Air Force officials recently announced that Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, and his wife Sara were selected as the winners of the 2011 General and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award.
The annual award recognizes the wing commander and spouse team who have best exhibited their own courage, power, grace and beauty in caring for Air Force families and whose contributions to the nation, the Air Force and the surrounding community best exemplify the highest ideals and positive leadership of a military couple serving in a key Air Force position.
“General Dillon and Sara are a very energetic team, and their phenomenal support to the Kaiserslautern Military Community has made a lasting impact on Airmen and their families,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, during a recent visit to the wing.
While the award focuses on the commander and spouse team, it also recognizes the efforts of the unit which they lead.
“The O’Malley award is the ultimate team award,” General Welsh said. “It’s evidence that you have excellent leadership here — your commanders, chiefs, first sergeants — who are taking care of people and taking action when needed.”
During the last year, the Dillons led a wing of more than 8,000 Airmen and supported a joint and interagency team of nearly 50,000 Americans — the largest concentration of Americans living outside the U.S. As part of the everyday Ramstein mission, they ensured first-class support to three combatant commands — from vital cyber connectivity and wounded warrior care to strategic airlift to and from all major theaters of operation.
“Sara and I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve with thousands of impressive Airmen and their families who make the 86th Airlift Wing mission happen every day,” General Dillon said. “The O’Malley Award is really recognition of these amazing Airmen and their families.”
Some of the 86th Airlift Wing’s major accomplishments in 2010 include garnering an “Excellent” operational readiness inspection — the first ORI for the wing in five years, standing up and serving more than 900 Airmen with the Air Force’s only Deployment Transition Center, and, in spite of Germany’s heaviest accumulation of snow in 52 years, enabling 60 percent of the airflow for the Afghanistan surge.
“It’s no secret that Ramstein is a strategic asset to our Air Force, the Department of Defense and our nation and certainly at times can be a very difficult ship to steer. But General Dillon and Sara have ensured that through it all the importance of our Airmen and their families is always the No. 1 priority,” General Welsh said. “They are truly most deserving of the 2011 O’Malley award.”
As the 86th Airlift Wing focused on its broad mission set supporting three geographic combatant commands, the Dillons initiated numerous improvements to Airmen and family quality of life across the KMC.
Mrs. Dillon helped ease spouses’ overseas transition by advocating for a spouse orientation course. Once the course was established, she ensured vital communication and feedback via the 86th AW’s newcomers website and Facebook page. Mrs. Dillon championed the Air Force’s key spouse program, and her advocacy helped quadruple Ramstein’s key spouse numbers.
She was also a staunch supporter of the KMC youth sports programs where more than 9,000 youth were able to participate in stateside quality athletics overseas. And under her role as the Ramstein Officers’ Spouses Club adviser, the 2010 Ramstein bazaar raised more than $250,000 — all of which went to benefit KMC schools, military units and programs like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
“I’m honored for the recognition, but the recognition goes to the hundreds of spouses, volunteers, coaches and teachers who put their heart and soul into taking care of our Airmen and their families,” Mrs. Dillon said. “These selfless Americans go above and beyond daily and make the KMC such a wonderful place to live, work and play.”
The award is named after General O’Malley and his wife Diane who were killed in a 1985 aircraft crash while en route to a meeting in Scranton, Pa. The couple was known for their leadership and contributions to Air Force families and communities.
The formal presentation ceremony will be conducted by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz Sept. 11 at the Pentagon.