Command honors the best of the best

by Chief Master Sgt. Matt Proietti
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs

U.S. Air Forces in Europe honored its top people in seven categories April 17 at an awards dinner on Ramstein.

The top Airman, NCO, senior NCO, first sergeant, company grade officer and civilians were recognized for their achievements in 2008.

The Winners Were:
• Airman of the Year – Senior Airman Zachary Holschuh, 835th Civil Engineer Squadron, Ramstein
• NCO of the Year – Tech. Sgt. John T. Carter, 100th Security Forces Squadron, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England
• Senior NCO of the Year – Senior Master Sgt. Steven J. Trotter, 501st Combat Support Wing, RAF Alconbury, England
• First Sergeant of the Year – Senior Master Sgt. Vincent F. Stephenson, 4th Air Support Operations Squadron, Mannheim Army Installation, Germany
• Company Grade Officer of the Year – Capt. Benjamin F. Martin, 48th Fighter Wing Staff Staff Judge Advocate’s Office, RAF Lakenheath, England
• Civilian of the Year (Category 1) – Virginia T. Phillips, 52nd Force Support Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany
• Civilian of the Year (Category 2) – Darryl R. Stewart, 48th Civil Engineering Squadron, RAF Lakenheath.

USAFE Commander Gen. Roger A. Brady acknowledged the supervisors, co-workers, families and friends who “make up the team behind each nominee.”

“It is through their positive attitude, teamwork and support during the many deployments and long duty hours that (the nominees) reached this level of distinction,” he said.

Airman of the Year
Airman Holschuh, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, was unable to attend the awards ceremony because he is deployed. His flight chief, Senior Master Sgt. Gus Hamilton III, accepted the award on his behalf.

Due to the heavy deployment schedule for EOD experts, Sergeant Hamilton estimated that he and Airman Holschuh have worked together less than a month in the past year.

“He was deployed, then I was deployed, then he volunteered to go back. He’s that type. He does everything that I ask him to do,” Sergeant Hamilton said.
Airman Holschuh’s Middle East work focuses largely on checking areas for improvised explosive devices and clearing them when they are found. He trained 250 Soldiers how to identify IEDs and evacuated 13 people after a direct IED hit on his team.

He ran 43 route clearance patrols, improving safety over 1,200 miles of roads for 340 convoys and volunteered for a 45-day IED clearing mission during which he slept outside in freezing conditions.

NCO of the Year
Sergeant Carter, NCOIC of Security Forces Resources at RAF Mildenhall, was also the Air Force Outstanding Security Forces Flight-Level NCO of the Year for 2008.
He deployed for 210 days to Iraq’s Green Zone, which received 270 rocket attacks during his time there. He led a raid on an insurgent stronghold, taking into custody two suspected terrorists. He thwarted the kidnapping of an Army officer and evacuated a bunker after a mortar strike, rendering life-saving first aid.

Sergeant Carter stopped the driver of an explosives-laden vehicle and evacuated 60 people from the area. He also secured an area for a gathering in which 500 children in Baghdad’s war zone received Toys for Tots presents.

He is nearing completion of a bachelor’s degree in management and was recently promoted to master sergeant.

Senior NCO of the Year
Sergeant Trotter, a wing security forces manager, provided advice for three security forces squadrons spread across eight bases in the U.K. and Norway.

He planned a three-day Capitol Hill visit during which he briefed seven members of Congress on the wing’s force-protection preparations. He was the “mastermind” behind a police conference for 70 participants hosted by his wing, his commander said.

Sergeant Trotter served as president of Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1665 and earned 18 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice via college-level tests offered by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support.

First Sergeant of the Year
Sergeant Stephenson deployed as the only first sergeant for more than 300 Airmen at an Army installation. He orchestrated the reception, staging and movement of 75 Airmen for 19 forward combat operations posts.

He assisted the Army in providing recognition to Airmen via eight Bronze Stars and 142 Army Commendation Medals.

At home, he oversaw his squadron’s drug testing, fitness and unfavorable information file programs, which were found to have no errors in a staff-assistance visit.

He managed his unit’s professional military education selection process, which resulted in three distinguished graduates and 18 award winners. He is also trained as an Army financing paying agent.

Sergeant Stephenson earned a master’s degree in business administration and was a distinguished graduate of Senior NCO Academy.

Company Grade Officer of the Year
Captain Martin is chief of adverse actions in the 48th Fighter Wing’s Staff Judge Advocate office. He works in the command’s second-busiest military justice shop. He worked 12-hour days for five months due to deployments of fellow staff members.

He won an American Bar Association award for running the Air Force’s top legal assistance program and drafted Missouri’s first-ever military child custody bill to protect deploying Airman from opportunistic ex-spouses.

Captain Martin planned a five-day advocacy training workshop for 15 staff judge advocates and was lauded by his supervisor, Lt. Col. John E. Hartsell, for being a powerful victim advocate.

He completed 15 hours of online legal training, is enrolled in Squadron Officer School and served as the wing’s Air Force Assistant Fund project officer. He also wrote a Boy Scout troop’s law merit badge training program.

Civilian of the Year (Category 1)
Ms. Phillips, a human resources technician, was named the USAFE Personnel Specialist of the Year for 2008, the same year she discovered that a system error identified National Security Personnel System employees as being ineligible for cost-of-living allowance. Her finding drove the Air Force Personnel Center to correct the problem.

She implemented her wing’s first-ever worker’s compensation reduction program and trained senior leaders on the conversion from the General Schedule civilian career format to NSPS.

Ms. Phillips helped civilian personnel officials at Ramstein with staff-assistance visits and, in her own squadron, aided in two critical squadron position reviews, said Maj. Michael C. Wyatt of the 52nd Force Support Squadron.
She assembled 12 comprehensive program continuity books that helped save preparation time for a unit compliance inspection.

Civilian of the Year (Category 2)
Mr. Stewart is chief of the fire department at RAF Lakenheath, which was named the command’s Best Large Fire Department of 2008. Its 114 firefighters mitigated 825 emergencies and protected a population of 15,000, 110 aircraft and 3,000 facilities worth more than $3 billion.

The department’s staff built a 12-station computer lab and rebuilt 42 self-contained breathing apparatuses with spare parts, saving the command $71,000.
Under his supervision, the firefighters achieved 23 skill-level upgrades, received 131 licenses and earned 201 fire accreditation certifications.

Mr. Stewart completed a master’s degree in business administration and finished Federal Emergency Management Agency courses that prepared him to serve as the wing’s incident commander.

He developed an extensive master management plan and the department’s first comprehensive annual budget, said Lt. Col. John P. Baker, commander of the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron.