JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Leaders from the Virginia Air National Guard recognized the organization’s top performers of the year during an annual awards ceremony Feb. 20, 2021.
Virginia National Guard Air Component Commander Brig. Gen. Toni M. Lord hosted the event and presented group, state and national-level awards to Airmen alongside Col. Christopher G. Batterton, 192nd Wing commander, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. Roberts, 192nd Wing command chief.
Virginia National Guard State Command Chief, Command Chief Master Sgt. Kelly B. Reich, couldn’t physically be present during the ceremony but sent her well wishes via a recorded message to award recipients and the mostly online audience.
“What a great way to kick off 2021, celebrating our outstanding Airmen of the year,” Reich said. “These outstanding Airmen live and serve with a commitment to our three core values...In case you’re wondering who the best are, it is these Airmen. You inspire us!”
More than 20 VaANG Airmen were named “Outstanding Airman of the Year” in their category at the group level. Overall state winners from each category will go on to compete at the national level.
The 2020 state-level Outstanding Airman of the Year award winners are: in the Airman category, newly promoted Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Bowers, 192nd Maintenance Group; Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer of the Year is Master Sgt. Stephen Drakes, 192nd Operations Group; Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year is Senior Master Sgt. Amanda Goff, 192nd Mission Support Group; and, Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year is Master Sgt. David Teaters, a first sergeant in the 192nd Maintenance Group.
Outstanding Company Grade Officer of the Year went to newly promoted Maj. Alena Thomas from the 192nd Medical Group. Field Grade Officer of the Year is Maj. Peter Liggieri from the 192nd Operations Group.
Senior Master Sgt. Goff was named as the overall 2020 Outstanding Virginia Air National Guard Guardsman of the Year.
In her opening remarks, Lord announced she would be presenting the first Adjutant General’s Air Readiness Trophy to a deserving unit in the VaANG. The 192nd Medical Group was awarded the trophy for overall readiness in effective manning, training and recruiting and retention efforts. The 192nd MDG was also recognized for their role and impact on the year’s federal and state missions where they organized and deployed to provide support during the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s awards ceremony was unlike any other from years past with gathering capacity restrictions and mask wearing policies in place. To ensure everyone in the unit was able to cheer for their Wingman, the event was live streamed to Facebook complete with command messaging commercials to fill the time award recipients were escorted in and out of the room.
This is just one example of how Airmen innovate to overcome obstacles to accomplishing the mission. This sentiment came to the forefront when VaANG leaders presented the 2020 Innovation Award to Staff Sgt. Sidney Gilliam from the 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Gilliam won the award for his role on the 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd Wing’s innovation cell where he found creative solutions to everyday problems and utilized 3D printing capabilities to repair essential equipment.
During the ceremony, Lord also recognized and presented coins to 192nd Wing Airmen who received awards at the national level, including Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Award winners: Airman 1st Class Robin Wharton, Aircraft Technician of the Year; Senior Airman Shomari Montague, Munitions Technician of the Year; Master Sgt. John Berry, Aircraft Supervisor Manager of the Year; Capt. Haley Jefferis, Aircraft Company Grade Manager of the Year; and newly promoted Staff Sgt. Dagejah Hampton, Aviation Resource Management Airman of the Year.
National-level award winners also included Tech. Sgt. Robert McCormack who won the Chief Master Sgt. Thomas M. Barnes, Dedicated Crew Chief of the Year award, as well as Capt. Andrew Gibler and Master Sgt. William Marshall who won the Gen. Lew Allen award in 2020.