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

April 27, 2023

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Airman 1st Class Natalie Bait. Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman

On Feb. 22, Airman 1st Class Natalie Bait, 47th Force Support Squadron career development technician, became “command chief for a day” and gained insight into the decision-making process at the highest levels at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. “When I was visiting the different squadrons around the base, I was able to see how valuable each job is,” Bait said. Bait emphasized the importance of planning and preparation. “One of the biggest challenges I faced was when I was asked to make a speech as chief,” she said.

1st Lt. Zachery Olson. Airman 1st Class Shaun Combs/USSF

Space Base Delta 2 Commander’s Action Group Chief 1st Lt. Zachary Olson received the 2022 Force Support Company Grade Officer of the Year Award at the Space Force level. From his first day in the Air Force as an Airman 1st Class, Olson knew he wanted to make his goal of commissioning into a reality. “I feel grateful, I’ve been able to work around some spectacular mentors,” Olson said. “All of my work would also not be possible without the great people that I’ve worked with from the 544th Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Group and Space Base Delta 2.”

Maj. Gen. Steven Oliver Jr. (Ret.) Amelia Dickson/ANG

When now-retired Maj. Gen. Steven W. Oliver Jr. took command of the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing in April 2010, the unit was just two years old. Oliver, then a colonel, was the wing’s second commander. He returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on Feb. 25 as guest speaker for the wing’s annual awards banquet., noting that the identity of the 515th AMOW had solidified, and people throughout AMC and DOD increasingly recognize the wing’s unique role in the Indo-Pacific. “I think the importance of the AMOW hasn’t decreased at all, and it is certainly changing,” Oliver said.

Capt. Paul Day. Michael Crane/ANG

Capt. Paul Day was recently recognized in the annual Air Force Security Forces Awards program as the 2022 Air Reserve Component Company Grade Officer of the Year. He is the chief of plans and operations in the anti-terrorism office for the 139th Security Forces Squadron, Missouri Air National Guard. Day won the prestigious award partly for his role in developing and executing Agile Combat Employment missions while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Day took the lead on creating ACE plans from scratch, including developing equipment lists and working with U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Gregory Southall, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron chief of infrastructure. 2nd Lt. Brandon DeBlanc

Gregory Southall, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron chief of infrastructure, is unafraid to break barriers, not only as a Black man but also as the grandson of the late Air Force Maj. Clarence Gordon Southall, a Tuskegee Airman. “The Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for us,” Southall said. “I’ve heard the stories about how they were treated and what they overcame. Today, nobody can tell me what I can and can’t do, … and we have that freedom [in part] due to them.” With the 11th CES for 30 years, Southall said his grandfather inspired his entire family.

Jake Fletcher, 88th Civil Engineer Squadron carpenter. Matthew Clouse/USAF

What were you doing at 20 years old? Jake Fletcher, who is a carpenter in the 88th Civil Engineer Squadron, works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, began as a 17-year-old apprentice while attending a construction carpentry program. “This job has me set for the rest of my life,” he said. “You don’t have to go to college to get a good job. You just need to be willing to work, show up, and be an adult.” After his junior year at Miami Valley Career Technology Center, Fletcher applied to work at Wright-Patterson, where good grades and an outstanding interview got him the position.

Capt. Orchydia Sackey. Senior Airman Joshua Hastings

U.S. Air Force Capt. Orchydia Sackey, from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, had minimal exposure to aircraft and flying while growing up, but today, she flies the KC-135 Stratotanker for the 50th Air Refueling Squadron. Her dream of becoming a pilot started on her first commercial flight. “I was flying with my family from the Virgin Islands to Florida, and I was in second grade,” Sackey said. “My mom sat next to me. While she was super scared on the flight, I was having the time of my life.” Sackey conducted online research for paths to becoming a pilot. She decided during her junior year in high school to pursue aviation.

Senior Airmen Allison Ganapamo. Tech. Sgt. Jayson Burns

In a deployed environment, communication is key. It’s important to breach language and cultural barriers to successfully address regional issues and maintain stability. Senior Airman Allison Ganapamo, PERSCO technician with the 449th Air Expeditionary Squadron, was asked to help do just that in a meeting between U.S. and French civil engineers as a translator at Chabelley Airfield, Djibouti. The meeting resulted in an agreement for a runway project. “I was hoping I would have the opportunity to act as a translator,” said Ganapamo, who was born in France. “I was looking for opportunities to gain more experience.”

Staff Sgt. Harold Balcom. Cynthia Griggs/USAF

While deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Staff Sgt. Harold Balcom, an air traffic controller supervisor currently assigned to the 75th Operations Support Squadron, was awakened the night of Aug. 17, 2021, and told to pack a 72-hour bag. Five hours later, Balcom was on a plane headed to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, to support Operation Allies Refuge and to help evacuate Afghan civilians from the country. Deployed with a U.S. Marine unit called Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Balcom helped in the evacuation of more than 124,000 civilian and military personnel.

Staff Sgt. Shayla Ramsey. Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle/ANG

Staff Sgt. Shayla Ramsey, a client service technician for the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Communications Flight, is responsible for ensuring that the wing’s information technologies function correctly. She troubleshoots and repairs problems, performs information technology support functions and reports, and takes corrective measures for security incidents. A student at West Virginia University, she recently graduated with a degree in public health and is enrolled in an accelerated nursing program.