBCS commander, who tasked Auffant for the work, added, “The phoenix mentality is that there may be failures, but we will grow and be bigger and stronger out of those failures to become successful.”
Space Force Guardian 1st Lt. Katie Scheibner, 333rd Training Squadron cyber warfare course student, led conversations focused on the importance of the space domain at the annual Association of Marshall Scholars U.S.-U.K. in London in January. “I wish we could have had endless amounts of time to have those conversations,” Scheibner said. “I can’t see a future where we don’t work together to help defend the space domain.” Holding a computer science degree, Scheibner volunteered to be one of four cyberspace operations officers to commission directly into the Space Force.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey R. Alexander, director of Air Force Global Strike Command A5/A8 Strategic Plans, Programs, and Requirements, is the 2023 U.S. Air Force Black Engineer of the Year Stars and Stripes Honoree. Alexander, also chief of staff of the Michigan Air National Guard, was chosen for his outstanding contributions as a leader and for being a positive role model for those aspiring to have careers in STEM in public and private sectors. “I am humbled by this selection,” Alexander said, “and I think I won because I have tried to do the best I can, always.”
Air Mobility Command named Air Force Tech. Sgt. Evon Pennington, a 6th Medical Group public health technician, as female Athlete of the Year. A recent Ms. Olympia competitor, Pennington has been an athlete most of her life, starting with track and field and then transitioning to bodybuilding in 2014 when she cross-trained in her current public health job. “At the age of 10, I remember watching the Olympics for track and field,” Pennington said. “From then on, I knew internally that I was meant to be an Olympian. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there, but I truly believed that this was more than just an aspiration or a dream.”
Tech. Sgt. Raymond Zgoda and Master Sgt. Sarah Hubert (originator of the winning idea)of Yokota Air Base, Japan, won the 2023 Spark Tank competition before thousands of Airmen, Guardians, and a judging panel that included the Air Force Secretary, the Air Force Chief of Staff, the Chief of Space Operations, and the top enlisted members of the Air and Space Force. Spark Tank is an annual department-wide competition modeled after the “Shark Tank” TV program, in which DAF “intrapreneurs” pitch their innovative ideas before top leaders in search of funding to solve real-world problems. From this year’s field of 235 “sparks,” six finalists earned the chance to pitch their projects on the main stage at the 2023 AFA Warfare Symposium. Zgoda and Hubert won for their proposal to use ground-penetrating radar to map the underground pipes and wires beneath the surface of military installations, and then use augmented reality to avoid accidental damage to underground infrastructure. They estimate the new tech could save up to $750,000 in wasted labor on every single base. Winning over SECAF Kendall, CSO Saltzman, CMSAF Bass, and CMSSF Towberman, they took home the prize.