Military News

Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘Tent City’ celebrates Anchorage’s 100th anniversary

by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs


7/30/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In July 1915, official documents were signed creating Anchorage, which remained very small and without a military presence.

That changed in June of 1940, when Nazi Germany conquered France, which prompted the expedience of several military construction projects around Alaska, including building Fort Richardson.

Fort Richardson included land originally known as Elmendorf Field, which became Elmendorf Air Force Base after World War II, when the Air Force became a separate service. The two installations merged to become Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in October 2010.

One significant event was a 9.2-magnitude earthquake which struck Anchorage in 1964, resulting in the deaths of 133 people and $300 million in damages.
During this natural disaster, the military provided medical care, food, housing and other supplies to Anchorage and surrounding communities.

100 years after its birth, Anchorage has grown and flourished. To celebrate this history and look forward to the future, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, with JBER and multiple organizations throughout the community, hosted the 2015 Tent City Festival.

Each era was represented in various displays and tents, along with bouncy houses and other family-related events.

"The purpose of this Tent City celebration is to highlight Anchorage's 100th anniversary," said Bruce Bustamante, president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. "It's an extremely important story to tell. We've invited vendors from industries that played a key role in the growth of Anchorage, and certainly the military was one of the biggest components of our history.

"It's extremely important for us to have base support to come out here and be a part of this. We've worked very closely, even in recent history, with the military. We sure appreciate their cooperation," Bustamante said.

JBER was represented with displays showcasing the Air Force's 673d Civil Engineer Group explosive ordnance disposal and fire personnel with a smoke house to emphasize fire safety.

They were joined by the Army's 549th Military Working Dog Detachment, an arctic living equipment display, and parachuting equipment from the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

"The messages inside here telling kids what to do when there's a fire, and how to get out, what to do if they can't get out - even if just one kid gets reached, that kid could make a difference," said John Burpee, 673d Civil Engineer Squadron fire department inspector, who was running the fire prevention display.

"Some were asking about the fire career field, so we explained that. It's pretty cool to walk around here and see the old stuff and new stuff, to know that JBER has been a part of that," he said. "I think a lot of people were surprised and excited to see us out here; it definitely brought awareness."

"What they do is amazing," said Mary Cresap, an Anchorage resident. "They'll do everything they can so we'll be safe."

Adults and children quickly formed a line to try on the parachuting equipment, and to get just a taste of what airborne Soldiers wear.

"We're just interacting with the community, showing them what we're a big part of it, and a bit of what we do on a daily basis," said Sgt. 1st Class Jessie Hobbs, 2-377th's  battalion air noncommissioned officer. "We're showing them our airborne equipment, because we jump a lot here in Alaska.

"We're showing them our arctic equipment like our tent, pretty much our day-to-day life in the winter months here. They seem to be enjoying it. A lot of kids are trying on the parachute, going into the tent, looking around," Hobbs said.

"A lot of the outdoor guys who like to hunt want to use that type of equipment for moose hunting. They've taken good interest in it. It's always good to interact and let the community know what we do, to show them we're here for them."

The military has played a significant role in Anchorage history, celebrated on this birthday, Bustamante said.

"I think our relationship with the military is great, and the best judge of that are the people," Bustamante said. "I'd rather hear it from the military saying thanks for helping us, thanks for helping our families while we're in Anchorage.

"We just have a big passion for that. You'll see a lot of military return to Anchorage and make it their home; it's just a tremendous relationship. I don't know that we give the military as much as they give us, we just do the best we can."

Brothers serve together in Alaska

by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs


7/30/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- When polled with the question, "Who or what do you fight for?" many Soldiers may have a variation of the words "family, honor, country ... my brother or sister next to me in the trenches" somewhere in their answer. The brotherhood spirit pervasive throughout the Army is sometimes literal.

For Michael and William Plachinski, brothers and Army first sergeants stationed in Alaska, the bond of brotherhood couldn't be stronger.

Michael, 40, is stationed at Fort Wainwright, with the 9th Army Band. His younger brother, William, 36, is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with Easy Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion. Both are the senior enlisted advisors to their respective commanders.

Different paths
Blood relatives serving at the same time and location in the military is not an altogether uncommon occurrence, but the uniqueness of the Plachinski brothers' story lies in their having achieved such senior rank through different paths. However, both used hard work and the mentorship of the other to pave their way to success.

"It was 1992," Michael said. "I was getting married. It was crazy. I graduated high school in June, got married in July and left for the Army in August. I wanted that sense of adventure, college opportunity, and a job. I guess I kind of wanted to grow up."

Michael initially enlisted under an administrative military occupational specialty, but fortune allowed him to try out for the band in 1993. As a former all-state band trumpeter, Michael's musical talent and worth ethic earned him a spot. His career took a steady upward trajectory.

A few years later, in 1998, William had to cross the same life-decision bridges his brother had previously encountered.

"I too, was getting married," William said. "I decided not to join right away and to work construction for a couple of years out of high school. I found it very difficult to have insurance and stay in that line of work. I visited Mike for a hunting trip the month before I joined. I saw the benefits of what the Army was doing for him and thought, 'This isn't a bad gig. I should check it out.'"

William also grew up playing musical instruments, but opted to enlist as a heavy-wheeled vehicle mechanic.

"I thought I was going to do three years and then get out," William said. "From construction, I knew how to take care of my house. The second important investment you have is your vehicle. I figured if I joined the Army, I'd learn how to take care of my vehicles, plus have a marketable skill."

William's career began following the same steady progression as his brother's.

Good fortune afforded the brothers the ability to be stationed together at Fort Bragg, N.C., from 2005 to 2008. However, due to numerous deployments, they were only able to spend about 10 months there at the same time.

Arctic warriors
In 2004, William, his wife, and two kids visited Michael's family (a wife and four kids) for Christmas in Fort Wainwright, where Michael was serving what would be the first of two tours in Alaska. William's family fell in love with the state.

"At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go jump out of airplanes in the cold," William said. "But, being able to spend time with my brother trumped that, so I said 'To hell with it, let's see if we can both get stationed back up here.' And we have loved it. I have a year left, but I'm trying get an in-place overseas consecutive tour that would put me at 20 years and allow me to retire here. I want to grow some roots here."

The needs of the Army and career progression were in the Virginia Beach, Va. natives' favor. William was assigned to JBER in 2013, and Michael was able to get orders back to Fort Wainwright the following year.

Upward bound
Both brothers said one essential part of climbing up the ladder was seizing leadership opportunities and training courses whenever possible.

"Being in the band, we have a field that is full of educated people," Michael said. "I've got guys in my unit who are working on their doctorate degrees. I've worked hard on the soldiering side. I went to Airborne School, I went to Air Assault School, went on deployments, and became a recruiter for a time. I volunteered for tough assignments. I think those are some of the things that helped separate me. That in no way discounts the importance of education, because that is extremely important. But you also have to set yourself apart through hard work."

William used that same hard work ethic to set himself apart as well. The brothers' airborne bond is one of great pride, both having graduated from Airborne School. Michael has also attended Air Assault school, earning him the distinction of wearing two sets of wings on his uniform. William is a master-rated jump master, wearing one set of wings with a star over them signifying an advanced parachutist rating.

"When I graduated jump school in '99, Mike pinned my airborne wings on me," William said. "Fast forward to 2005, Mike goes to Airborne School and I brought those same wings down to his graduation and pinned him. It was a surreal moment."

While ever supportive, William doesn't let Michael off the hook about the fact he has a higher skill level than his big brother.

"If air assault mattered, they'd pay you to do it," William said to his brother with a baiting smile. "It's better to be a jumpmaster than a novice paratrooper and air assault."

Brothers in arms
Michael takes the ribbing in stride and points to their true feelings towards each other as more indicative of their relationship.

"Billy is by far my best friend," Michael said. "It can get lonely at the top. The higher in rank you get, the more the position forces to have less social involvement with your Soldiers. I've been fortunate to have my brother there, really my whole life, but especially during my career."

William didn't hesitate to name Michael his best friend and most trusted mentor.

"We talk on the phone every day," William said. "We are constantly calling each other after work. 'Hey, I got this situation, what would you do?' Of course, keeping operational security and personal data out of it, but we constantly have these conversations. We've done that our whole careers, trying to figure out what the best approach is to personal or professional obstacles."

Top sergeants
The Plachinskis said they feel their family lives and professional lives compliment each other.

"A lot of what the Army has given me, I feel like has probably made me a pretty good dad," Michael said. "And, I think a lot of what my kids have given me has made me into a pretty good first sergeant."

William said he agreed.

"In this line of work, being a first sergeant, you're playing a parent role," William said. "Sometimes, you have to nurture and sometimes you have to punish. I think our family values and core beliefs help us to do this job better than we otherwise could."

William said working with Soldiers was the most rewarding part of the job.

"I want them to be able to go even further than I have," the younger Plachinski said. "It's like with your kids ... you want set them up to achieve far greater success than you did, so you work for that every day."

William said his ultimate dream would be to be able to retire in Alaska and he's trying to talk his brother into the same thing.

"Mike still won't give me an answer on this," William said with a chuckle. "But I want us to settle down with our families here and grow some roots - the Alaska Plachinskis."

Brothers in arms and brothers in blood -- while the two classifications may mean different things to different people, for the veteran first sergeants, they mean the same thing.

Spokane-area civic leaders visit Travis Air Force Base

by Scott King
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


7/29/2015 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- More than 20 civic leaders from Spokane, Washington and surrounding areas participated in a civic leader tour to Travis Air Force Base, Calif. July 21 and July 22.

The purpose of the tour was to increase civic leaders' opinion and understanding of Air Mobility Command and the Air Force's role in national security.

With Col. Brian McDaniel, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, at the controls of a KC-135 Stratotanker, they headed down to California to witness firsthand the various weapon systems and programs Travis brings to the fight.

The tour was an eye-opening experience for the group.

"This event provided great perspective and insight about the multi-faceted missions of AMC and the Air Force, said Steve Stevens, CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated and 92nd ARW honorary commander. "It provided another piece of the puzzle for us and was a great opportunity to meet and learn from Travis' civic leaders. A year ago I was not very familiar with the Air Force; now I'm much more knowledgeable and extremely impressed with the expertise and professionalism of our Air Force Airmen."

Upon landing, they received mission briefings, toured a C-5 Galaxy and a C-17 Globemaster III, and wound up the day meeting with civic leaders who represent Travis.

The next day, they learned about the mission of the 621st Contingency Response Wing. The CRW's personnel can quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations at a moment's notice. Following that, they toured the 60th Aerial Port Squadron and David Grant USAF Medical Center, the Air Force medical service's flagship treatment facility. They ended their visit by learning about Travis' air traffic control tower and radar approach control facilities.

The civic leaders were impressed with the tour and the Airmen.

"This week's visit to Travis has strongly reinforced my belief that the Air Force continues to recruit and train the best and brightest of our young people to serve this great country," said Kevin Twohig, Spokane Public Facilities CEO, 336th Training Group honorary commander and chair of Forward Fairchild. "We witnessed a lot, learned a lot and enjoyed our new friends from Travis - definitely a great tour."

Molly Allen, a Spokane radio personality and 141st honorary commander, said she was overwhelmed by the experience and is extremely proud of the men and women who protect her freedom by serving the country.

Travis leadership appreciates what civic leaders bring to the table.

"The strong partnership between Fairchild and their surrounding community was evident throughout their visit to Travis Air Force Base, and it was an honor to host this group and educate them about our mission," said Col Corwin Pauly, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander. "The resources and the people outside the fence line of military installations are vital."

Fairchild leadership thought the tour was a huge success.

"The trip to Travis AFB was a great opportunity for Spokane civic leaders to learn about the broader mission of the AMC and the Air Force," McDaniel said. "I think they learned a lot while being treated to a great tour of another Air Mobility Command base - the trip was a huge success."

Face of Defense: Father, Daughter Helicopter Pilots Fly Together



By Sgt. Jonathan Monfiletto
New York National Guard

FORT DRUM, N.Y., July 30, 2015 – Army Warrant Officer Meghan Polis, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the New York National Guard, doesn’t remember it but she logged her first three hours of helicopter flight time when she was just 3 months old.

Her father -- New York Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Polis -- and her mother were going to a barbecue in Albany. They lived on Long Island and they decided to make the trip north by air instead of driving.

The flight school Stephen Polis worked for at the time as an instructor pilot allowed him to borrow a two-seat helicopter for the day. His wife held little Meghan to her chest and put cotton balls in the baby’s ears. And away the family went.

Sharing a Love of Flying

Since then, dad and daughter, both from East Patchogue, New York, have shared a love of flying that extends into their military careers.

On July 22, the two Army Guard aviators made their first flight together as pilots, during the 42nd Aviation Brigade’s annual training here.

The two are UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, headquartered in Ronkonkoma, New York. They flew as pilot in command -- dad -- and pilot -- daughter -- on a morale flight for the mechanics, fuelers, supply people and other support personnel who keep the pilots of the 3-142nd in the air.

The aircraft, Stephen said, was the same one he flew in 2008-2009 when the unit deployed to Iraq.

Joining the National Guard

Stephen joined the National Guard in 1980 and started out as a mechanic and then became a crew chief. But, his intent was to become a pilot, and he did just that when he went to flight school four years later. From there, he conducted test flights as a maintenance test pilot before moving into air assault and medical evacuation missions.

“It took me a little while to prove my grit, so to speak, and to actually be accepted to flight school,” he said. “But I finally made it.”

Meghan followed in her father’s footsteps -- as well as those of her grandfather, who was also a warrant officer -- and took the same route as her father when she enlisted in 2013 and served initially as a mechanic.

After a couple of years, she submitted her packet for flight school and completed the training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in February.

‘Family Tradition’

“It’s just kind of been a part of the family and I always felt like I could be a part of it,” she said. “By the time I came around to making the decision to do it myself, the little bit of aviation background I had was exactly the route I wanted to go.”

When his daughter graduated from flight school this year, Stephen pinned aviator wings on her on the same stage on which his father pinned his wings on him many years ago.

“A lot of family tradition is being created here,” Stephen said. “It was pretty prideful. Very rewarding.”

The July 22 flight started out slow and steady, as the pilots allowed their passengers to get a taste of aviation on the trip around the base. But halfway through the trip, with father and daughter each taking a turn at the controls, the pilots turned the action up a few levels with some dramatic banks, turns, dives and climbs over the wooded area. The maneuvers displayed the capabilities of the Black Hawk for the soldiers who spend their careers ensuring those helicopters have all the support needed for missions.

After the flight, Stephen complimented his daughter on her ability behind the controls, saying that she did a good job and made him proud.

Father 'Had a Cool Job'

“I always thought my dad had a cool job. And now that I’m doing it, I know he had a cool job,” Meghan said. “It’s actually more than I expected. It’s so much more rewarding to be able to go out and be the one at the controls flying the aircraft and making decisions.”

Perhaps intentionally, Meghan used a pun to describe the experience of working alongside her father, saying she was “still kind of flying” after thinking about it for a while. When she initially wanted to learn to fly an airplane, she said her father refused to fly with her as a civilian instructor pilot.

“This time he didn’t really have a choice,” she said. “It’s really cool to actually be able to sit in the seat next to him. I’ve always kind of felt like I really wanted him to know how I fly, and now I guess he’s got an assessment and it’s not that bad.”

As a civilian pilot, Stephen said he has flown corporate jets around the world and logged more than 10,000 hours in jets and 10,000 hours in helicopters. In fact, he said, he stopped counting when he reached that threshold five years ago.

‘I’m Constantly Learning Things’

The love of flying is something he developed at a young age, and while many people dream of flying but never get the opportunity, he was fortunate enough to turn his love into a career.

“Aviation’s been very good to me,” Stephen said. “I have a smile on my face every day and every time I fly. It’s an itch that you try to satisfy.”

And after inheriting her father’s love of flying and also getting to turn it into a career, Meghan said it is amazing and “more than I thought it would be.”

She added, “I’m constantly learning things. Every time I fly with someone, they have a different technique. I’m really developing my own pilotage, my own techniques. It’s a challenge and it’s a thrill.”

RPA prophecy fulfilled, oldest RPA squadron celebrates 20 years

by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


7/29/2015 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- By the end of World War II endless possibilities were brought to one man's prophecy that would set the stage for modern day of aviation.

General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold made a startling prediction: "We have just won a war with a lot of heroes flying around in planes. The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all...."

Although the bold vision of pilotless aircraft fighting America's wars was premature, Arnold's prophecy is coming true as the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, celebrates its 20th anniversary flying remotely piloted aircraft.

On July 29, 1995, the 11th RS was activated at the then Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, Nevada, as the Air Force's first dedicated RPA unit when it assumed operational control of the medium altitude, long endurance RQ-1 Predator aircraft.

"I am very proud of my Airmen," said Lt. Col. Leland Cowie, 11th RS commander. "Both those conducting our critical mission in garrison and those currently deployed in harm's way flying RPAs."

Since conducting the first flight of the Predator on Dec. 13, 1996, the 11th RS has seen many firsts to include: the first successful deployment of a Hellfire missile, the first lost aircraft during an engagement between an RPA and a manned aircraft while enforcing the No Fly Zone in Iraq, and the relinquishment of its direct combat support role to become the Air Force's first Predator formal training unit.

Today the 11th RS is responsible for conducting all MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper aircrew launch and recovery initial qualifications training, as well as operator upgrade training and trains an average of 360 Airmen annually.

"What I have learned to do here is important to me because you can't put a price tag on saving a life," said Senior Airman Shantae, 11th RS instructor sensor operator. "This is a highly demanding job that requires a lot of professionalism. People depend on you, lives depend on you."

The 11th RS can trace its lineage back 73 years to the activation on March 2, 1942 of the 11th Observation Squadron by the U.S. Army Air Forces at Wheeler-Sack Field, New York.

"We've only scratched the surface with RPAs," said James Clark, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Innovation director. "So from World War I RPAs to World War II to Desert Storm to Vietnam, we are at the beginning of a revolution, it's exciting and Creech is the home of this revolution."

Since then it was also the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron for fighter aircraft and the 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron where it joined the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, which would later become the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nevada.

The mission on the 11th RS is to instill the Airmanship required to make critical decisions in unforgiving phases of flight enabling remotely piloted airpower for the joint force commanders at any time and place across the globe.

"What we do here every day is important vital to the mission downrange," said Col. Cunningham, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "Today is a great day as we celebrate 20 years of making history and you and your Airmen should be proud."

Although decades have passed since Arnold's initial prediction his words still ring true as the Airmen of the RPA enterprise continue to make unprecedented strides in modern day aviation.

"Take everything you've learned about aviation in war, throw it out of the window, and let's go to work on tomorrow's aviation," said Arnold. "It will be different from anything the world has ever seen."

ANG's Outstanding Senior NCO of the Year: Master Sgt. Maria Quitugua

by Staff Sgt. John E. Hillier
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs


7/30/2015 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Personal accomplishment and a desire to inspire the next generation is what motivates Master Sgt. Maria R. Quitugua, the Air National Guard's 2015 Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Quitugua is a security forces Airman from the Guam Air National Guard's 254th Security Forces Squadron, who was honored for her leadership and commitment to both her unit's mission and her Airmen.

Quitugua was a special education teacher when she answered the call to serve in uniform.

"I wanted to do more," said Quitugua. "I had always told myself that before I die, I wanted to wear my country's uniform and ultimately be a part of something bigger than myself. My friend and I called the Air National Guard recruiter. I told him I didn't care what job it was, can I join today and get shipped off tomorrow."

For her first four years as a Guardsman, Quitugua worked side-by-side with the active duty Air Force 36th Security Forces Squadron at Andersen AFB, Guam. She started proving herself right away.

"My flight chief challenged me with jobs that would pull experiences out of me and make me a better Airman," Quitugua said. "He saw potential in me to do more, or to do more challenging things as compared to the other Airmen."

"We had guys who said 'Oh, you're Guard and you don't know what you're doing.' He wanted to get rid of that stigma, so he put me in those positions. He set our team motto: 'One team, no seam,' and we definitely proved that we knew as much as our active duty counterparts, or more."

That experience has stuck with her throughout her career, and helped inspire her passion to mentor her own Airmen as a senior NCO.

"I just hope that anyone who puts this on is worthy of it," Quitugua said, snapping her ABU top for emphasis. "I would want everyone who wears the uniform to show other people that it's not about you; it's not about what you want to do. The time you spend with a mentor or as a mentor is important. We don't always make time for our subordinates: to mentor them, to mold them, to guide them."

"I hope that I'll be able to pass that along to the Airmen I meet," she said. "Pass on the want to do better, the urge to be part of something bigger and make it better."

It was a 2009 deployment to Iraq that Quitugua says opened her eyes to the wider world around her, and the value of her service.

"I had just put on staff sergeant and all I was thinking was that I was excited to be away from home," said Quitugua. "Being there opened my eyes to what we were doing there and what we as the United States were doing in Iraq. I was naïve to the fact that not everyone in that region just hates America and wants to kill us. But I worked alongside the Iraqi Air Force, and they're just like me and you. So, I didn't see how it fit in beforehand, but having been there, I see it now."

When she needs to unwind, Quitugua laces up her shoes and hits the road for a run.

"Running is really my outlet. With a busy schedule, it's how I decompress and just think. I make it a point to run, and fit it into my schedule. I got into running in the mornings just this past month. I used to tell myself that I would never wake up in the morning just to run. But now I make it a point to get up and do my run - I try to get up earlier so I can do longer runs... and eat junk food later."

"Two or three years ago, I ran so much that I started running just to run with friends. I would go to every single 5K on Guam - and we have a lot. Sometimes there would be three in one day. I also got into running in the mornings recently. I used to tell myself that I would never wake up in the morning just to run, but now I try to get up earlier so I can do longer runs."

And when it's not the road or track calling her, Quitugua wants nothing more than to spend time with her family.

"Deployments have made it hard to do, but laying around the barbecue pit with family, joking, that's what I enjoy a lot," she said. "Just being around them and laughing. I didn't grow up in a really close-knit family. It was me and my brother and my parents, and I didn't learn to appreciate that until now. I want to make sure that my son gets that experience and to know that he's proud of me - that's all that matters. Hopefully he'll see that there are other things besides just him. There's helping other people, and being a part of something bigger."

But Quitugua doesn't leave her family behind when she puts on her uniform. Her husband, Michael, is also a security forces Airman in the 254th.

"We were both put on shift together, and started to be good friends," Quitugua said. "After that, it was history. He's always been someone who I've looked up to. I admire the way he can talk to his subordinates. He just does it and they want to follow him. I want to be like that."

Cherry on top of AF career

by Senior Airman Timothy Moore
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


7/29/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Air Force officials recently announced the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2015 and, for the second year in a row, Ramstein Air Base is home to one of the Air Force's best.

Senior Airman Allen R. Cherry III, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health technician, is now among the 12 Airmen who get to claim the prestigious distinction this year.

"It's exciting and very, very humbling," Cherry said. "There were a lot of key influential people that definitely helped mold and develop me. This wouldn't have happened without my leadership, my fellow peers, my supervision and my friends and family."

The award recognizes 12 outstanding enlisted service members across the Air Force for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.

Among his 2014 accomplishments, Cherry was selected as the Air Force's 2014 Public Health Airman of the Year and Senior Airman Below-the-Zone. Though he said he is proud of those awards and accomplishments, he is equally honored of his other activities that were included in his award package.

"The things that I'm most proud of were being involved with honor guard and participating in more than 27 details this year and making an impact on the wing and the Air Force in large," Cherry noted.

Cherry explained that he was also proud of being a head coach for a youth soccer team.

One of the individuals Cherry credits with helping him achieve this award is Senior Master Sgt. Manjinder Suprai, who began as Cherry's flight chief but is now the 86th AMDS superintendent.

"He's just always been very amazing to me, asking how my job is going and trying to develop me," Cherry stated.

According to Cherry, Suprai would regularly ask him about his on and off-duty life and work, including school and volunteering. Suprai would ask questions to help Cherry get the best out of the Air Force, so the Air Force could get the best out of him.

"It's the service before self that they always talk about," Cherry said. "It's literally removing yourself, your name. We're representing the U.S. Air Force. We wear it on our heart. That's what we are representing first. I'll always be a Cherry, but I signed up for something bigger than myself. That's what I'm here to serve first. That was something that I really did and will continue to do to get the most out of the Air Force."

Cherry also attributes his determination and success to his father.

"He's a retired chief and I knew it was super important when he retired that I continue to carry the legacy that he had," Cherry said. "That way we could keep our name and our tradition of being in the Air Force credited and valuable."

According to his supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Ireneo Alfaro, 86th AMDS Public Health force health management NCO in charge, Cherry has done a fine job of holding up his family's name.

"When you are looking for an Airman that has all of the core values, this is the guy right here," said Alfaro. "I've even told him during our [Airman Comprehensive Assessment], 'You should be giving me this. You should be mentoring me instead.''

Alfaro said that is one of the things he has seen about Cherry that makes him stand out. He not only mentors and encourages his peers but also the NCOs in his flight. Cherry wants to improve those around him as he works to improve himself.

It is this reason both Cherry and Alfaro see this award as a victory for more people than just him.

"This is the guy that made it happen, not just for himself but also for our [Air Force specialty code]," said Alfaro. "He is the first ever public health technician to capture the 12 OAY in the Airman category."

Along with Cherry, only one other public health Airman has been named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year since the program's inception. That was Staff Sgt. Jasmin D. Wiltshire in 2000.

"Medical's not a typical thing you think of when you think about the Air Force," Cherry admitted. "You think about air power, flying and dropping bombs. You don't think about medical or public health. I knew I could get far. I didn't realize I was going to get this far."

Cherry and the other award winners are slated to attend a banquet in September to highlight their accomplishments.

With more than 240,000 enlisted service members in the Air Force, Cherry truly sits on top of the Air Force among the best.