12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. Left to right: Senior Master Sgt. Justin Cruz; Tech Sgt. Kimberly Mastrocola; Senior Master Sgt. Sedrick Evans; Tech Sgt. Theodore Sesibe; Master Sgt. Michael Galindo; Staff Sgt. Dhruva Poluru; Tech Sgt. Jennel Edwards; Senior Airman Ryan Hospelhorn; Tech Sgt. Michelle Fernandez; Tech Sgt. Micaela Mahan; Senior Airman Kostiantyn Khymchenko; Senior Airman Jacob Tawasha.
Photo Caption & Credits

Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Aug. 31, 2023

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.


Superintendent, Operations Flight
21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Space Base Delta 1, Peterson SFB, Colo., SpOC (Airmen supporting Space Force)
Home of Record: Vilonia, Ark.

Senior Master Sgt. Justin Cruz. Senior Airman Brooke Wise/USSF

Cruz showcased leadership skills by overseeing his base’s largest flight. He executed a $7.6 million budget and 18 service contracts to sustain over 1,000 acres and 205 facilities valued at $2 billion. While deployed in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield, Cruz led a 25 joint-member team to reconstitute bare-base assets and provide reliable power for 340 new living quarters. Additionally, he and his team created an innovative corrosion-control solution for the command’s sole Battle Airborne Communications Node aircraft. His leadership drove a $3 million project to construct the site for the first Air Force owned “Coyote” weapon system, which helped protect six weapon system platforms valued at over $200 million against unmanned aerial attacks.


PACAF Enlisted International Affairs Manager
Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, A5/8 Directorate of Strategy, Plans, Programs and Requirements (PACAF)
Home of Record: Dallas

Senior Master Sgt. Sedrick Evans. Master Sgt. Gena Armstrong

Evans led Pacific Air Forces enlisted Air and Space Security Cooperation strategy for 36 nations. As an enlisted international strategist, he secured allocations and $20,000 in funding for two language-enabled Airmen to attend Taiwan’s Senior NCO Academy, cemented as the first time in U.S. and Taiwan relations history. He also devised an enlisted charter which inked 13 nations to increase regional institutional collaboration. Furthermore, Evans served as a panelist at Sri Lanka’s National Defense Conference, where he teamed with eight DOD entities to discuss “Impact of the NCO” to 147 enlisted service members. He forged the first-ever Professional Military Education (PME) exchange in Philippines Air Force history, programming a leadership development week for 40 sergeant majors taught by two Senior NCO academy instructors to culminate a two-year planning effort.


Chief, Weapons and Tactics
502nd Security Forces Group, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas (AETC)
Home of Record: San Antonio

Master Sgt. Michael A. Galindo. Kerry Archam/courtesy photo

Galindo’s leadership as the Senior Enlisted Leader for the 324th Training Squadron resulted in the successful graduation of 328 Air Force and Guardian flights. His interim role as a Security Forces Squadron Senior Enlisted Leader was equally commendable, overseeing the safety and security of 660,000 visitors during five base events, including the largest air show in Texas history. His leadership skills were critical in leading two flights of 161 Airmen and Soldiers through 338 criminal responses, the largest law enforcement mission in the Air Force. He integrated the local school district into active-shooter training and operationalized AETC’s first installation self-entry gate at Army North Command. Galindo established the first law enforcement-focused Weapons and Tactics Section with advanced technologies.


Security Forces Evaluator
91st Security Forces Group, Minot AFB, N.D. (AFGSC)
Home of Record: Ohio

Tech. Sgt. Jennel Edwards. Airman 1st Class Kyle Wilson

Edwards is responsible for conducting evaluations for security forces members across four squadrons. During the award period, she filled the flight chief vacancy for seven months while leading 100 missile maintenance taskings and three camper alert teams, enabling Minuteman III fleet code changes. As one of the Air Force Global Strike Command’s top tactical radio experts, she built a contingency plan outlining a framework of beyond-line-of-site capabilities for 20th Air Force that evolved into a $1.9 million upgrade to mitigate a 60-year gap in missile field communications. Edwards also completed 65 credit hours toward a master’s degree in social work, while simultaneously mentoring and inspiring fellow Airmen.


NCOIC, Marine Patrol Unit
6th Security Forces Squadron, MacDill AFB, Fla. (AMC)
Home of Record: MacDill AFB, Fla.

Tech Sgt. Michelle Fernandez. Senior Airman Joshua Hastings

After four years as a Master Military Training Instructor, Fernandez arrived at MacDill Air Force Base and immediately embedded herself into security operations by stepping into the role of Security Forces Flight Sergeant. She directed 27 Airmen during a USSTRATCOM Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercise, earning 12 accolades for the 6th Air Refueling Wing. She was selected to lead the Air Force’s sole 24/7 Marine Patrol Section responsible for securing MacDill’s 7.2-mile-long coastal restricted area. Under her guidance, her team orchestrated MacDill’s first-ever Operation Neptune Storm, a multijurisdictional show of force comprised of 17 vessels from federal, state, and local maritime law enforcement agencies displaying rapid response and attack capabilities utilized to secure Florida’s western peninsula. Fernandez led her team through five drug and immigration-related vessel seizures, capturing 27 criminals and saving two lives on a distressed vessel response.


NCOIC, Military Justice
7th Air Force, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea (AFMC)
Home of Record: Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Tech Sgt Micaela Mahan. USAF

Mahan led a nine-member team that oversaw 65 criminal cases, 15 courts-martial, 266 adverse and administrative actions, and 18 discharges for the fourth largest legal office in the Air Force, serving three wings and a major command. As the acting superintendent, she improved the office budget by 77 percent, enabling the purchase of $64,000 in IT equipment. She was also the Wing Staff Agencies’ additional duty First Sergeant where she provided support for 190 personnel across 17 units. Mahan earned the Paralegal Craftsman Course Top Graduate Award, and NCO Academy’s Distinguished Graduate and Commandant’s Award, all while completing her bachelor’s degree in Investigative Forensics with honors.


Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Wing Project Integration
1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla. (AFSOC)
Home of Record: Camillus, N.Y.

Tech Sgt Kimberly Mastrocola. USAF

Mastrocola directed project integration where she pioneered the first-ever U-28 water egress simulator, engineered a C-130J inspection tool, and chaired a safety working group for 1,400 aircraft maintainers. While commanding several innovation efforts, she impacted 3,000 Airmen by completing 11 major projects and serving as a community leader for Women in STEM, ultimately earning the Wing’s Lance P. Sijan Award for leadership. Mastrocola also served as the lead project officer for three data science events under the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s Strategic Studies Group, directly resulting in 39 immediately deployable solutions for DOD. She also excelled academically by completing a Master of Science in Aeronautics before going on to pursue a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering and directly honing learned skills in operational environments.


Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the Electrical Systems Section
316th Civil Engineer Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, Md. (AFDW)
Home of Record: Clinton, Md.

Tech Sgt. Theodore Sebsibe. Tech Sgt. Devin Boyer

Sebsibe leads two sections and 35 engineers, and is responsible for directing continuous maintenance and upgrades for the electrical distribution system supporting 512 facilities worth $5.6 billion and 26,000 personnel, which earned him a coin from the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman. He also serves as the Commander’s Inspection Program administrator—where he leads 12 Air Force Specialty Codes, 456 engineers, and 955 items which was key to achieving a 97 percent compliance rate and receiving the Inspector General Recognition as Superior Performer during the 2022 Unit Effectiveness Inspection. He was the command team’s first choice to fill in for 60 days as the Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant, supporting a 504-person squadron, executing 5 PME seminars, advising the squadron commander through 24 administrative actions, and resolving 26 family advocacy cases.


Mission Planner and Strategist
222nd Command and Control Squadron, Rome, N.Y. (ANG)
Home of Record: Herndon, Va.

Senior Airman Dhruva Poluru. 1st Lt. Jason Carr/ANG

Poluru is the first Air National Guard member to achieve certification and serve as a Joint Task Force, Space Defense Commercial Operations Mission Director, collaborating crowd-sourced satellite telemetry-tracking data and providing Indications and Warning tippers to domestic and allied mission partners. These allies were also mentored in the U.S. Space Command GLOBAL SENTINEL exercise by integrating the New York State Partnership Program with Space Operations through hands-on satellite cataloging and tracking instruction. He was also entrusted to complete the test and checkout of a $55 million suite of electronic warfare equipment that produced the operational verification of a counter communication system upgrade, impacting five Air National Guard Squadrons as well as a number of deployed Space Force units in EUCOM and AFRICOM.


Flight Security Controller
841st Missile Security Forces Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Mont.(USAFE-AFA)
Home of Record: Norman, Ill.

Senior Airman Ryan G. Hospelhorn. USAF

Hospelhorn launched the small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) program at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. He authored three instructions, secured multiple host nation and wing approvals, and developed shared airspace between manned and unmanned aircraft to enable 12,000 sorties. Over seven months, he led a six-person team to test a hunter-seeker drone in conjunction with the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Hospelhorn authored and taught a two-month certification process to integrate 10 sUAS pilots into operations to provide a first-time capability to the wing. He managed a $350,000 technology acquisition and upgrade to enable real-time command and control of 47 patrols and nonkinetic emergency response capability for a 40-kilometer AOR. He was selected for a fellowship with AFWERX, where he laid the groundwork for the Air Force’s efforts in drone swarming defense.


HVAC Journeyman
633rd Civil Engineer Squadron (ACC)
Home of Record: Langley AFB, Va.

Senior Airman Kostiantyn Khymchenko. USAF

Khymchenko was selected for deployment to Germany in support of Operation ATLAS GUARDIAN and awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal. He led eight translators in 50 multinational teleconferences and advised four general officers on partner-nation air defense. He translated over 30 tactical maps and transmissions from Russia, intel which provided Ukraine with the location of over 400 sites and 1,500 real-time missile launch alerts. His actions increased the survivability of 40 aircraft, $2 billion in assets, and 8 million lives. For his efforts, Khymchenko was presented the Ukraine Support Medal by the Ukrainian Minister of Defense and coined by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and Secretary of the Air Force. He was also named wing Airman of the Quarter for the second quarter of 2022 for his role in leading 12 engineers to complete 742 jobs and 36 emergencies, including the protection of a $10 million ISR server farm at Langley Air Force Base, Va., earning himself a COMACC (Commander of Air Combat Command) coin.


Fire Team Leader
349th Security Forces Squadron, Travis AFB, Calif. (AFRC)
Home of Record: Travis AFB, Calif.

Senior Airman Jacob Tawasha. USAF

Tawasha deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, during which he worked as part of a team securing over 50 combat aircraft valued at over $6 billion. During his deployment, he used his language skills to remove border crossing issues for 11 convoys to seamlessly cross international borders. He was selected for Exercise Agile Lion to provide security, enabling the safeguarding of over 100 personnel and protection of over $2 billion in Air Force assets. Tawasha also volunteered 28 hours to teach Arabic and English to 41 Jordanian, German, and U.S. personnel at an undisclosed location, which directly improved wing interoperability and the partnership between coalition forces. Across 25 assignments and patrols, Tawasha was recognized by the Company Grade Officer Council’s “Above the Bar Award,” the First Sergeant Council’s “Diamond Sharp Award,” and was a two-time “Defender of the Month.”