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Guard Airmen recognized during Focus on the Force Week

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. David Eichaker
  • Air National Guard

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.— Four Guard Airmen were recognized as Outstanding Airmen of the Year at a ceremony Aug. 24th, held at the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Md.

As part of the Air National Guard’s Focus on the Force Week, the Airmen received recognition for their achievements from Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, Air National Guard director and Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Williams, ANG command chief.

The OAY honorees are:

Airman of the Year: Staff Sgt. Airman Dhruva Poluru, space systems operations with the 222nd Command and Control Squadron, New York National Guard. (recently promoted)
Non-commissioned Officer of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Jessica Brazionis, information systems security manager, 217th Air Operations Group, Michigan National Guard
Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year: SMSgt Tony Hall, tactical control party, 118th Air Support Operations Squadron, North Carolina National Guard
First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sgt. Joshua Johnson, 233rd Security Forces Squadron, Colorado National Guard

The Airmen were recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to the Air National Guard as they heard from the ANG director.

“In the largest air force in the world, the United States Air Force, there are 516,000 members in uniform,” said Loh. “In our Air National Guard, there are 108,000 members spread out over 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia. We have 94,000 enlisted members…these four are our Outstanding Airmen of the Year!”

“We support them; they support all of us, and together we make the most powerful Air Force in the world.”

The FOTF week of recognition gave the OAY winners opportunities for professional development and honored their achievements as the enlisted corps’ top performers.

Formal ceremonies at Arlington often involve the laying of a wreath and typically take place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. OAY winners were able to take part in that ceremony, tour the Pentagon, and be informed on legislative processes.

“The main focus is celebrating their accomplishments and their awards to show we're appreciative of them and give them a great experience,” said Williams. “They were able to learn about the Pentagon, visit Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony, and have the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill.”

Development opportunities like this help the overall mission of the ANG, he added.

“They shared an experience with other Airmen that will help them continue to drive and reach their goals and accomplishments, which helps our National Guard grow,” said Williams.

The Airman of the Year, Staff Sgt. Poluru, shared his thoughts from the week at the leadership symposium.

“It’s been [quite the] experience, starting off with the Enlisted Leadership Symposium,” said Poluru. “We were able to network with a group of Airmen from all ranks from E-2 all the way up to command chiefs.

“It was a nice informal professional development session, trying to get individual tips from all these leaders and taking in all the opinions from the younger Airmen as well”

During the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States visit, Poluru was able to learn from the processes and interactions with other military services and servicemembers.

“It was super awesome to see a shift in professional development and how it’s actually done between Army and Air combined,” he said. “It was cool to get that joint training and get a better understanding of the other branch.”

When it comes to professional growth, Poluru offered his experiences and advice for the next generation of upcoming leaders.

“Taking up different opportunities that make you uncomfortable,” he said. “[Trying] new things to expand your thinking and relying on your leadership, coworkers, or even subordinates to be able to lean on them to guide you through this process.”