Outstanding Airmen of the Year honored during ANG's Focus on the Force Week
By Master Sgt. David Eichaker, National Guard Bureau
/ Published August 07, 2015
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
The Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year were recognized for their accomplishments as part of Focus on the Force Week during an all call ceremony held at the Air National Guard Readiness Center here, Aug. 6.
Focus on the Force Week is a series of events designed to gather senior enlisted leadership and highlight the importance of professional development for Airmen of all levels, receive feedback from junior enlisted Airmen, and tell the exceptional stories of ANG Airmen throughout the nation.
"This is a time for other Airmen to be mentors and help build a pathway towards creating other great Airmen," said Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke, III, director, Air National Guard, during the ceremony. "This is a celebration of our Airmen."
The top ANG enlisted leader spent the week with the OAY winners and reflected on their character as well.
"These Airmen are exceptional," said Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling, command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard. "When you spend time with them, you really know how extraordinary they are."
During the week, the OAY winners had a chance to sit in on the Chief's Executive Course, a professional development course designed to give recently-promoted chief master sergeants the tools they need for success in their new rank.
"Having the OAY winners participate in the Chief's Executive Course allows them to see that deliberate development and education doesn't stop at a certain rank," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Brady, CEC facilitator. "There's always another level."
During the week, the OAY winners had opportunities to speak with the top levels of Guard leadership and get a wider perspective on how the Guard operates.
"Hearing Lt. Gen. Clarke speak about topics at the strategic level was an eye-opener," said Master Sgt. Sally J. Ford, the ANG Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year. "The direction they are taking the force just sheds a whole new light on my understanding of the Guard and the way it functions. Anytime you can broaden your perspective ... you're able to go back to your unit and better explain how they fit into the overall force picture."
During the week, the OAY winners also had time to network with experienced leadership for future development.
"This is a chance to go to work, to meet the right kind of people, make the right connections, get advice and take that back to my home unit and help any Airmen on my base self-improve," said Senior Airman Jonathan R. Smail, ANG Outstanding Airman of the Year.
The opportunity for mentorship from senior leaders was an invaluable experience for the OAY Airmen.
"It was encouraging to be around people at the pinnacle of their career and ask them what they did to get where they are," said Smail, stating that he was told to take opportunities as they come and to challenge himself.
The mentorship and speaking with senior leaders was beneficial to others as well. Meeting the other OAY winners and getting their perspective on various topics affecting the Air Guard was extremely helpful, said Master Sgt. Maria R. Quitugua, ANG Outstanding Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year.
Being recognized can be a humbling experience but personal accomplishments involve teamwork.
"It's really about the entire Air Force's accomplishments and the missions that we all do," said Staff Sgt. Douglas P. Kechijian, ANG Non-commissioned Officer of the Year and one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airman of the Year. "It's not about us, but about the whole Air Force."