Arizona Airmen Recognized Nationally

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161 ARW Public Affairs
Two Arizona Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing were recently recognized nationally and locally for their excellence.

Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, 161st Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, was awarded the individual National Guard Bureau 2011 Excellence in Diversity Award and Capt. Neal Rodak, 161 ARW Staff Judge Advocate, was named Outstanding Air Reserve Component Judge Advocate of the Year Award (Reginald C. Harmon Award).

The Excellence in Diversity Award recognizes servicemembers who contribute to mission readiness and diversity initiatives that impact the National Guard, state and local community.

"[Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey] clearly demonstrated exemplary leadership in making significant contributions to the advancement of a diverse work force and the promotion, retention and recruitment of areas of under-representation in the military," said Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, Arizona National Guard Adjutant General. "In addition, he has also promoted the tenets of diversity initiatives within Arizona and the local community."

These diversity initiatives include volunteering at Roosevelt School district, Phoenix Union High School District, and South Phoenix Missionary Baptist Church. Through his passion, focus, vision, and proven results he continues to be one of the most sought-after and influential community motivational speakers, role models, and mentors, said Maj. Tim Tucker, State Diversity Coordinator, Arizona Air National Guard.

"Colonel Kirksey continually challenges himself to increase community awareness, and improve mentoring programs by establishing strong ties and bonds with community leaders resulting in enduring relationships; volunteering approximately 100 hundred hours annually," said Major Tucker.

This selfless contribution to the community is shared by many members of the 161 ARW. Captain Rodak was awarded the Outstanding Air Reserve Component Judge Advocate of the Year Award (Reginald C. Harmon Award) for his contributions to mission support; exhibition of leadership in contributing to civic, cultural, or professional activities in the military and civilian community; and enrollment in off-duty programs of professional self-improvement.

Col. Jody Evans, 14th Air Force staff judge advocate, said she was impressed by Captain Rodak's hard work and dedication, setting a tremendous example for the rest of the Air Force.

From August of 2009 through October of 2010, Capt Rodak served at three active duty Air Force Space Command bases. During that time, he was nominated for CGO of the quarter and was recognized during a UCI as a Professional Performer. He is currently serving as acting Staff Judge Advocate at the 161 ARW and has already reviewed over 10 LOD's, completed or advised on six administrative actions, and seen seven legal assistance clients producing 11 legal documents.

Captain Rodak's hard work and positive representation of the Air Force is also shown through his volunteer work. He is an active wrestling official and coach in the state of Arizona; he coached Jacob Clark a 2010 World Team member.

According to his award packet, his commitment to excellence extends not just to the United States Military and the USA wrestling community, but to his civilian job too. As an attorney for the public defender, Captain Rodak represents poor criminal defendants. He was involved in the efforts which lead to establishing a Veterans' Court in Maricopa County and he continues to serve veterans as a criminal defense attorney in a wide variety of ways. Capt Rodak has had many veterans as clients, and has successfully resolved their cases. His efforts have resulted in significantly better plea offers and/or sentences in many cases, and more importantly, often have aligned veterans with benefits and programs that will help ensure they get back on their feet and do not reoffend.

"Having members of the Wing recognized nationally is a positive reflection not only on the individual members, but on the Wing as a whole," said Col. Steven Balser, Commander 161 ARW. "Winning these awards is a testament to their hard work and dedication to the Air Force."