Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Nov. 27, 2018

Photos by USAF

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

The program debuted at the Air Force Asso­ciation’s 10th annual National Convention in 1956.

The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and the command chief master sergeants from each USAF major command comprise the selection board, with the Air Force Chief of Staff reviewing their selections.

The 12 selectees are awarded the Outstanding Airman of the Year ribbon with the bronze service star device and wear the Outstanding Airman badge for one year.

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1N0 Air Force Specialty Code Manager

497th Operations Support Squadron (Air Combat Command)

JB Langley-Eustis, Va.

Home of Record: Catskill, N.Y.

SMSgt. Melissa A. Beam was the distributed ground system-1 analysis and reporting team flight chief at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., where she led a team of 134 officers, enlisted members, civilians, and contractors responsible for delivering 24-hour, time-dominant intelligence fusion and target-discovery capabilities to five combatant commanders in direct support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Her team of airmen was instrumental in the freeing of 4.5 million Iraqi citizens and six cities from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) control. They tasked intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to erase more than 100 remotely piloted aircraft and 19 improvised explosive device networks and eliminated more than 225 ISIS oil fields, ultimately saving 138,000 coalition forces lives.

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Superintendent, Operations and Compliance Management

2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron (Air Force Global Strike Command)Barksdale AFB, La.

Home of Record: Brinkley, Ariz.

SMSgt. Ruth C. Griffin led 391 military and civilian personnel to success in optimizing fuels capabilities by eliminating biodiesel fuel for 284 vehicles. These actions saved two organizations 724 man-hours and earned her unit the 1 percent Government Green Fleet Award. Additionally, she championed the wing’s Hurricane Evacuation Receptions, ensuring the beddown of 550 personnel across 10 wings, and powered an 85,000-gallon refueling operation in support of 176 aircraft. The team’s actions afforded protection of $6 billion in United States Air Force assets. Her team also garnered 11 higher headquarter and wing awards and earned five Below the Zone stripes. Finally, the major command functional manager chose Griffin to provide expertise and shape future career field requirements. She led nine subject-matter experts and modified 52 manpower-process orientation descriptions.

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KC-10 Boom Operator Superintendent

6th Air Refueling Squadron (Air Mobility Command)Travis AFB, Calif.

Home of Record: El Paso, Texas

SMSgt. Lucero Stockett has been instrumental as the KC-10 boom operator superintendent. During this period, she oversaw the supervision of 32 boom operators, managing 17,500 days of personnel on temporary duty on over 2,100 mission and 26 Central Command deployment taskings that supported over 3,000 receivers and 1,000 strikes. She won two national-level awards for her leadership and community involvement: the National LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award and the National Image Meritorious Service Award. Additionally, she was awarded the Robert “Dutch” Huyser Award for her leadership and professional acumen as a career enlisted aviator. She also garnered the John L. Levitow and Distinguished Graduate Awards at the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

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NCOIC, Engineering Flight

433rd Civil Engineer Squadron (Air Force Reserve Command)

JBSA-Lackland, Texas

Home of Record: Schertz, Texas

MSgt. Kit C. Lui, noncommissioned officer in charge and engineer craftsman, directed and performed civil engineering design, drafting, surveying, and contract surveillance to support Air Force facility construction and maintenance programs. Lui utilized surveying technology to include global positioning systems to evaluate potential construction sites and airfields. He supported various military campaigns: Operations Inherent Resolve, Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, Freedom’s Sentinel, and Resolute Support. He forward deployed to numerous countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and Syria and undisclosed locations in support of joint operations and contingencies. Prior to assuming his current position, he served as the NCOIC, airfield pavement evaluation and expeditionary geoBase manager, Southwest Asia.

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Control Tower Chief Controller

14th Operations Support Squadron (Air Education and Training Command)Columbus AFB, Miss.

Home of Record: Milwaukee

MSgt. Joshua A. Matias led 28 airmen and civilians in support of AETC’s No. 1 flying hour program, generating 65,000 sorties and producing 453 Air Force pilots. His efforts enabled 394 position certifications and 22 skill-level upgrades in 54 percent of the allotted time. As squadron superintendent while deployed to Southwest Asia, he led 135 warfighters from 13 Air Force specialty codes and 17 bases worldwide in the execution of eight major combat operations. His team generated 56,000 operations and 7,000 intelligence and weather products supporting the Combined Joint Task Force with the liberation of 500,000 civilians in the city of Mosul, leading to the elimination of 5,000 ISIS enemy combatants. As deployed tower chief controller, Matias’ team partnered with 100 host nation air traffic controllers. Their partnership supported eight weapons systems, 23,000 combat missions, 40,000 flight hours, and the delivery of 194 million pounds of fuel.

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AC-130U Evaluator Special Missions Aviator/Flight NCOIC

4th Special Operations Squadron (Air Force Special Operations Command) Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Home of Record: McLeansboro, Ill.

TSgt. Brett M. Laswell was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts in Afghanistan, after 10 hours of CAS, expending two combat loads of ammunition, killing 32 enemies, and destroying 23 buildings. He led a five-person gun crew during Southern Command’s largest CAS exercise, flying 21 hours, readying 400 Special Operations Forces personnel for AC-130U employment and was selected for evaluator upgrade. As special missions aviator instructor, he executed 23 sorties and 105 flight hours, instructing lead gun, instructor, and evaluator training, directing 22 special missions aviators for next-level certification and qualifications. He completed five college classes, 40-hour senior enlisted Joint Professional Military Education, and JSOU CEP-1 PME with a stellar 4.0 GPA, earning two CCAF degrees in aviation operations and maintenance technology. Additionally, he was selected for a Smithsonian Channel film, where he provided aircrew reenactments, stamping AFSOC’s AC-130U aircraft into the history books.

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Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Personnel and Readiness

48th Contracting Squadron (USAFE-AFAFRICA) RAF Lakenheath, England

Home of Record: Columbus, Ohio

TSgt. David E. Miller was instrumental in leading the 48th Contracting Contingency Support cell by providing expert oversight onto 18 of the wing’s deployment and exercise operations, increasing combat mission readiness for eight nations across three combatant commands, while supporting $3 million worth of life-saving requirements. Miller served as project officer for three multinational operations, coordinating emergency logistics for 275 members in less than three days. He also served as the subject-matter expert for emergency operations, which led to the elimination of 14 response vulnerabilities connected to eight real-world disasters, thereby increasing emergency capabilities by 35 percent over three wings. He further led contracting operations for multiple deployments in Spain and France, thereby staging over $2 million of base support services while bolstering operations for more than 700 AFRICOM sorties.

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Flight Chief/Security Forces Craftsman

30th Security Forces Squadron (Air Force Space Command)Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Home of Record: Minneapolis

TSgt. April A. Spilde was instrumental to the Total Force success of the 58th Presidential Inauguration, dedicating 80 hours training 90 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve airmen as ceremonial Guardsmen with the USAF Honor Guard. Spilde led a three-person mobile training team to the 156th Airlift Wing at Muñiz ANGB, Puerto Rico, and established a fully funded base Honor Guard program, including a budget increase of $10,000. As a security forces flight chief, she led 135 airmen, securing $10.2 billion in space-launch assets, and managed the flight schedule, logistics, and daily police operations, defending 999 family houses, 2,100 facilities, and 15,000 personnel across a 99,000-acre installation. Spilde masterfully completed nine college classes and graduated cum laude, earning her bachelor’s degree in english. She graduated from the NCO Academy and was the recipient of the John L. Levitow Leadership Award.

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Advanced Scientific and Technical Intelligence (S&TI) Analyst

National Air and Space Intelligence Center (Air Force Materiel Command)Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

Home of Record: Traverse City, Mich.

SSgt. Elizabeth G. Caulfield led a four-member deployment team for a total of 60 days supporting Combat Sent operations across two separate geographic areas of responsibility, while successfully processing 23 missions encompassing 235 signals. She conducted 22 deployed aircrew debriefs and provided feedback which fixed shortfalls and refined identification by 35 percent. She authored seven engineer-level reports, highlighting key enemy weapons systems vulnerabilities which revised US operations plans with emerging threat data. She aced four college courses achieving a 3.8 GPA, earning her bachelor’s degree in organizational psychology. Additionally she discovered an upgrade to an advanced weapons system enhancing a Department of Defense high-priority intelligence effort, fusing vital data with fighter/bomber development.

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Airfield Systems Journeyman

202d Engineering Installation Squadron (Air National Guard)Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Home of Record: Douglasville, Ga.

SSgt. Wilson B. Gardner enhanced data processing and network security at 20 sensitive compartmented information facility sites and fabricated 30,000 feet of fiber-optic cable, which resulted in installation cost savings of $25,000. He created an in-house, high-reliability soldering course, training 25 members on a critical high-tech skill. Gardner was voluntarily activated three times for more than 400 days in support of a C4IT construction project with United States Strategic Command, Offutt AFB, Neb. He installed 216 communication racks and 18 telephone closets, fitted 5,000 J-hooks, and 37 multi-user telecommunications outlet assemblies, directly resulting in savings of over $200 million and increasing C4ISR capabilities by more than 200 percent. Additionally, he provided support to three sites in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, enhancing network reliability and reducing maintenance requirements by 25 percent.

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Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Journeyman

775th Civil Engineer Squadron (Air Force Materiel Command)Hill Air Force Base, Utah

Home of Record: Sarasota, Fla.

SrA. Patrick O. P. Schilling filled a crucial capabilities gap for the 775th EOD Flight when he stepped up to fill the role of munitions account manager for the Air Force’s largest custodial account during his supervisor’s absence; coordinating 40,000 items worth $554,000. During operations, he destroyed seven intercontinental ballistic missile motors, saving the US Navy $6 million in storage and maintenance costs, fulfilled international relations agreements between the US and Russia, in turn earning him AFMC’s nomination for Enlisted Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Additionally, while Schilling was administering a physical training test, he saved another airman’s life by being the first to respond to a medical emergency. He partnered with the US Secret Service during the Presidential Inauguration, where he cleared 112 acres, five vans, and four packages of explosive hazards, ensuring the safety of the president and 800,000 personnel.

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Client Systems Technician

644th Combat Communications Squadron (Pacific Air Forces)Andersen AFB, Guam

Home of Record: Agana Heights, Guam

SrA. Jon R. Taitano was a combat communicator and client systems technician assigned to the 644th CCS, 36th Contingency Response Group, 36th Wing, Andersen AFB, Guam. He maintained and troubleshot classified and unclassified communication systems in direct support of 3,000 deployed users, as well as theater deployed systems for a broad range of military missions, such as President of the United States support, contingency operations, agile combat employment, and humanitarian assistance operations for Pacific Air Force’s only combat-rated communications squadron. In addition, he assisted with maintaining operational readiness within the 36th CRG by certifying personnel in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and self-aid buddy care.