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Patriotic Article
Troops and Veterans
By Janie Santos

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Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Year Highlighted
(July 22, 2009)

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San Antonio, TX (7/15/2009 - AFNS)  The 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year are selected based on superior leadership, job performance, significant self-improvement/ personal achievements and base/community involvement. The Air Force Chief of Staff reviews the selections. The selections for the 2009 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year were announced July 2 by Air Force officials at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Less than one percent of the enlisted force is chosen.  An Air Force selection board at the Air Force Personnel Center considered nominees who represented major commands, direct reporting units, field operating agencies and Air Staff agencies to select the 12. The chief master sergeant of the Air Force, a general officer and selected major command chiefs formed the selection board.

The winners and some of their achievements are:
Staff Sgt. Johanna Aviles, a network operations technician assigned to the West Coast Communications Support Element at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., monitored homeland unmanned aircraft system missions during the California wildfires where more than 72 fires were identified and contained. She also resolved an imagery system outage that averted a mission cancellation and provided real-time situational awareness to the field.

Sergeant Aviles oversaw a $725,000 network upgrade and led a 12-member installation team which doubled the MQ-1 Predator's armed reconnaissance and interdiction missions. She volunteers with the Special Olympics and at the Trauma Intervention Program, helping families cope with death and trauma.

 Staff Sgt. Johanna Aviles
Senior Master Sgt. Mary Bechdel, a former intelligence operations superintendent with the 13th Intelligence Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif., managed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imaging for six combatant commands by leading 380 Airman in 24/7 operations using the Distributed Common Ground System-2. The operations were a key to the success of 1,100 ground operations, 448 special operations forces raids or strikes, 492 firefights; and the identification of 20 weapon caches.

Sergeant Bechdel oversaw U.S. Northern Command's ISR operations with the more than 1,000 California wildfires and followed up the operation with a plan for ISR support to civil disaster relief. She rallied a 33-member neighborhood watch program and volunteered at a church kitchen feeding more than 1,800 people.

Sergeant Bechdel is now with the Joint Intelligence Operations Center, Europe Analytic Center at Royal Air Force Molesworth, England.

 Senior Master Sgt. Mary Bechdel
Master Sgt. Tyrone Bingham, a host aviation resource management superintendent with the 170th Operational Support Squadron at Offutt AFB, Neb., leads an office that controls 25 times more aviator flight records than the average Air Force wing. He created a number of new processes and procedures to track incentive pay, aviator physicals and other personnel records with 100 percent accountability.

When deployed, Sergeant Bingham completed more than 360 mission recap reports during Operation Enduring Freedom, sending timely data to the Tactical Air Control Center. He also managed the operations in an OEF C-130 Hercules mishap and provided investigators with critical flight summary data. At home, Sergeant Bingham is a supporter of the Omaha Big Brothers and Big Sisters program.

 Master Sgt. Tyrone Bingham
Senior Airman Channel Bolton-Scholl, an aircraft maintenance technician with the 446th Maintenance Squadron at McChord AFB, Wash., played an important role in an Operation Deep Freeze deployment where she provided maintenance support for an aeromedical evacuation mission of an injured scientist.

As the ground and flying crew chief, she launched and recovered missions to Antarctica totaling 918 passengers and 621 cargo tons. When deployed to Sather AB, Iraq, Airman Bolton-Scholl assisted with the recovery of a C-130 in downtown Baghdad where Air Force assets were secured and reclaimed.

In New Zealand, she raised $2,500 for a local charity, and at home station she volunteers with the Meals on Wheels program, delivering food to elderly residents.

 Senior Airman Channel Bolton-Scholl
Master Sgt. John Carter, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 100th Security Forces Squadron's Standards and Evaluations division at RAF Mildenhall, England, was deployed to Baghdad where he led raids, survived 270 rocket attacks and directed some 6,000 foot or mounted patrols.

He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and Army Combat Action Badge for his actions. He stopped an explosives-laden car and directed the evacuation of the scene where his action saved countless lives and avoided mass casualties. Sergeant Carter also led a sting operation that apprehended an IED maker which prevented an attack on the Iraqi prime minister.

He helped distribute gifts to 500 children in Baghdad's urban war zone by establishing a "toys for tots" area. Sergeant Carter was a technical sergeant when chosen.

 Master Sgt. John Carter
Tech. Sgt. Manuel Herrera, an explosive ordnance disposal craftsman with the 375th Civil Engineer Squadron at Scott AFB, Ill., led 251 missions, survived four attacks and captured 36 terrorists while deployed to Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. His efforts led to the capture 19 high-value terrorists while interrupting weapons flow into northern Iraq and earned the Bronze Star and Combat Action Medals. Sergeant Herrera guided the recovery and destruction of 4,683 enemy IEDs and other unexploded ordnances.

At his home base, he directed the safe removal of 14 unexploded ordnances found by the Iowa State Police. He also instructed 100 deploying warfighters on IED and UXO recognition. He organized the first Kirkuk EOD Memorial run and ran the 5K in full bomb suit, raising $3,000 for the fund.

 Tech. Sgt. Manuel Herrera
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Horton, an explosive ordnance disposal craftsman with the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, was deployed to Kirkuk AB, Iraq. Sergeant Horton was cited for his service in battle as he led 346 missions, receiving the Bronze Star Medal, the Combat Action Medal and the Army Combat Action Badge. He removed four injured soldiers from the wreckage after an IED attack and cleared a landing zone for the quick removal of the injured. Sergeant Horton's efforts in analyzing tactics, techniques and procedures contributed to the capture of six of the top 10 terrorists in the Kirkuk area of responsibility. He was responsible for 111 road-clearing missions covering 5,000 miles and neutralized 79 IEDs in keeping supply roads open.

At his home base, he organized a drive, volunteered time and purchased materials to build a memorial for fallen EOD Airmen.

 Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Horton
Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Laufer, a chaplain assistant with the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell AFB, Ala., was deployed to Kirkuk AB, Iraq, where she managed the chaplain facility. At Kirkuk, she contacted or mentored more than 3,000 Airmen by identifying and aligning visitation teams. She was a "combat spiritual leader" working with the medical staff and injured servicemembers.

Sergeant Laufer led the first joint service visit to the Turkmen Mosque which enhanced foreign relations with the Chaplain Corps and honored 46 families. She also redirected resource allocations and donated 4,000 pounds of supplies that were in storage.

Sergeant Laufer recently was promoted to master sergeant with an effective date next year.

 Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Laufer
Tech. Sgt. Marisol Lozada is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 27th Special Operations Medical Group's mental health clinic at Cannon AFB, N.M. Called the "mightiest of medics" by her superiors, Sergeant Lozada has created programs and metrics in the mental health field that are now being used at other Air Force wings.

She is the sole wing certified alcohol and drug counselor which is vital to more than 9,000 beneficiaries in the area. She led the effort to overhaul the traumatic stress response team program, which later proved successful and impacted 400 people at Cannon after a wing tragedy. Sergeant Lozada delivered drug prevention and educational materials to 500 local high risk youth during National Red Ribbon Week.

 Tech. Sgt. Marisol Lozada
Master Sgt. Christopher Pollock, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron superintendent of heavy repair at Kadena Air Base, Japan, was the Task Force Anzio Brigade engineer based out of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan during his deployment. He was the sole U.S. engineer tasked with construction on Kandahar and six isolated remote forward operating bases throughout Regional Command South and West. The projects resulted in $156 million in construction projects, repairing airfields and sheltering assets.

He was in a four-hour firefight with insurgents, receiving the Bronze Star Medal for his actions. Sergeant Pollock also led eight humanitarian missions into remote war torn villages which gained trust with a number of villagers. At his home base, he is an avid volunteer with Special Olympics and the Boy Scouts, and organized a $2,000 clothes and toy drive for an orphanage in Japan.

 Master Sgt. Christopher Pollock
Senior Airman Alexander Royal is a Tactical Air Control Party member with the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Carson, Colo. Airman Royal deployed with the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment and participated in 22 named operations and 47 raids in the volatile Shulla District of Baghdad.

His participation in the missions resulted in the detainment of 29 insurgents, the capture of more than 300 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47s, and more than 200 pounds of IEDs and bomb-making materials. Airman Royal was awarded the Bronze Star and Combat Action Medals for his actions.

At home he competed in two charity triathlons which raised $75,800. He also dedicated time to the National Forward Air Controller memorial.

 Senior Airman Alexander Royal
Senior Master Sgt. Jeffery Steagall from Peterson AFB is a communications and information systems inspections manager assigned to the Office of the Inspector General for Headquarters Air Force Space Command.

At his forward deployed location, he led an 88-member flight to achieve an almost perfect network system up time. He controlled network use after a fiber cut crippled the theater, ensuring that mission platforms were kept operational. Sergeant Steagall managed the critical convoy communications circuit, ensuring life-saving command and control for more than 200 Iraqi support missions. He also participated in a $2 million network upgrade that ensured more than 17 million e-mails were delivered in theater.

At home, Sergeant Steagall raised $2,500 for wounded warriors and at-risk women.

 Senior Master Sgt. Jeffery Steagall
The 12 Airmen are authorized to wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year ribbon and will wear the bronze service star device on the ribbon. The winners will wear the Outstanding Airman Badge for one year from the date of the formal presentation. They also will serve as members of the Air Force Association's enlisted advisory council for the next year.

Article by Janie Santos
Photos provided by U.S. Air Force
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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