SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Three Airmen from the 178th Security Forces Squadron received national-level recognition for their extraordinary contributions in 2020 at Springfield-Beckley Air National Guard Base, Ohio.
Capt. Erik Minshall, 178th SFS Operations Officer, was recently named the Air Reserve Component Company Grade Officer of the Year as part of the 2020 Outstanding Security Forces Individual Award Winners.
Senior MSgt. Christopher Distel, 178th SFS Operations Superintendent, and Staff Sgt. Kristin Harmon, 178th SFS Police Officer, were also announced as outstanding individual award recipients for the categories Air Reserve Component Senior Non-Commissioned Officer and Flight Level Airman of the year.
In a message to the Airmen, Lt. General Michael A. Loh, Air National Guard Director, Pentagon said these defenders rose above their peers and represent the best of the Air National Guard.
Minshall led over 90 defenders spanning four states, PATRIOT SOUTH, a joint national-level, interagency exercise, sponsored by the National Guard Bureau at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Mississippi. In addition to training efforts, Minshall answered the call for COVID-19 relief efforts. Acting as the Operation Officer, he led over 500 soldiers and airmen providing needed security for five prisons.
Minshall gives all the credit for his award back to those he serves with.
“It was nothing specific in my assessment that I did,” said Minshall. “It was a team effort. We’ve got strong defenders, strong leaders here on the ground and ultimately a Group and a Wing that supported us.”
Minshall organized and led efforts to provide security throughout the year too. At the first Presidential Debate in Cleveland, Minshall worked in conjunction with the FBI and Secret Service to provide security support to the immediate areas surrounding the debate. Minshall also oversaw security of critical infrastructure sites for two Ohio cities during civil unrest.
Minshall not only received the award in the Air National Guard but also at the Air Force level as the Air Reserve Component outstanding CGO Defender of the Year, the only military member of the ANG to do so.
“There is a sense of pride for the career field and the Guard and this squadron,” said Minshall. “Looking at all the efforts and sacrifices that have gone into the missions that we have been assigned and the climate that 2020 has brought, it was nice to see our squadron get the recognition through these awards.”
Also recognized as the 178th SFS top performer of the year in 2020, Distel was able to jump in and take lead of the same missions in the state and the nation.
Unknowingly setting the pace for 2020, Distel led the civil disturbance training during PATRIOT SOUTH, said Chief Master Sgt. Peter K. Bowden, 178th SFS Chief. His previous experience as a team leader on the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s Special Tactics and Response (STAR) team and Deputy Warden provided him with the knowledge to be successful.
“His leadership and expertise prepared those 100 Defenders for what would become the Ohio Air National Guard’s first response to civil unrest in history,” said Bowden.
Distel oversaw command and control of critical power stations and key traffic control points during civil unrest, allowing more than 5,000 Ohioans to protest safely. Distel then served as the Air National Guard liaison to the Secret Service where 60 defenders were staged to secure the presidential debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29.
“It has been an unprecedented year and we all hope that it slows down and things get back to normal and things get less crazy,” said Distel. “But it should be known that should it not, the 178th SFS stands ready to answer any call that the state of Ohio decides to levy upon us.”
Harmon, the third 178th award winner, volunteered to provide security detail during the annual Joint Senior Leaders Conference where commander and senior enlisted leaders from across the state of Ohio met for two-days.
Harmon was also one of 15 volunteers who filled in during the 45-day state activation for COVID-19 relief efforts in the Ohio’s prison system.
“While there, she conducted more than 200 searches, finding 30 contraband items and 12 weapons,” said Bowden.
Harmon volunteered again to be part of a quick reaction force, ensuring traffic control points were secure and safeguarding infrastructures, including power stations that provided power to two hospitals.
“She was recognized by the Ohio Adjutant General, Maj Gen Harris, during a televised Governor’s briefing when he presented her with his coin,” said Bowden.
At home station she is a full-time flight-level base defense operations center controller and manages the unit’s information technology accountability program.
“Even though the award is an individual award, I believe it is more a tribute to our entire squadron and all of our hard work and efforts in achieving the overall mission,” said Harmon. “I could not have done it without the contributions of everyone else.”
Over 70 nominees from across the field submitted packages for the 2020 Outstanding Security Forces Individual Award. The 178th SFS received more national award winners than any other Security Forces Squadron in the ANG.
Maj. Michael A. Gibson, 178th SFS Commander said the defender’s commitment and actions are an inspiration to others and set a standard that the 178th SFS is ready and relevant for the missions of today and the future.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of them and the squadron as a whole,” said Gibson. “They have answered our state and nation’s call to serve in a time of need and have done so in an exemplary manner that sets them apart from their peers. Not only have they answered the call multiple times, but they showed their commitment to preparedness, training, and leadership. They didn’t do this for the awards for but for their dedication to serving their state and nation.”
Winners are scheduled to receive their awards at the Annual ANG Security Forces Conference tentatively scheduled for the spring.