Excellence In All They Do: AZANG Recognizes Outstanding Airmen
By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2013
TUCSON, Ariz. -- There may have been no stream of paparazzi lining a red carpet at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and Spa, but the Arizona Air National Guard's own stars showed up in their service and mess dress uniforms at the 2013 Outstanding Airman of the Year Banquet (OAY) award ceremonies here March 9.
All the Arizona Air Guard's units - from the 107th Air Control Squadron to the 162nd Fighter Wing - were present to honor Airmen who in 2012, exemplified the highest professional standards of the guard's most valued asset - its people.
Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Russell Shirley, assigned to the 214th Air Reconnaissance Group.
Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. William Reid, assigned to the 107th Air Control Squadron.
Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. David Juergens, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing.
First Sergeant of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Marclen Polanco, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing.
Honor Guard Member: Staff Sgt. Ty Alan Goeken, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing.
Command Chief Master Sergeant Award: Tech. Sgt. Susan Koncz, assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing.
Major General Donald L. Owens Junior Officer of the Year: Capt. Matthew S. Hodges, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. Smith, formerly the ninth Command Chief Master Sergeant to the Director, National Guard Bureau, served as the keynote speaker for the occasion. "They fulfill and define the greatest military organization in the world," said Smith, referring to the 23 nominees of the evening. "These Airmen went above and beyond their AFSC or job title."
Though the event was ultimately geared toward the nominees, OAY was an opportune moment for all attending Arizona Airmen to express their gratitude toward each other, reinforcing the "buddy" concept of being a good wingman inside and outside the confines of their respective units.
"It's not a 9-5 thing we do at work, and we have to get each other's backs," said Capt. David Fitzmaurice, Assistant Director of Operations from the 107th Air Control Squadron. But the evening, according to Fitzmaurice, was about "bringing us all together in a casual setting while honoring those who are nominated."
Juergens, the aircraft fuel systems repair shop NCOIC who won in the Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year category, credits his victory to the dedicated Airmen who surround him whenever he puts on his ABUs and reports for duty.
"As a shop supervisor, my success is a direct reflection of their success," he said. "They're (his crew) the engine that makes it happen."
But in achieving excellence, Juergens points to military life-lessons that require focus and dedication.
"Set goals, learn your job well, enjoy where you're at, and never take it for granted," he said.
Grounded in protocol and rooted in honor, formal award ceremonies are time-honored, military traditions - connecting a modern-day fighting air power in the desert to warriors dating back to B.C times. Thus, the extravagant nature of the banquet was not lost on the attending Airmen.
During one of the many introductions of the evening, Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Irving, Arizona State Command Chief, said not all 54 states and territories were able to hold such an award ceremony, and he thanked the Phoenix Air National Guard (PANG) Patriots - a military support organization - in particular for making the function a reality.
Along with other monetary prizes from various organizations such as GEICO and AAFES, PANG presented each of the OAY winners with a $250 check. Additionally, Arizona Air Guard winners will eventually compete against other states' Airmen, ending in final competition against the winners of other Air Force components.