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AZANG honors 'best of the best' at OAY banquet

Honor Guard Member Staff Sgt. Jose Toro, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing, accepts words of congratulations for his award from Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, Arizona Air National Guard commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Honor Guard Member Staff Sgt. Jose Toro, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing, accepts words of congratulations for his award from Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, Arizona Air National Guard commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

The 2011 Outstanding Airmen of the Year award recipients are, from left to right: Honor Guard Member Staff Sgt. Jose Toro, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing; Airman of the Year Senior Airman Jennifer Bartkus, assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing; First Sergeant of the Year Master Sgt. Wes Hudgins, Jr., assigned to the 161 ARW; Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Senior Master Sgt. Chase Gibbons, assigned to the 161 ARW; Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Master Sgt. Kelly Daugherty, assigned to the 107th Air Control Squadron, and the Major General Donald L. Owens Junior Officer of the Year 1st Lt. Silas Gadd, assigned to the 161 ARW.  Not pictured is the Command Chief Master Sergeant Award recipient Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones, assigned to the 162 FW. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

The 2011 Outstanding Airmen of the Year award recipients are, from left to right: Honor Guard Member Staff Sgt. Jose Toro, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing; Airman of the Year Senior Airman Jennifer Bartkus, assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing; First Sergeant of the Year Master Sgt. Wes Hudgins, Jr., assigned to the 161 ARW; Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Senior Master Sgt. Chase Gibbons, assigned to the 161 ARW; Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Master Sgt. Kelly Daugherty, assigned to the 107th Air Control Squadron, and the Major General Donald L. Owens Junior Officer of the Year 1st Lt. Silas Gadd, assigned to the 161 ARW. Not pictured is the Command Chief Master Sergeant Award recipient Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones, assigned to the 162 FW. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Members of the Arizona Air National Guard descended upon Tucson during the March Unit Training Assembly to name its top performers during the Outstanding Airmen of the Year banquet held here March 3, at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort.

Two of the award-winning Airmen were nominees from the 162nd Fighter Wing.

The 2011 Arizona Air National Guard Airmen of the Year award winners are:

Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Jennifer Bartkus, assigned to the161st Air Refueling Wing.

Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Kelly Daugherty, assigned to the 107th Air Control Squadron.

Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Chase Gibbons, assigned to the 107ACS.

First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sergeant Wes Hudgins, Jr., assigned to the 161ARW.

Honor Guard Member: Staff Sgt. Jose Toro, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing.

Command Chief Master Sgt. Award: Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones, assigned to the 162FW.

Major General Donald L. Owens Junior Officer of the Year: 1st Lt. Silas Gadd, assigned to the 161ARW.

Arizona State Command Sgt. Maj. Max Butler was the surprise guest keynote speaker of the evening. He filled in for Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, National Guard Bureau Command Chief, who was delayed due to aircraft mechanical issues and severe weather while en route to Tucson.

Command Sgt. Maj. Butler gave an inspiring and patriotic delivery of the rich history of the National Guard, and thanked the families and friends of the award recipients for their support.

"Our soldiers and airmen are doing what they love to do, but you are the ones who must give them up so they can take their beliefs and put them into action. You give who you love so they can do what they love, and we thank you for that," he said.

"I've never felt this much community support," said Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, Arizona Air National Guard commander.

"It makes a difference to stop and say thanks," he said. "This is our opportunity to say thanks and to focus on our most important weapon system - our people," he said.

During the banquet, each winner received numerous mementos. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service gave $100 gift cards to the award winners, and a representative from the Phoenix Air National Guard Patriots, a Phoenix-area military support group, presented $250 checks to each winner.

The AZ ANG Outstanding Airman, NCO, and SNCO of the Year will compete against other states' Airmen and NCOs to vie for the honor of being named one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. Senior Master Sgt. Wes Hudgins, Jr., will also compete in hopes of being named the Air Guard and Air Force First Sergeant of the Year.

Nominees at the Air Force level are authorized to wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year ribbon, while the 12 winners will wear the bronze service star device on the ribbon. The winners will also wear the Outstanding Airman Badge for one year from the date of formal presentation.

The Airman of the Year program was initiated at the Air Force Association's 10th annual national conference, held in New Orleans in 1956. The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, a general officer and selected MAJCOM command chiefs form the selection board.