NEWS | Feb. 28, 2022

Virginia Air National Guard awards Airmen for outstanding performance

By Staff Sgt. Kellyann Elish | 192nd Wing Public Affairs

The Virginia Air National Guard recognized its top performers for 2021 in the organization’s annual awards ceremony Feb. 5, 2022, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Brig. Gen. Toni M. Lord, Virginia National Guard air component commander, hosted the event and presented Airmen with group and state level awards alongside Col. Christopher G. Batterton, 192nd Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. Kelly B. Reich, VaANG state command chief, and Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. Roberts, 192nd Wing command chief.

Due to on-going COVID-19 restrictions, the event was live streamed to Facebook similar to the previous year with command messaging commercials to entertain the online viewers as award recipients were escorted in and out of the room.

“This is the best part of my job, recognizing Airmen,” Lord said during her opening remarks. “I want to recognize every Airman, whether they’re here or online. Without every single person, we could not get our mission done or accomplished. The sun never sets on the Virginia Air National Guard because our forces are all over the world. I also want to recognize the folks that stood above and beyond. They excelled at the Air Force core values. Their tenaciousness at getting the job done and taking care of their Airmen are going to be recognized today.”

For 2021, the VaANG’s state-level Outstanding Airman of the Year award winners were: in the Airman category - newly promoted Staff Sgt. Austin Bayer, 192nd Operations Group; Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer of the Year - Tech. Sgt. Nathan Kambic, 192nd Maintenance Group; Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year - Senior Master Sgt. Roberto Mercado, 192nd Wing Staff Agency; and Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year - Master Sgt. Joshua Willard, a first sergeant in the 192nd Maintenance Group.

The VaANG’s Outstanding Company Grade Officer of the Year was Capt. Raymond Race, 192nd Operations Group. And, the Outstanding Field Grade Officer of the Year was Maj Scott Harman, 192nd Mission Support Group.

The overall 2021 Outstanding Virginia Air National Guard Guardsman of the Year was awarded to Bayer.

“These Airmen represent leadership traits; they represent being the best of their technical specialties,” Reich said. “They go out and support their local communities. They are supporting something bigger than themselves. They have taken challenges and turned them into opportunities, and they deliver results which is why they are here today, this is why they stand out.”

During the ceremony, Batterton reflected on a few accomplishments from 2021 across all of the 192nd Wing’s groups to include Covid response efforts, deployments, winter storm support missions across the Commonwealth of Virginia, maintaining the F-22 Raptors, and various mobilizations supporting both federal and state missions.

“Chief Roberts and I are just proud to serve side by side with you and we want to say thank you,” Batterton said. “Today’s all about recognizing the superstars. It’s also about each and every Airman - understanding where you belong in the organization and how you provide that key piece of the total force to get out there and support our federal [mission] and of course the Commonwealth here in Virginia.”

Two unit awards were presented on behalf of the Virginia Adjutant General recognizing the efforts of a unit as a whole.

The Adjutant General’s Air Readiness Trophy was awarded to the 185th Cyber Operations Squadron. The 185th COS leveraged the Air Force enterprise to construct a mobilization financial plan that included over 800 thousand dollars in equipment and procured training which has been adopted as the Cyber Protection Team (CPT) model by the National Guard Bureau. This visionary team built in-house cyber initial qualification training, overcoming United States Cyber Command job qualification standard formal training unit shortfalls. Additionally, the squadron engineered CPT training readiness week - aligning upgrade tasks, professional development and operations exercises. The 185th COS has increased readiness for the entire VaANG and its Airmen.

The Adjutant General’s Air National Guard Retention Trophy was awarded to the 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. This award recognizes the unit with the most effective retention program resulting in an end strength that best meets mission requirements.

Innovation is vital to the success of the United States Air Force and the VaANG. Each year the VaANG recognizes an Airman or team’s creativity and ability to adapt with the Innovation Award. This year that award went to the ACE Projects Team from the 192nd OG and MXG - Lt. Col. Mongo Dietrich, Master Sgt. Shahrum Dalai, and Tech. Sgts. Joseph Bower and Kenneth Carpenter.

The 2021 Founders and Patriots of America Award went to the 192nd Medical Group. The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Society recognizes National Guard units for excellence in overall performance, outstanding quality of leadership and status of mission readiness.

“Our Airmen do awesome things, but unless we document it and let people know about it, they’ll go unrecognized,” Roberts said in closing. “Our [Airman’s] Creed says that we have a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor - what we saw here today were Airmen building upon the legacy in which they’ve inherited and also forming the future legacy for our Airmen to come…Our organization is great because of one thing - our Airmen. We believe in our Airmen, and that’s why we train our Airmen. And then when needed, we send our Airmen forward to take care of our Nation’s business…you’re taking care of business and because of that our community and our country can sleep better at night.”
For more photos  from this ceremony please visit the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

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