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AZANG names 'best of the best'

The Arizona Air National Guard Airman of the Year award winner, Senior Airman Jamie Hawkins, congratulates fellow award winner Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Angela Walz)

The Arizona Air National Guard Airman of the Year award winner, Senior Airman Jamie Hawkins, congratulates fellow award winner Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Angela Walz)

The 2007 Arizona Air National Guard Airman of the Year award winners are, from left to right: Senior Airman Jamie Hawkins, Airman of the Year; Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Gutierrez, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Diana Aragon, First Sergeant of the Year; Staff Sgt. Jared Davis, Honor Guard Member of the Year; Capt. Patrick McDonnell, Junior Officer of the Year; and Tech. Sgt. Joseph Duyck, the Command Chief Master Sergeant Award winner.

The 2007 Arizona Air National Guard Airman of the Year award winners are, from left to right: Senior Airman Jamie Hawkins, Airman of the Year; Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Gutierrez, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Diana Aragon, First Sergeant of the Year; Staff Sgt. Jared Davis, Honor Guard Member of the Year; Capt. Patrick McDonnell, Junior Officer of the Year; and Tech. Sgt. Joseph Duyck, the Command Chief Master Sergeant Award winner.

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Air National Guard brought together its finest personnel and named its top performers during the Outstanding Airmen of the Year banquet held here March 1, at the Phoenix Airport Marriott Hotel.

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

The 2008 Airmen of the Year award winners are:

- Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Jamie Hawkins, assigned to the 214th Reconnaissance Group, but nominated by the 162nd Fighter Wing for her service to the wing over the previous year

- Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Brian Thomas (Technical Sergeant during the award period), assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing

- Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Gutierrez, assigned to the 107th Air Control Squadron

- First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sgt. Diana Aragon, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing

- Honor Guard Member of the Year: Staff Sgt. Jared Davis, assigned to the 107th Tactical Air Control Squadron

- Junior Officer of the Year: Capt. Patrick McDonnell, assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing

- Command Chief Master Sergeant Award winner: Tech. Sgt. Joseph Duyck, assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing

"You are all winners," Army Maj. Gen. David P. Rataczak, the Adjutant General, Arizona National Guard, said to the nominees.

"Congratulations to the winners of the Airmen of the Year awards, and thank you for what you do above and beyond every day. Thank you for what you do for our state and nation."

Gen. Rataczak's address to the winners was preceded by an inspiring and patriotic delivery by the National Guard Bureau Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. Smith.

"There are a lot of things we do in our jobs, and recognizing outstanding Airmen is one of the things I value most. It's very difficult to select who will go forward in the awards because you all do great things," he said to the nominees.

Chief Smith reminded all attendees that National Guard servicemembers are unique because they are part of a militia.

"We're different than the other services and active duty members. In fact, you're in a militia which has a linear heritage that goes back 370 years. The fact that our Commander in Chief is the governor and we work for the adjutant general makes us unique. You have something to be very, very proud of. Wearing this uniform is also something you should be very, very proud of," he said.

During the banquet, each winner was presented with various mementos. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service gave $100 gift certificates to the award winners, and Ted Williamson of the Phoenix Patriots, a local military support group, presented $250 checks to each winner.

"Community is the most important part of what we are," said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Shira, AZANG Assistant Adjutant General. He thanked the nominees for their abundant support to community and military agencies and drew specific attention to Honor Guard Member nominee, Staff Sgt. Michael "Breezy" Brizuela.

While deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, Staff Sgt. Brizuela spent his "off-duty" time working in the base hospital. "This volunteerism is phenomenal," said General Shira.

The AZANG 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. Master Sgt. Aragon will also compete in hopes of being named the Air Guard and Air Force First Sergeant of the Year.

This award is held in high regard by enlisted personnel. 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.