Awards ceremony honors Arizona Guard members

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 161st Air Refueling Wing held its annual awards ceremony here Sunday, March 6.

The ceremony recognized the contributions of Arizona Air National Guard members to the state and nation. Maj. Gen. Edward Maxwell, commander of the Arizona Air National Guard, presided over the ceremony.

Distinguished visitors and 161 ARW Airmen filled the hanger to capacity. Also in attendance were many of the Airmen's family members and friends - supporting the Airmen as well as anticipating Family Day, which followed the ceremony. Maxwell said this is what makes the unit distinctive.

"Something unique about the 161st is the way the awards ceremony is part of your family day - and that sends a message," he said. "You're a community. You're a family. By having this ceremony as part of Family Day shows that you really believe that these achievements could not occur if it wasn't for all the support you get from your family. And that family is embedded in this Wing, it's embedded in each unit, it's embedded in your leaders and in everyone who is here today; and we can't serve without that support. This day is important to the 161st. It's a reminder that we are one family, one team, one Wing, one Air National Guard, and ultimately one Air Force."

The audience recognized the unit's Outstanding Airmen of the Year, as well as Airmen who received the federal Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and various other unit awards. Plaques were also presented for the Outstanding Support Performer Award, Hugh P. Kelly Memorial Award, Copper 5 Outstanding Aircrew Award, Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough Memorial Award, Maj. Truman Young Memorial Award and Family Readiness Volunteer Award.

The following Airmen earned the federal Meritorious Service Medal - given for leadership, foresight and superior efforts that resulted in significant contributions to the effectiveness and success of the wing and the Arizona Air National Guard:  Col. David Ciesielski, Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, Lt. Col. Gilbert Besana, Lt. Col. Christopher Parot, Lt. Col. Darcy Swaim, Maj. Maegan Hughes, Capt. Cassandra McCloud, Master Sgt. Rachel Landegent and Master Sgt. Stephen Mason.

The following Airmen earned the Air Force Commendation Medal for sustained meritorious service: Capt. Christopher Ramage, Chief Master Sgt. Gary Lovgren, Senior Master Sgt. Deandre Conley, Master Sgt. Michael Strickland, Tech. Sgt. David Carter, Master Sgt. Andrew Taylor, Staff Sgt. Jami Hanson and Senior Airman Kimberly Hendryx.

The Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal was awarded to a service member who performed outstanding volunteer community service of a sustained, direct and consequential nature.

This year's recipient was Staff Sgt. Chad Layton.

The award for the Outstanding Airman of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year are based on duty performance, self-improvement, the impact of their positive leadership, and their involvement within the military and their community.

This year's Outstanding Airman of the Year was Airman 1st Class Michael Riley, 161st Security Forces Squadron.

This year's Outstanding Noncommisioned Officer of the Year was Tech. Sgt. Peter Sulista, 161 SFS.

This year's Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year was Master Sgt. Gary Wagoner, 161st Maintenance Group.

This year's Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year was Master Sgt. Rachel Landegent, 161 ARW 1st Sgt.

This year's recipient of the Wing Command Chief award was Senior Airman Cameron Payne, 161 MXS.

This year's recipient of the Maj. Gen. Donald L. Owens Junior Officer Award for Excellence was Capt. William "Brodie" Johnson, 161st Operations Group.

The Outstanding Support Performer Award is presented to a member of the 161st Support Group who exemplifies the highest standards. 

This year's award was presented to Master Sgt. Liz Henion.

In addition, the Hugh P. Kelly Memorial Award and the Copper 5 Award were awarded.

The Hugh P. Kelly Memorial Award is presented to a maintenance professional that has shown their dedication and professional skills as a contributing factor to the wing's success. It was established as a memorial to Lt. Hugh P. Kelly who died in and aircraft accident on Memorial Day, 1954.

This year's recipient was Tech. Sgt. Jason Stephens, 161st Maintenance Squadron.

The Copper 5 award is presented to the aircrew members who have best represented the wing though their professional skills and leadership. The award is presented in memoriam of four 161st Air Refueling Group service members who lost their lives in 1982, while flying a KC-135 Stratotanker - call sign Copper 5.

This year's recipients were Maj. Mikael Dubois, aircraft commander; Capt. Nathan Preston, copilot; and Master Sgt. Tony Graziani, boom operator.

Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough and Maj. Truman Young were Copper 5 crew members. Awards are presented each year bearing their namesakes, which pay tribute to their service and sacrifice. The awards are presented to an enlisted member and an officer, both of whom have exhibited exceptional duty performance, military bearing, esprit de corps, mentorship, dedication to the mission, loyalty and devotion to country, and extraordinary community involvement.

This year's winners were Master Sgt. Jesse Bautista and Lt. Col. Denise Sweeney.

The Arizona National Guard Public Affairs Excellence Award recognizes excellence and professionalism in the print, graphics, photography and broadcast fields. Individuals receive awards for outstanding achievements in furthering National Guard, Air Force, Army and Department of Defense communication objectives.

One of this year's award winning broadcaster's was Staff Sgt. Anthony Reynolds, 161 ARW Public Affairs.

The wing recognized the efforts of recruiting and retention team, Master Sgt. Greg Johnson, Master Sgt. James Wright, Tech. Sgt Jimmy Sanchez and Tech. Sgt. Jeff Lowe by presenting them with the Patriot Team award.

The wing also recognized a civilian who volunteered countless hours to assist unit members and their families. This service is especially critical and appreciated when members are called to serve in distant locations.

This year the wing recognized Cathy Angst.

Col. Troy Daniels, 161 ARW commander, briefed the audience of the Wing's accomplishments from the previous year. He said the Wing flew more than 1,000 sorties - translating to more than 5,000 flying hours. During these sorties more than 15.5 million pounds of fuel was off loaded to more than 1,700 receivers. Also, 137 Airmen were deployed to various locations worldwide.

"Being a part of the 161st is truly being a part of greatness," said Daniels. "We're here to recognize some special people who have accomplished exceptional achievements throughout the year. They've earned and they deserve their awards. Congratulations to all of you and thank you to our entire wing and to everyone that supported us. I'm looking forward to having another great year."