Tempe Chamber of Commerce honors two Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The Tempe Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee recognized two 161st Air Refueling Wing members during a ceremony here Oct. 11, 2017.

Staff Sgt. Gregory Laffrey, 161st Communications Flight, client system journeyman, was named as the Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough award recipient and Lt. Col. Dean Owen, 197th Air Refueling Squadron commander, received the Maj. Truman Young award.

Referred to as the "Plough and Young Awards," the Tempe Military Affairs Committee recognizes one outstanding enlisted member and one outstanding officer in memory of the award's namesakes. The award was established to honor Maj. Truman Young, a pilot, and Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough, a boom operator, who were killed when their KC-135, call sign Copper 5, was hit in a mid-air collision and crashed on March 13, 1982.

The Tempe MAC was formed more than 30 years ago to honor military members of Arizona Guard and Reserve. Each month, the Tempe MAC conducts luncheons to present awards to outstanding officers and enlisted personnel selected by their units.

Returning to the Wing as a distinguished graduate from technical school, Laffrey immediately began to compile a long list of accomplishments. These accomplishments include: revising the Wing’s Distributed Client Systems Technician training plan, reducing client trouble tickets by 50 percent and providing information technology support for more than 900 users and more than 3,000 networked devices. He also continued to pursue a bachelor’s degree in information technology; maintaining a 3.6 GPA.

“This award is a great way to honor for Staff Sgt. Laffrey - he is an unsung hero,” said Col. David Ciesielski, 161st Force Support Squadron commander. “He provided essential support for a recent Operational Readiness Inspection and he also deployed to Guam. He’s a go getter and makes things happen; there’s nothing he won’t do for you. He’s an outstanding American, congratulations.”

Laffrey said winning the award is an honor and he tries to do the best job he can every day.

“I’ve never regretted a day in the military and have also never regretted being in the Guard,” he said.

As the 197 ARS commander, Owen’s sortie count was among the highest in the squadron. He organized, led and hosted flying missions for numerous national exercises. He also deployed to Guam, providing important deterrence sorties. His crews are rated as the most ready of any wing in Air National Guard in deterrence missions. He also led a perfect execution of more than 3,600 hours of annual flying, with 19 KC-135 Stratotanker crews trained, current and ready for their nations call.

“Lt. Col. Owen is the quintessential citizen Airman,” said Col. Patrick Donaldson, 161st Operations Group commander. “He’s a pilot, a rancher and about the hardest working guy I know. He has all those things that you really can’t teach, such as honesty, integrity and a strong work ethic. When you read about Truman Young, and the exceptional man he was, that’s exactly the kind of guy Lt. Col. Owen is. I’m real proud to present this award to him.”

Lt. Col. Owen said the first thing he felt when he was told he was being nominated for the Maj. Truman Young award was humility.

“To be considered alongside the [Airmen] who have gotten the award in the past and with the individual himself - the sacrifice he made – it is truly humbling,” said Owen.

Col. Troy Daniels, 161 ARW commander, thanked the Tempe Chamber of Commerce for taking the time to recognize the award winners.

“These are both fantastic Airmen and are well deserving of these awards,” he said. “It does take an entire team, but these two really stand out and absolutely deserve the recognition.”


Criteria for Maj. Truman Young and Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough Memorial Awards:

 - Individuals nominated will have exhibited exceptional duty performance and military bearing.

 - The individual will foster esprit de corps through teambuilding, motivating and mentoring others.

 - Total dedication to the mission will be their hallmark.

 - Individuals will bear loyalty and devotion to country and completely embody the U.S. Air Force Core Values.

 - Consideration will be given to individuals whose consistent and sustained performance exceeds minimum standards.

 - Community involvement will also be considered since a valued trait of the Citizen Airmen is support of their community.

 - Individuals must portray a positive military image and always uphold Air Force and Air National Guard values, policies, standards and traditions.