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NEWS | Jan. 10, 2024

BAAF employees honored by Army National Guard

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The Army National Guard honored two employees of the Blackstone Army Airfield near Blackstone, Virginia, in December 2023 for being best in the ARNG. 

Walter Tisdale was named ARNG Category 1 Airfield Manager of the Year, and John Olson was named Air Traffic Controller of the Year for 2023. Tisdale accepted his award at a conference in northern Virginia Dec. 6, 2023, and Olson accepted his at a brief ceremony at Blackstone Army Airfield Dec. 18, 2023. 

During the ceremony at BAAF, Col. James C. Shaver Jr., the Fort Barfoot garrison commander, thanked Tisdale, Olson and the entire BAAF operations team for their hard work. 

“The only constant is change,” said Shaver. “This place is changing. It was busy this last year, but 2024 is going to be even busier. Blackstone Army Airfield is on the map, keep up the great work.”

A relatively small staff of about 20 employees operates the airfield, which is a joint-use facility supporting military and civilian air operations. Tisdale said his recognition was due to the team effort. 

“We’re getting recognized, but we’re just a face for a lot of people who put in a lot of work here,” said Tisdale. “I appreciate the effort the entire staff has given us.”

Olson echoed Tisdale’s sentiments towards the entire BAAF staff. 

“It’s really a group effort,” said Olson. “There’s no way any single person gets recognized for an award like this without having an outstanding group. It’s a reflection on the organization. To be recognized means a great deal to me. I couldn’t have done this without having years and years of mentors including Mr. Tisdale.”

The facility’s 2023 was a busy year not just supporting military and civilian flight operations, but in making improvements to the facility. The team completed a successful move of the BAAF operations building to a brand new building, planned for a new air traffic control tower and oversaw improvements to the runway, including the expansion of the runway’s overrun. 

The team’s busy but successful year prompted Col. Craig Lewis, the Virginia Army National Guard state aviation officer, to thank Tisdale and his team for supporting VaARNG aviation efforts. 

“Today we recognize the contributions of Walter and John, however, their individual recognition is just a reflection of the entire Blackstone Airfield Team,” said Lewis. “Everyone deserves this recognition because it requires a team effort to be this successful. The accomplishments of the past year were a significant undertaking, and I can’t praise the team’s dedication and effort enough.”

The Blackstone Army Airfield sits adjacent to Fort Barfoot and covers approximately 600 acres and includes a C-17-capable runway and can support a wide variety of manned and unmanned aircraft operations. Tenants of the BAAF include the Virginia National Guard and civilian entities including the Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol and UAV Pro. It also hosts other military components and services for training. 

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