Maj. Kenneth Brandon, 374th Communications Squadron director of operations, and a formation of airmen stand at attention and prepare to render a salute as the American flag is lowered at a retreat ceremony at Yokota AB, Japan, on Oct. 18, 2019. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe.
Photo Caption & Credits

Faces of the Force

Know of someone we should recognize? Send nominees to

Photo: ROTC Det. 225

Second Lt. Kirsten Cullinan on Oct. 22 was recognized as 2019 Cadet of the Year by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein at a ceremony at the Pentagon. Cullinan was selected from among more than 3,000 Air Force Academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps, and Officer Training School cadets. Cullinan said, “It was an honor” to receive the award, but she also said she felt any of her fellow cadets at the University of Notre Dame could have earned the prestigious award. Cullinan graduated in May with dual degrees in political science and Russian and is on Active Duty training to be an intelligence officer. “I wish I could tell you this will be the only time you’ll be at the Pentagon,” Goldfein said with a laugh. “But I’d be lying, because in the course of your career, I’d be surprised if you don’t get tagged for a tour.” The British Air Squadron established the award in 2000 and presented the Millennium Sword of Friendship to the Air Force, a symbol of the enduring British-American partnership. The name of each Cadet of the Year is engraved on the sword, it remains on permanent display in the Pentagon.

Photo: A1C Leala Marquez

TSgt. Michael Jakubec became the sole service member at Luke AFB, Ariz.—and one of only two enlisted airmen in all of Air Education and Training Command—to get special permission to spend an unlimited amount of funds on the government’s behalf. “Unlimited warrants are required for … [many] projects exceeding $5 million,” Jakubec said. He studied federal acquisition rules for 10 weeks and passed a warrant board evaluation to qualify for the warrant.

Photo: SrA. Tyrell Hill

1st Lt. Genevieve Miller and A1C Michael Yoo were selected to represent the US military in swimming at the 7th Conseil International du Sport Militaire Military World Games, held Oct. 15-30 in China. Miller is a deputy flight commander at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., and Yoo is an avionics backshop technician at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Both were competitive swimmers since childhood. “The most important thing … is that I am representing something bigger than myself,” Miller said.

Photo: Richard Eldridge/USAF

An AFRL team led by 711th Human Performance Wing Research Psychologist John McIntire received a 2019 Defense Innovation Award for coming up with portable locks that can help secure or barricade most kinds of doors during active-shooter scenarios. The team has given some of the locks to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, security personnel. “We hope this technology can provide a provably effective method of bystander or potential victim protection,” McIntire said.

Photo: USAF

USAF posthumously awarded a Meritorious Service Medal to SSgt. Adam Erickson. The 412th Operations Support Squadron’s former NCO-in-charge of Parachutist Program Operations was killed in a Sept. 10 training accident. The SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) specialist and test parachutist got his master parachutist rating about a month before his passing. He “very clearly enhanced every life that he touched,” said MSgt. Brandon Fountain, program superintendent.

Photo: USAF

After a B-17G Flying Fortress crashed at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on Oct. 2, an Air National Guardsman who was aboard the downed aircraft helped usher his fellow passengers to safety. CMSgt. James M. Traficante, command chief master sergeant for the 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley ANGB, Conn., managed to release the plane’s back hatch after the crash so that injured survivors could escape. He was reportedly able to do so because he had traveled with his DOD-issued fire- retardant gloves.

Photo: SrA. Alyssa D. Van Hook

After years of working as a translator for US and coalition forces in Iraq, A1C Saeed Shnawa fulfilled his dream of joining the US military. “I hold a tremendous amount of honor toward those troops in Iraq,” he said. I used to wonder, ‘Will I ever get the chance to do their job, in their uniform?’ … I wrote it off as an impossible dream.” Shnawa, earned US citizenship and joined USAF in 2017, and now is an aircrew flight equipment technician with the 811th Operations Support Squadron at JB Andrews, Md.

Photo: SrA. Delaney Gonzales

USAF MSgt. Galicia Castillo, Air Combat Command A3 Operations Division command and control manager, shared her culture by performing traditional Mexican dances in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month at JB Langley-Eustis, Va. Castillo said she believes celebrating diversity is the reason the Air Force is a strong fighting force. “We all bring a different vision—a different way of thinking—to the fight,” Castillo said.

Photo: EJ Hersom/DOD

A1C Daniel Kirwa, a medical technician assigned to the 6th Healthcare Operations Squadron at MacDill AFB, Fla., is the fastest long-distance runner in the Air Force. Out of more than 12,000 participants, Kirwa placed first in the military category of the Air Force Marathon—and third overall—with a time of 2 hours, 33 minutes, and 3 seconds. “I was so excited when I finished the race because I represented the Air Force nicely, which was my main goal,” Kirwa said.