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ANG Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year: MSgt. John Stegen

U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant John Stegen assigned to the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Wyoming National Guard, poses for a studio portrait July 11, 2021, in Cheyenne Wyo. MSgt Stegan has been selected as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Papile)

U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant John Stegen assigned to the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Wyoming National Guard, poses for a studio portrait July 11, 2021, in Cheyenne Wyo. MSgt Stegan has been selected as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Papile)

U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant John Stegen assigned to the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Wyoming National Guard, unboxes medical supplies on July 11, 2021, Cheyenne, Wyo. Stegen has been selected as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Papile)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Stegen, assigned to the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Wyoming National Guard, unboxes medical supplies on July 11, 2021, Cheyenne, Wyo. Stegen has been selected as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Papile)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Stegen, assigned to the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Wyoming National Guard, unboxes medical supplies on July 11, 2021, Cheyenne, Wyo. MSgt Stegan has been selected as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Papile)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Stegen, assigned to the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Wyoming National Guard, unboxes medical supplies on July 11, 2021, Cheyenne, Wyo. MSgt Stegan has been selected as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sean Papile)

CHEYENNE, Wyoming -- The United States Air Force is the second largest branch of the U.S. military. It supports over 500,000 total personnel across active duty, Reserve and Guard. Out of all those uniformed members, only a few can stand out above the rest.

In the Air National Guard, this individual is awarded the Air National Guard Outstanding Airman of the Year award, and it is a crowning achievement that stands as a testament to that individual’s dedication to military service.

This year, the award for Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year was earned by Master Sgt. John Stegen, a first sergeant with the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and a native Hawaiian, attached to the 153d Airlift Wing here in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Stegen is a veteran of the force with over 17 years of service, across both active and Guard. Stegen joined the military in 2004, and was formerly in the Security Forces career field before moving to aeromedical as a first sergeant.

Stegen’s reasons for joining the military were selfless, as expected from someone who would go on one day to earn an award such as this one.

“I felt like a bigger calling was to be a member of the military because not many people did it back then,” said Stegen. “17 years later, I’m still doing it because it’s something good, and because I truly enjoy it.”

The award itself represents the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to duty, and it is no small feat.

“Winning this award was a humbling experience and a surprise,” said Stegen, “At this level, it is more about my troops than myself, so I felt like I was just doing my job.”

But as he has grown in his career, his aspirations followed. Now, his goals align more with preparing the future generations of Airmen to follow in his footsteps. Because for Stegen, service isn’t just about himself.

“For me, as the time passes, you start progressing in your career, and start leading the troops, it’s less about you and more about the troops because they’re the future,” said Stegen, “It’s not just checking boxes, it’s having the personality, the emotional intelligence, the knowledge of leadership.”

When asked what wisdom he would impart to the younger Airmen of the force, he said, “Be true to yourself, set smart, realistic goals and make sure you have a strong support system at home.”

“Make sure your goals are achievable, but not easy,” said Stegen. “Challenge yourself, and look for opportunities.”

Stegen’s service to the force and to his fellow Airmen embodies the core values instilled in each of us from our first day in uniform: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

Looking to the future, Stegen stated that younger Airmen need to remember to always ask for feedback and continue to strive to be their very best selves in all their endeavors. If we continue to do that, that will strengthen the force overall. Because, after all is said and done, it is really not the award itself that is most important, it is the years of service and sacrifice, and the dedication to his Airmen that it represents. It is that model of selfless service and dedication to others that we should all strive to emulate, in and out of uniform.

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