Outstanding Airmen of the Year: Master Sgt. Kade N. Forrester 

The Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022 will be formally recognized at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference from Sept. 19 to 21 in National Harbor, Md. Air Force Magazine is highlighting one each weekday from now until the conference begins. Today, we honor Master Sgt. Kade N. Forrester, the infrastructure flight section chief for the 11th Contracting Squadron at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. 

Forrester successfully led two flights in his squadron to stand up the Air Force’s newest wing and to execute a lead service transfer at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. That leadership transfer, from the Navy to the Air Force, was the first of its kind in Department of Defense history, so he had no rulebooks to play by or predefined procedures to follow. 

“We were writing how this process should go as we went,” Forrester said. “Essentially, every action we took was a benchmark.” 

The Air Force officially took over command of the base Oct. 1, 2020, and was given two years to become fully operationally capable. Forrester’s contracting squadron was brought in to make the transfer possible. The job took creativity and perseverance: Only seven people were on the team, and their office was in a dusty room where, on the first day, they brainstormed how to complete the assignment.  

“I’ll ultimately say the biggest aspect for our success was our commander’s trust. He put that trust in us that day, empowered us to go take action,” Forrester said. “And in return, we had that trust in him. He reassured us, and he went to battle for us a lot of times. He always had our backs.” 

Master Sgt. Kade N. Forrester, left, a contracting specialist who helps prepare, negotiate, and award contracts to qualified vendors as well as evaluate their performances, is pictured at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 22, 2022. Forrester is one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022. Air Force photo by Nicholas Pilch.

Forrester’s responsibilities were to develop quality assurance plans, day-to-day operations, and the base’s Government Purchase Card (GPC). 

“I had a little experience in [GPC],” Forrester said. “So the fact that the commander trusted me with that, that meant a lot to me. So I went above and beyond trying to figure out the program.” 

“Above and beyond” is exactly what he did. Forrester’s acumen was exemplified when he launched a $111 million Simplified Acquisition Base Engineer Requirements (SABER) program. By finding creative solutions to source products and contractors, Forrester’s SABER plan slashed acquisition timelines by 70 percent on 24 highly visible projects and saved more than 1,000 labor hours across the wing. The plan was critical for getting the base to FOC by 2022. 

After the transfer was complete, Forrester’s credibility was recognized by the career field manager who selected him for executive leadership development to shape the future of the contracting workforce in the Air Force. His leadership and innovation also earned him 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. 

Forrester said that his upbringing and family culture have played a vital role in preparing him to operate on an “above and beyond” level. 

“Being raised in Jamaica, [I was] raised with a strong sense of pride,” he said. “[We view each action] as reflective of our culture. So you never want to fail.” 

But the reason Forrester is still in the Air Force at all traces back to a senior airman, Christina Lewis, who taught him early in his career that “it’s your job to take care of others.”  

“She took time to invest in me,” he said. “Since that day, I’ve been trying to pay back tenfold what she did for me, and I’ve made it my motto: Take care of folks.” 

Forrester is currently on assignment at the Naval Postgraduate School pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and contracts and acquisitions. 

Meet the other Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 2022 below: