Focus on the Force Week 2021 celebrates ANG’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year
By Tech. Sgt. Morgan R. Whitehouse, Air National Guard
/ Published August 20, 2021
ARLINGTON, Virginia -- The Air National Guard’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year honorees were recognized during Focus on the Force Week Aug. 16-20, 2021, in the National Capital Region.
This year’s OAY honorees during Focus on the Force Week are:
• Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Ruth-Ann Bell, 193rd Special Operations Wing, Pennsylvania National Guard.
• Non-commissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Tyler Weir, 120th Airlift Wing, Montana National Guard. Tragically, Weir passed away in a traffic accident shortly after being named ANG's NCO of 2020. Ms. Jennifer Weir, wife of MSgt. Weir, attended Focus on the Force Week on his behalf.
• Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Mark Schneider II, 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio National Guard.
• First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sgt. John Stegen, 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming National Guard.
Focus on the Force Week is an annual, week-long event hosted by the command chief of the Air National Guard designed to highlight professional development and honor the achievements of the enlisted corps’ top performing members.
“Focus on the Force Week is a time for us as an organization to celebrate our four Outstanding Airmen of the Year, their families, and the team of people that have supported them along the way,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Maurice L. Williams, ANG command chief. “When one of us succeeds then all of us have succeeded. We are all one team, and this is an opportunity for us to come together from across the enterprise and celebrate.”
Focus on the Force Week began with OAY honorees participating in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. This sacred ceremony honors the ultimate sacrifice American service members made in defense of our nation.
“Participating in this ceremony was one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” said Stegen. “Not many people get a chance to honor our fallen service members in this way. So, to be a representative from my state and for my family, and to lay the wreath was an amazing, once-in-a-life time experience.”
The Outstanding Airmen also had the opportunity to offer the perspective of the 108,000 Airmen in the ANG during a panel with former and current senior leaders of the National Guard and Air Force.
“Having the OAYs participate on this panel allowed us to take part in the discussion and provide our input on how policies affect members at the unit-level today,” said Schneider. “This is how we get to innovation, by allowing [junior] Airmen to have a seat and some say at the decision-making table.”
Other events of the week included tours of the Pentagon, Air Force Memorial and other historically significant sites in the National Capitol Region.
“Experiencing this week was eye-opening as to how complex the inner workings at the national level can be,” said Bell. “But, something I’ll take back with me to my unit is that each of us plays an important role in the mission. We are each a small puzzle piece in the bigger picture.”
Focus on the Force Week concluded with an OAY recognition and award ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
“I wish Tyler was here to receive this award, but I was honored to be here on his behalf,” said Jennifer Weir. “I’m really glad we’re a part of the Air Force. They’ve supported and included us throughout this week, and have made our family feel like we belong here. It’s a great community.”
Bell, Weir, Schneider and Stegen serve to represent the contributions and accomplishments Citizen Airmen achieve every day across the homeland and global domain.
“This is a prestigious award that each of you have worked hard to earn,” said Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, ANG director. “You have excelled in each task and mission assigned to you. You have served with honor and valor. You’ve made your nation proud. Thank you for all you do for our Air National Guard.”