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 8.

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

Distinguished visitors, fellow wing Airmen and their families recognized the unit's Outstanding Airmen of the Year, Airmen who deployed in the last year and associate's degree recipients from the Community College of the Air Force. Also recognized, were Airmen who received the federal Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Medal.

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:  Maj. Gilbert Besana, Lt. Col. Christopher Parot, Col. Hoyt Slocum, Lt. Col. Darcy Swaim and Master Sgt. Jonathan Weiss.

The following Airmen earned the Air Medal - awarded to service members for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight during combat or in support of operations.

The medal was awarded to the following service members: Master Sgt. Leonard Falcone, Capt. Jason Keltner and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Myers.

The following Airmen earned the Air Force Commendation Medal for sustained meritorious service: Tech. Sgt. Kirk Anderson and Staff Sgt. David Carter.

The following Airmen earned the Air Force Achievement Medal for outstanding achievement or meritorious service rendered on behalf of the Air Force: Staff Sgt. William Alsabrook, Airman 1st Class Derek Carbajal, Airman 1st Class Justin Lewis, Staff Sgt. Magdalena Marquez, Master Sgt. Shawn Muir and Master Sgt. Gary Nicholas.

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 is Airman 1st class Justin Klosterman, 161st Security Forces Squadron.

This year's Outstanding Noncommisioned Officer of the Year is Tech. Sgt. Cherry Ayulo, 161st Comptroller Flight.

This year's Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year is Master Sgt. James Swanson, 161 SFS.

This year's Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year is Master Sgt. Gregg Bacome, 161st Civil Engineer Squadron.

This year's recipient of the Wing Command Chief award is Staff Sgt. David Griffin, 161 SFS.

This year's recipient of the Maj. Gen. Donald L. Owens Junior Officer Award for Excellence is Capt. Simon Amavisca, 161 CES.

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. Rachel Landegent, the mission support group first sergeant.

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 is Master Sgt. Julian Belvins, 161st Maintenance Squadron.

The Copper 5 award is present 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 are Lt. Col. Dean Owen, aircraft commander; 1st Lt. William Johnson, copilot; and Staff Sgt. Chelsey Rios, 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 are Master Sgt. Steven Plotner and Maj. Cheryll Shewbert.

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 Michelle Donati-Grayman.

The following service members received their Community College of the Air Force Associate degrees: Master Sgt. Martin Aldecoa, Chief Master Sgt. Kristin Bronson, Staff Sgt. Rene Constante, Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos, Staff Sgt. Roberta Farris, Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Garrity, Master Sgt. Colleen Grayman, Master Sgt. Tony Graziani, Senior Airman Torre Jackson, Staff Sgt. Chris Konchalski, Staff Sgt. Sonny Madrid, Tech. Sgt. Nola Marum, Senior Master Sgt. Lawrence Naranjo, Master Sgt. June Nicholas, Staff Sgt. Tressa Planeta, Master Sgt. David  Rawcliffe, Master Sgt. Daniel Sharayko, Staff Sgt. Dustin Shideler, Tech. Sgt. Leon Steptore, Senior Master Sgt. Kindra Sweet, Staff Sgt. Gary Traylor and Tech. Sgt. Stephen Wright.

Members of the wing's Combat Rifle Team were recognized for representing the state of Arizona, nationally, as part of a composite Air and Army National Guard team. They took 3rd place honors at the Winston P. Wilson National Championships. Master Sgt. Erickson was named to the Chief's 50 and earned the Distinguished Rifleman Award.

At the end of the ceremony, the Airmen who deployed since the last awards ceremony were honored.

Maxwell , speaking to the honorees and to entire wing, said, "Today we have the opportunity to recognize Airmen who excelled, but they couldn't have done it without all of you. We are a team as well as a profession. You put your hand up and volunteered to go and serve and do everything you were asked to do - it's the standard that the [wing] sets. It has been a great year for the Airmen of the [wing] and you have worked incredibly hard to make it happen."