AFMC Airmen, Guardians recognized for outstanding achievement
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — The Annual Excellence Award Banquet held April 5, 2023, honored Air Force Materiel Command’s top Airmen for 2022.
As the servicing major command for the U.S. Space Force, AFMC also recognized the high performers supporting Space Force missions.
Nominees in 18 separate categories including both the Air Force and Space Force – airman, non-commissioned officer, senior NCO, first sergeant, company grade officer, field grade officer, civilian category I, civilian category II, and civilian category III — competed from throughout AFMC’s headquarters, centers, bases, and wings, and U.S. Space Force installations.
Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, AFMC commander, hosted the event in the Modern Flight Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
“You are why I don’t worry about our nation’s future,” said Richardson as he addressed the nominees. “I challenge you to continue serving according to our core values and to make every day count.”
“You are the reason why AFMC was so successful in 2022,” said Richardson.
Chief Master Sgt. David Flosi, AFMC command chief, talked about the characters of the nominees and highlighted their support of the mission before leading the audience in a group cheer.
“We are one AFMC,” he said. “We are one team. One fight!”
Winners in the four enlisted categories will represent AFMC in the Department of the Air Force Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Year and First Sergeant of the Year competitions held later this year.
The 2022 AFMC winners are:
AIRMAN OF THE YEAR – Staff Sergeant Jesse Reed, a Bioenvironmental Engineering Consultant, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, bolstered the Air Force’s Drinking Water Optimization project. Reed’s work, revising four higher headquarters management standard operating procedures, ultimately resulted in a 13-year Air Force Medical Readiness Agency deficiency closure. Additionally, Reed teamed with 2nd Air Force to insert 86 occupational health objectives into six career field development courses.
NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Tech. Sgt. Micaela R. Mahan is the Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of Military Justice for the 78th Air Base Wing, Robins AFB, Georgia – the fourth largest legal office in the Air Force. Mahan is responsible for assisting Commanders, First Sergeants, and attorneys in the administration and execution of justice across three wings and Air Force Reserve Command. As acting superintendent, Mahan increased the office budget by 77 percent, enabling the purchase of $64,000 dollars in information technology equipment. For her actions, she was selected as the wing’s Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award nominee.
SENIOR NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Master Sgt. Brylie Button is Flight Chief, Dental Flight, 66th Medical Squadron, 66th Air Base Group, Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts. Button led 16 personnel, executed a $1.9 million dollar operation, and mobilized technology support for a $9.2 billion dollar operation, earning the 66th Air Base Group’s Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year honors. Button was recognized as the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award nominee.
FIRST SERGEANT OF THE YEAR – Master Sgt. Jason Hanson supported 470 Airmen as the First Sergeant, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Edwards AFB, California. Under Hanson’s guidance, squadron personnel received 27 group, three wing, and four major command-level awards. Hanson responded to 10 mental health, two family advocacy, one domestic violence, two lethal withdrawals, and one absent without leave emergencies by escorting to services or helping agencies. This resulted in seven saves with all seven successfully continuing their careers and marriages.
COMPANY GRADE OFFICER OF THE YEAR – 1st Lt. Oleksiy Redko is a Quantum Information Sciences Researcher, Air Force Research Laboratory, Information Directorate, Rome, New York. Redko deployed to Poland immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine and provided linguistic support resulting in delivery of over 215 aircraft and 500 kilo tons of U.S. government aid valued at over $630 million. Redko translated Ukrainian and Russian media reports for the Public Affairs and Military Information Support Operations for European Command, as well as communications in real-time between the U.S. Army and North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners in Poland to provide the rapid evacuation of five U.S. families from the war zone.
>FIELD GRADE OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Lt. Col. Matthew Fuqua serves as the Deputy Chief, Turbine Engine Division, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. As chair of the division’s’ Operational Planning Board, Fuqua aligned the $50 million research portfolio and the activities of 249 personnel for reusable hypersonic platforms, rotating detonation engine enabled systems, and autonomous systems to the Secretary of the Air Force’s Operational Imperatives. Their two-person team oversaw an Office of Scientific Research “Edison Grant” which investigated a method to improve Rotating Detonation Engines and increase the range of future low-cost, high-speed weapons.
CIVILIAN CATERGORY I OF THE YEAR – Robert F. Connor III, a Systems Engineer in the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Branch, Long Range Systems Division, Armament Directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, AFB, Florida, oversaw a $25 million project, directly saving $97 million for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile portfolio. Additionally, Connor co-chaired three Failure Review Boards, supporting its $4.9 billion future-year defense program.
CIVILIAN CATERGORY II OF THE YEAR – Alton Hufstetler, Jr. is a Lead Contracting Specialist with the 764th Enterprise Sourcing Squadron at Ramstein, which belongs to the Air Force Installation Contracting Center, a subordinate unit of Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center. Prior to his current assignment, he completed his Copper Cap Intern program while attached to the 502nd Contracting Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio, Randolph, Texas. There he executed a $1.3 billion portfolio and was instrumental in the acquisition of a ten-year European-wide information technology services contract. Additionally, Hufstetler developed an innovative proposal review strategy which streamlined their team’s effort. Finally, Hufstetler helped to develop future leaders by volunteering as a youth sports coach and as a Boy Scout Troop Leader.
CIVILIAN CATERGORY III OF THE YEAR – Philip Gillaugh is the Deputy Chief, International Support Branch, and Chief, Operations Support Section, International Logistics Support Division, Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Gillaugh led a team of case managers with complex cases, ensuring the development, implementation, and execution of over 239 Foreign Military Sales cases valued at over $26.4 billion. Gillaugh created team cohesion that contributed to a streamlined process, reducing the rate of return by eight percent.
U.S. Space Force
AIRMAN OF THE YEAR – Senior Airman Enrique Alvarado is a Base Defense Operations Center Controller, 821st Security Forces Squadron, Thule Air Base, Greenland. Alvarado controls a 47-person defense force in support of the U.S. Space Force’s largest overseas base. Alvarado was first on scene to a major vehicle rollover accident, where he immediately rendered life-saving aid to two critically injured service members, established traffic control measures, and enabled a full recovery for four members. Alvarado is pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Master Sgt. Jeffrey J. Grasso, Space Systems Command, Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, is a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician. He also earned Project Management, Executive Management, and Green Belt certifications which led to the completion of nine projects resulting in a nomination for the Society of American Military Engineers Goddard Medal. He was nominated for the Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award and was vital to the 86th Airlift Wing winning the Commander in Chief Installation Excellence Award.
SENIOR NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Senior Master Sgt. Justin C. Cruz showcased leadership skills by overseeing the base’s largest flight. As Operations Flight Superintendent, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Space Base Delta 1, Peterson SFB, Colorado, Cruz executed a $7.6 million budget and 18 service contracts to sustain over 1000 acres and 205 facilities valued at $2 billion. Additionally, he drove a $3 million project to site the first Air Force-owned “Coyote” weapon system, and created an innovative solution for a corrosion control issue for the Command’s sole Battle Airborne Communications Node aircraft.
FIRST SERGEANT OF THE YEAR – Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Davis is First Sergeant, 21st Communication Squadron, Peterson SFB, Colorado. Davis advised the commander of the Air Force’s largest communication squadron on matters concerning discipline, health, morale, and welfare, and led the Operation Warm Heart deployed-family event which served104 families across three installations. He also championed the city’s annual homeless veterans’ outreach during the COVID pandemic. Davis earned his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and mentored others on achieving their educational goals.
COMPANY GRADE OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Capt. Malia L. Stephens is the Chief of Operations for the Rapid Reaction Branch, Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power Program, Space Systems Command, Peterson SFB. Stephens orchestrated a 16-member team on an overseas deployment to rapidly develop, test, and deliver a first-of-its-kind $4 million Quick Reaction Capability system in a record-breaking time. Additionally, Stephens responded to a European Command Urgent Operational Need by developing a next-generation capability with 70 software modules. These efforts culminated with flawless Space Operations Command operational acceptance and same-day system tasking.
FIELD GRADE OFFICER OF THE YEAR – Lt. Col. Ryan R. Sheridan serves as Director of the Peterson SFB Area Dental Laboratory, 21st Dental Squadron, Peterson SFB, Colorado. Sheridan led the Air Force’s sole, and Department of Defense’s largest, Dental Prosthetic Laboratory, managing 65 technicians and delivering $4.1 million in prostheses, driving an 83% productivity increase. Additionally, Sheridan covered as Chief Dental Officer for the Colorado Market and filled in as the Squadron Commander. His direct support and servant leadership style were key to winning the Space Force’s Medium Dental Clinic of the Year Award.
CIVILIAN CATEGORY I OF THE YEAR – Michael E. Lehmier is Lead Firefighter for the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron, Buckley AFB, Colorado. Lehmier led a crew through 112 fire, hazardous material spills, technical rescue, emergency medical services, and mutual aid responses. These leadership efforts led to saving $1.2 million in assets and five lives. Additionally, Lehmier chaired a six-year stratification planning committee, steered a six-person team, and captured five courses, converting them to local training and saving more than $400,000. Finally, Lehmier was ranked as a lieutenant out of seven peers and was instrumental in the team being awarded Space Force’s Fire Prevention Program of the Year.
CIVIILIAN CATEGORY II OF THE YEAR – Gary J. Parker is the Civilian Personnel Program Manager and Manpower Analyst, Patrick SFB, Florida. Parker was selected to be the Flight Commander for two flights during a four-month period and drove the group’s Human Resource program. Parker authored 30 outdated Position Descriptions allowing 28 employees to receive salary increases. Parker’s attention to detail and dedication to the team resulted in receipt of the Air Force Medical Service Resource Management Office Team of the Year award.
CIVILIAN CATEGORY III OF THE YEAR – Thomas E. Hite serves as Chief Enterprise Governance for Space Systems Command, Los Angeles AFB, California. As executive officer to Space Systems Command two-star equivalent civilian director, Hite led General Officer level tasks and engagements to transform a 6,000-person center to a 12,000 person Field Command. Hite also represented the command to a congressional staff delegation, ensuring the delegation’s critical understanding and awareness of the space perspective, resulting in greater advocacy for the command. Hite organized a command “Ask Me Anything” forum for talent management by aligning employees with valuable resources to enable greater development.
The AFMC Excellence Awards banquet video may be viewed on the DVIDS Links: