Outstanding Airman of the Year: Technical Sergeant Brett Yoakum

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class TraVonna Hawkins
  • 164th Airlift Wing

MEMPHIS, TN -- Before being named one of the 2022 Outstanding Airman of the year for the state of Tennessee, Technical Sergeant Brett Yoakum was awarded the 164th Airlift Wing’s NCO of the year. TSgt Yoakum currently holds an AGR position with the 164th OSS as an aircraft loadmaster. He’s not only an active member in the military but a staple in his community as well.

Prior to joining the Air National Guard, Yoakum began his adult life as an Olive Branch firefighter. After some time, he transitioned to become a Southaven Police Officer. Not feeling 100% fulfilled from either career field, having a wife who was already enlisted and a son looking up to him, he enlisted in the Tennessee Air National Guard.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a complete adrenaline junkie. It’s just my pocketbook can’t support my adrenaline rush,” Yoakum stated while laughing. “I was really successful in my fire career, got promoted early, but I was still young and over time wanted something different. Connected with the police department, made my way to the swat commander/narcotics commander, then came here.”

Technical Sergeant Yoakum currently holds two Air Force Specialty Codes. He originally enlisted as a Security Forces Journeyman in 2015 and four years later crossed trained to Aircraft Loadmasters. Since cross training, Yoakum has accrued over 990 flying hours total, to include more than 340 combat hours, and over 116 combat sorties in support of Operations: INHERRENT RESOLVE, ALLIED REFUGE and FREEDOM SENTINEL which are among some of his most memorable missions.

“The first was a guard lift mission as a new loadmaster with Master Sergeant Deanne Davis and anyone who is from the 155th will understand. You either work to her standards or you don’t; and if you don’t, well that is a self-correcting issue. It was almost a rite of passage for new loadmasters to have the honor of flying with her. She is a mentor and instructor that will be missed. Second, the night of August 15, 2021, when the Taliban took Kabul, I was deployed in Qatar at the time. The third is August 31, 2021, my last mission to Kabul to extract the 82nd airborne. I have never had a bad mission, but no two missions are ever the same,” said Yoakum.

With all that experience under his belt Yoakum feels his greatest accomplishment is having the opportunity to mentor and help those coming in after him.

“My biggest accomplishment was being able to sit on a promotion board for senior airmen. Some of them are younger with less time in but they are light years ahead of where I was at that age. Its mentoring factor of it but I also learn from them. I learn the job of the jet from them and they learn life skills from me,” Yoakum said.

This Mississippi native is not all work and no play. In his free time, Yoakum enjoys exercising, helping the people around him and most importantly spending time with his four Belgian Malinois.

“They’re all rescues. I’ve been volunteering with American Belgian Malinois Rescue for the last 12 years. People will call me with troubled dogs, and they didn’t know what to do with them. I will help find them a place to go or as you see I got stuck with four of them,” he said.

When asked if he had any advice for new airmen, Yoakum responded, “Simple, work with the core values. Remember you volunteered to join; the Air Force did not come to you. If you have a passion to volunteer for your community, keep that passion. Steer away from negative influences and toxic environments. If you have a problem, find a solution. You may be the only National Guard member someone ever encounters. Your interaction reflects on everyone that wears a uniform, make that interaction a positive one when representing the National Guard and Air Force.”