The Air Force announced its 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022.
Photo Caption & Credits

Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Sept. 2, 2022

The Outstanding Airman Program annually recognizes 12 enlisted members for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement, and personal achievements.

The Air Force Association drove the creation of the Outstanding Airmen of the Year program, which debuted at AFA’s 10th annual convention in 1956. Airmen selected receive the Outstanding Airman of the Year ribbon with bronze service star device; they also wear the Outstanding Airman badge for a full year. This year’s honorees were chosen by a selection board from among nominees advanced by commands in the Air Force and Space Force.


Security Forces Manage
701st Munitions Support Squadron, Kleine Brogel Air Force Base, Belgium (ACC)
Home of Record: Mesquite, Texas  

Senior Master Sergeant Megan Harper led 372 Total Force Defenders in full-spectrum force protection intelligence and base defense operations for the largest expeditionary wing, comprised of 9,000 coalition forces and 72 Protection Level resources. Her leadership was pivotal in the response to a C-17 aircraft that was hijacked from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, enroute to al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Harper’s team secured the aircrew and all 823 passengers aboard without further incident. As the operations superintendent, she directed 588 joint force protection Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines as they ensured the safe passage of 57,000 Afghan evacuees. Additionally, she was the recipient of the Distinguished Graduate, Academic Achievement, and Commandant Awards at the Senior NonCommissioned Officer Academy and established al-Udeid Air Base’s first female Defender mentorship group.   


Detachment Superintendent
Detachment 1, 720th Operations Support Squadron, Birmingham, Ala. (AFSOC)
Home of Record: Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas

Master Sgt. Brandon Blake, Detachment Superintendent and a Registered Respiratory Care Practitioner for the Special Operations Surgical Team, Detachment 1, 720th Operations Support Squadron, Birmingham, Ala. Poses for photos as part of being recognized as a recipient of the U.S. Air Force 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year 2022, Hurlburt Field, Florida, July 28, 2022. Blake was chosen for this award based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements including his lifesaving role in Operation Allies Refuge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelly Walker)

Master Sergeant Brandon Blake led a six-member team in support of Operation Allies Refuge, during which his team supported 5,100 U.S. personnel, treated 71 wounded, enabled seven surgeries, and was one of three medical teams on the final flight out of Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan. Both the 82nd Airborne Division commander and Marine Corps Commandant lauded his performance during the Air Force’s largest mass casualty event in 10 years and the largest evacuation in U.S. history. Additionally, Blake responded to a vehicle accident while off-duty where he evaluated emergent trauma, alerted 911, and stabilized the patient for transport ultimately saving a civilian’s life. Finally, he earned the Distinguished Graduate and Commandant Awards at the in-residence Noncommissioned Officer Academy, all while finishing his dual master’s degrees in Healthcare Administration and Public Health. 


Infrastructure Flight Section Chief
11th Contracting Squadron, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. (AFDW)
Home of Record: Paterson, N.J. 

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kade Forrester, a contracting specialist that helps prepare, negotiate and award contracts to qualified vendors as well as evaluate their performances, at Travis Air Force Base, California, July 22, 2022. Forrester was selected for 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year 2022 by the Air Force. This award recognizes enlisted personnel for exceptional job performance, superior leadership and personal achievements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Nicholas Pilch)

Master Sergeant Kade Forrester successfully led two flights in his squadron to stand up the Air Force’s newest wing and execute the first lead service transfer in Department of Defense history for joint basing. His credibility within his functional community was unmatched, and he was selected by the Career Field Manager for executive leadership development to shape the future of the contracting workforce in the Air Force. Forrester launched the $111 million Simplified Acquisition Base Engineer program, which slashed acquisition timelines by 70 percent on 24 highly visible projects and saved over 1,000 labor hours across the wing. Finally, his leadership, technical acumen, and innovative mindset culminated in him earning the Department of Air Force’s Contracting Ninja of the Year and Air Force District of Washington Innovation in Contracting Individual of the Year Awards in 2021. 


Command Language Program Manager
655th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (AFRC)
Home of Record: Wyoming Valley, Pa.

SMSgt. Patrick OReilly, USAF.

Technical Sergeant Brianne Kelleher deployed to Task Force Holloman supporting Operation Allies Welcome as the noncommissioned officer in charge of a 23-member Linguist Cell. She received 95 aircraft and processed more than 3,500 refugees through medical and visa procedures. During the deployment, she developed a lost child alert system, which distributed information in four languages, reuniting more than 300 children with their families. Furthermore, Kelleher volunteers with local organizations providing support and teaches English to Afghan and North African migrants in the Dayton, Ohio, area. 


Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, Standardization Evaluation
802nd Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (AETC)
Home of Record: Mebane, N.C.

Tech Sgt. Alexander Messinger. Brian Valencia/USAF

Technical Sergeant Alexander Messinger led a four-member quality-assurance team overseeing 396 evaluations and 829 field exercises for 462 military and civilian personnel, leading to his selection as the Air Force Security Forces Support Staff NCO of the Year. He piloted his unit through a Vertical Inspection and Unit Effective Inspection while managing 33 programs and 65 checklists. His leadership earned the squadron two “Highly Effective” ratings with zero discrepancies, five strengths, 26 Professional Performers awards, and he was selected as the unit’s sole Superior Performer. Messinger’s guidance provided security validation in direct support of the President’s humanitarian border mission, ensuring safe relocation of more than 1,000 migrant children to permanent family homes. Finally, he was the only NCO selected for a Flight Commander training course, where his leadership propelled his team to winning seven annual awards at various levels.


Vehicle Deployment Manager
441st Vehicle Support Chain Operations Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. (AFMC)
Home of Record: Delano, Calif.

Technical Sergeant Jennifer Thomas was instrumental in delivering precision logistics in support of Operation Allies Welcome. Her quick response was vital in developing a 57-vehicle package supporting two locations and 15,000 Afghan evacuees. Additionally, she led the Air Force Central Command’s mission drawdown by redistributing 680 vehicles throughout 18 locations saving $35 million in acquisition costs. Her expertise was vital in the backing of the Department of Homeland Security where she deployed four assets in less than 48 hours to aid the transfer of 3,000 Haitian migrants. Furthermore, Thomas was the Wing 5/6 Vice President, Group Combined Federal Campaign Representative, and Squadron Booster Club President overseeing 12 committees. She coordinated 27 volunteer events that raised $121,000 and earned the Volunteer Unit of the Year Award.


60th Medical Group, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. (AMC)
Home of Record: Los Angeles

Staff Sgt. Steven Peters. Chustine Minoda/USAF

Staff Sergeant Steven Peters demonstrated exceptional bravery and leadership by heading a team in patient recovery while under enemy fire during his deployment in Operation Allies Refuge. His team confronted an incoming attack at the flight line to ensure that nine critically injured service members were stabilized and securely transported to a treatment facility. He also coordinated with the Norwegian Armed Forces and a non-government organization to reunite displaced Afghan children with their families at a Qatar Air Base. Peters completed the rigorous and intensive six-month Paramedic Course at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz.  


Wing TEMPEST Manager
48th Communications Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, U.K. (USAFE-AFA)
Home of Record: Saint Augustine, Fla.

Senior Airman DeMarion Davis dominated his E-5 position for over a year amid a 40 percent personnel shortage. He drove the certification of 54 NATO classified processing sites and expedited the emergency approval for the 336th Fighter Squadron’s operations desk in response to Russian aggression in a matter of four days versus the three-month standard, enabling an additional 496 combat sorties. He was lauded by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander after he converted the enlisted club into a temporary classified area facilitating the nuclear SATAF summit. Additionally, Davis stepped up as the Air Force Ball subcommittee lead and showcased his unrivaled leadership amongst senior enlisted members by steering the $52,000 budget to host a flawless event for 1,000 attendees. Finally, he drove the approval for the wing’s wireless initiative, “Wi-Fi the Wing,” enabling base-wide alternate network capabilities, which saved 2.6 million man-hours per year across the Air Force.


Senior Nuclear Command and Control Emergency Actions Controller
341st Missile Wing Command Post, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. (AFGSC)
Home of Record: Ponce, Puerto Rico

SrA Monica Figueroa Santos, 341st Missile Wing Command Post senior nuclear command and control emergency actions controller, poses for a photo July 26, 2022 at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Figueroa Santos was selected as one of the Air Force 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. It’s the job of Command Post specialists to ensure operations and communications run effectively under any circumstance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mary Bowers) (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out identification badges.)

Senior Airman Monica Figueroa Santos was endorsed for a noncommissioned officer position by the wing commander. She authenticated targeting for 712 sorties and led a four-member team validating the President to launch control center link for a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Nuclear Command, Control, and Communication exercise. She also steered support for six civilian search-and-rescue missions by synchronizing 11 organizations. Her efforts helped save two lives. Figueroa Santos’ subject- matter expertise was recognized during the no-fail Nuclear Surety Inspection by acing a three-hour higher headquarters scenario and exam, yielding zero write-ups and being recognized as a Superior Performer by the Air Force Global Strike Command Inspector General. Finally, her quick thinking enabled her to avert wing mission failure by generating 74 emergency alerts, briefing four organizations and securing $17.1 billion worth of assets spread across a 13,800-mile area of responsibility. 


Fire Protection Journeyman
179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, Mansfield Lahm Airport, Mansfield, Ohio (ANG)
Home of Record: Strongsville, Ohio

Senior Airman Kristina Schneider deployed in support of Operations Spartan Shield and Allies Refuge to assist with the emergency medical response of Afghan refugees. She operated as lead paramedic on an Emergency Response Team, utilizing her knowledge and experience as a full-time civilian paramedic to provide emergency medical care. Schneider personally treated more than 30 critical adult patients and four unconscious children, all exposed to harsh conditions while evacuating Afghanistan. Her emergency response team was a key component to the success of the medical mission that treated and cared for more than 54,000 Afghan refugees in the largest airlift evacuation mission in history.


F-15 Avionics Journeyman
18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 48th Maintenance Group, RAF Lakenheath, U.K. (PACAF)
Home of Record: Columbus, Kan.

Senior Airman Caden Soper showed superior professionalism at his previous duty station through his efforts with the Dorm Council, which was lauded by the command chief master sergeant of the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. His dedication to the council made a positive impact for the Airmen in the community. Additionally, Soper sought to increase his knowledge within his occupational specialty and was noted by leaders for his drive to improve unit-wide physical fitness. He was instrumental in the mentoring and training of Airmen on the diagnostics and repair of 26 F-15 Avionics Systems. He helped generate more than 1,100 sorties, which enabled sustainment of combat capabilities and training for 62 pilots across the 67th Fighter Squadron.


Network Operations Technician
65th Air Base Squadron, Lajes Field, Portugal (Airmen supporting USSF)
Home of Record: Warwick, R.I.

Senior Airman Christopher Thao deployed to the 405th Air Expeditionary Group as a security analyst in support of Operation Allies Welcome. He provided direct support for 9,000 medical evacuations that distributed 175,000 pounds of aid to 70,000 evacuees. Thao was selected to lead a $1.2 million Desktop Infrastructure overhaul where he rebuilt nine servers and 480 workstations. His efforts eliminated weekly network outages and propelled systems’ availability rate to 99 percent for 2,000 personnel, enabling the $71 billion mission for 14 geographically separated units and 15 Special Access Programs within the Space Base Delta 1 Peterson-Schriever Garrison area. As president, Thao revived the Airmen’s Council by organizing mock promotion boards for 10 noncommissioned officers and 13 Airmen, which led to five Below-the-Zone selections and his recognition by the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.