TUCSON, Ariz. --
The 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard recognized its annual award winners from 2016 in a ceremony at the Tucson International Airport April 2.
The ceremony recognized outstanding individuals and teams that contributed to the state and nation.
Brig. Gen. Andrew MacDonald, commander of the 162nd Wing, presided over the ceremony. Prior to taking the stage to shake each awardee’s hand, he presented all in attendance with a list of outstanding achievements of the wing for 2016.
“I would like to present the first award of the day, one that didn’t make the script,” said MacDonald. “The first award is the 162nd award and it goes to everybody in this room. It is not a participation award, it is an award from me.”
He outlined the wing accomplishments including training the world’s F-16 pilots, meeting the demand for surveillance, reconnaissance and precision attack, protecting the nation’s skies, safely maintaining the largest fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons in the world, number one for medical readiness for ten of the twelve months, directly impacting one of the air force’s primary missions of building partnerships and deploying over one hundred guardsmen in support of combat operations.
“Each of you directly supported one of these things or indirectly supported all of them and you deserve the 162nd award. I appreciate all you do,” he said
This year’s winners:
Brig. Gen. Ronald L. Kurth Field Grade Officer of the Year: Major Bradford Balazs, 152nd Fighter Squadron
Maj. Gen. Donald L. Owens Company Grade Officer of the Year: Capt. Jason Gonzales, 162nd Logistics Readiness Squadron
Maj. Gen. Donald E. Morris Senior Non-commissioned Officer and State Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Joshua Williams, 162nd Comptroller Flight
Outstanding Airman: Senior Airman Jordan Apalategui, 162nd Mission Support Group
The Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer and State Non-commissioned Officer of the Year and selected to compete for one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for the Air Force: Tech. Sgt. Jason, 214th Reconnaissance Group
Command Chief Award: Staff Sgt. Rachell Moss, 162nd Operations Group
162nd Wing First Sergeant of the Year, State First Sergeant of the Year and selected to compete for one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for the Air Force: Senior Master Sgt. Jason Handa, 162nd Wing Staff
Honor Guard Member of the Year: Master Sgt. Virgil Mendivil, Force Support Squadron
Outstanding Section of the Year: POL Fuels Section
Instructor Pilot of the Year: Maj. David Auston, 152nd Fighter Squadron
MQ-1 Pilot of the Year: 1 Lt. Ryan
MQ-1 Intelligence Operations Specialist of the Year: Staff Sgt. Nicolas
MQ-1 Sensor Operator of the Year: Master Sgt. James
Outstanding Team Award: Aerospace Medical Team
The Colonel John H. McNeill volunteer of the year award goes to Staff Sgt. Jarrod Bailey, 162nd Alert Detachment
As many wing award winners are full-time employees, special recognition is also given to the drill-status Guardsmen who make a particularly profound impact during their limited work with the wing.
Maj. Humberto Nieto, 162nd Operations Group
Senior Master Sgt. Jason, 214th Reconnaissance Group
Airman First Class Juan Torres, 162nd Maintenance Group
Staff Sgt. Kristopher Goins, 162nd Mission Support Group
Maj. Rochelle Riley Wick, 162nd Medical Group
Staff Sgt. Brandon Williams, 162nd Wing Staff
The 162nd Wing is no stranger to national awards and this year is no exception. The 162nd received several major command or Air National Guard awards.
Air National Guard Air Force Medical Services, Outstanding Resource Management Award is awarded to the 162d Medical Group Resource Management Team
The Air Education and Training Command Outstanding Air Reserve Component Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Field Grade Officer of the year is Maj. Humberto Nieto
The AETC Outstanding Air Reserve Component Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the year is Senior Master Sgt. Ernesto Ruiz
The AETC Outstanding Air Reserve Component Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Non-Commissioned Officer of the year is Staff Sgt. Johnny Merchant
The AETC Outstanding Air Reserve Component Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Airman of the year is Senior Airman Alexis Elliott
The Air Reserve Component Security Forces Officer of the year is Capt. Benjamin Swope
The Air Reserve Component Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the year is Master Sgt. Dion Hawkins
In addition to the traditional categories, Commander’s Recognition Awards are given for given for going above and beyond the call of duty in support of the wing.
Master Sgt. Nicole Thomae, 162nd Operations Group
Comptroller Flight, 162nd Wing Staff
The Deployment Processing Team Comprised of various organizations throughout Mission Support and Medical Groups
Security Forces S3
Tech. Sgt. Michael Espinoza, 162nd Medical Group
Several service members were also given awards by various local and national organizations.
The Military Affairs Committee Bill Valenzuela Award for Citizen Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Frank Lopez, 162nd Maintenance Group
Air Force Association Junior Airman Award: Staff Sgt. Michael Balserak (recently promoted to second lieutenant), 162nd Operations Group
A1C Manual C. Aquino Ground Safety Award: 162nd Wing Fire Department
162nd Air Guardians Committee Outstanding Guardsman of the Year: Staff Sgt. Steven Cesare
The Inspector General’s Award goes to TSgt Michael Espinoza of the 162d Medical Group
The Commander’s Inspection Program Innovation Award goes to MSgt Joseph Andrukaits