by Senior Airman Madelyn McCullough
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
3/12/2014 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- Each
year, the 446th Airlift Wing hosts an awards banquet to honor
outstanding Reservists in the wing, along with the families and
employers who support them every day. The 446th AW Annual Awards Banquet
journeyed down a new road March 8, uniting Air Force heroes and legends
from the past to share the evening with current and former members of
The Pacific Northwest rain didn't keep more than 550 guests away from
celebrating the night at Boeing's Museum of Flight in Seattle. This
venue holds one of the largest air and space collections in the United
States, featuring over 150 aircraft and space vehicles, some suspended
from the ceilings.
Lt. Gen. James Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve, AFRC commander, and
keynote speaker for the event, shared a message about the national
commission on the structure of the Air Force and thanked the Reservists
and awardees for all their hard work.
"In this wing, you are all warriors," he said.
Some of these warriors were recognized by the wing with quarterly, annual and MVP awards.
For the first time in the banquet's history, the competition for Company
Grade Officer of the Year resulted in a tie between Capt. Carrianne
Ekberg, 446th Force Support Squadron and Capt. Christopher Kaighen, 86th
Aerial Port Squadron.
"When Capt. Ekberg was first called up I thought that I couldn't have
lost to a better person," said Kaighen. "She does amazing things for the
FSS, the (Mission Support Group) and the wing. When they made the
announcement that there was a tie and that I was also going to be
recognized, I was surprised and ecstatic."
Ekberg was also proud to share the award with Kaighen.
"I thought it was really great that they chose me and also Captain
Kaighen," said Ekberg. "It's a pretty big honor. It makes you feel great
about the work that you've been doing."
Raising the excellence bar, many Reservists and units took home
command-level awards. Some examples include an outstanding unit award
for the entire wing, outstanding chaplain corps, recruiting service
public affairs award, recruiting service century club master badge, and
civilian of the year.
Additionally, awards were presented to the spouse and the employer of the year.
Coleen Gause, who earned this year's award for Spouse of the Year, was
nominated by her husband, 1st Lt. Gregory Gause, 313th Airlift Squadron
pilot, because of the understanding and support she has shown for the
past three years while he was in pilot training.
"For every spouse that goes through pilot training, it is definitely a
sacrifice because of very long days for a sustained period of time,"
said Gause, who has been married to Coleen for eight years.
"When you go for a solid year straight of working 12 hour days, and you
come home, eat, try to study, then go to sleep, and do it all over
again, it's definitely taxing on the family time."
"She does this while juggling their three children," he said. "It's a Herculean effort in and of itself."
The award for employer of the year was presented to Starbucks, for their
constant support of Citizen Airmen. Cliff Burrows, group president of
the U.S., Americas, and Teavana corporations accepted the award on
behalf of the organization.
They promised to hire thousands of veterans this year.
The audience was introduced to the stories of Airmen who have made many
contributions to the Air Force and are generally regarded by most as
They included Col. (Ret.) Joe Jackson, Medal of Honor recipient, Lt.
Col. (Ret.) Ed Saylor, Doolittle Raider, and Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Keith
"Bull" Sekora, Wounded Warrior and former member of the wing. The Airmen
were honored as each extraordinary story was read aloud, resulting in a
standing ovation and a crowd with tears in their eyes.
"I think their stories are always inspiring to everyone," said Ekberg.
"On a day-to-day basis we don't do things like [what they did]. It
motivates you when you hear the stories of what some of these people
have done, that are beyond what you think you could ever do."
"Having such influential members from both the past and present Air
Force meant a lot," said Kaighen. "Also, having the current AFRC
Commander present made for a once in a lifetime experience."
With a combination of words of wisdom from wing leaders, inspiration
from Air Force heroes, honored awardees, and the strength and support
from families and employers, the night ended.