Two WADS Members Recognized at the 2020 Washington Air National Guard Virtual Annual Awards Ceremony

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  • By Maj. Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

Even a global pandemic cannot keep the Washington Air National Guard commander from recognizing the outstanding performers for 2020. 

This year the 12th annual Washington Air National Guard awards ceremony was held virtually via CVR Teams Live March 6, 2021, due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

“I’m so pleased that during a global pandemic we can all still safely and thoughtfully recognize the hard work and dedication of our outstanding Airmen in front of their leadership, peers and families,” explained Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, WA ANG commander.

Prior to announcing the winners, Welsh explained that over the past year, the WA ANG has done a solid job in finding the balance between keeping the team and their families’ safe, yet accomplishing various missions.

“While many organizations were working from home during this pandemic, our teams were getting up every day, walking towards dangers in the community, and getting the job done,” explained Welsh.   “In several cases, we had Airmen participating in three, even four domestic missions, only to turn around and deploy for six months overseas. We've closely managed our taskings over the year to ensure we are maximizing our volunteer capacity, while minimizing any involuntary missions.”

Even though the WA ANG has been extremely busy with COVID response operations this past year, Welsh wanted to highlight that WA ANG Airmen were also deploying overseas, providing elections cyber support, innovating systems and processes, and tackling federal and state missions in some pretty awe inspiring ways.

For example, the joint RC-26 and Joint Terminal Attack Contoller (JTAC) team fought wildfires throughout the West coast and in only five months, this team flew 140 sorties totaling 513 hours, mapped 253 fires, searched 1.2 million square miles, and supported JTACs on the ground coordinating information between ground incident commanders and aircrews.

The 141st Air Refueling Wing maintainers, aircrew, mission support, and medical professionals deployed as part of the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron in support of the Bomber Task Force and allied partner air forces in the INDO-PACOM theater. They successfully executed 85 KC-135 sorties, while offloading 2.5 million pounds of jet fuel.

The Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) was highlighted for leading nationally for innovation when the WADS team participated in a national level exercise testing concepts of the Advanced Battle Management System, which will bring new opportunities and capabilities to the sector in the coming years.

Welsh closed his remarks by saying that, “the list of accomplishments this last year goes on and on.  2020 challenged us all in many ways, professional and personal, and even in the face of extreme stress, uncertainty, and adversity, our Airmen absolutely hit it out of the park, time and time again.”

The Washington Air National Guard annual award winners are:

Outstanding Airman of the Year: Senior Airman JonPaul S. Guyer, 194th Wing

Guyer is a TACP specialist with 116th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), 194th Wing, Camp Murray, Wash.  Guyer performs terminal control of close air support as well as advising and coordinating airpower in support of ground forces.  He assists Army units in planning and executing the most effective use of fire support to meet the ground commander’s intent and prevent fratricide.

Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Steven. J. Zipay, 194th Wing

Zipay is a geospatial intelligence targeteer with the 194th Intelligence Squadron, 194th Wing, Camp Murray, Wash.  Zipay produces critical products for the 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group and intelligence community as part of the Air Force Targeting Enterprise to fortify Combatant Command operations plans. 

Outstanding Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Susanne C. Mensik, 141st Air Refueling Wing

Mensik is a medical element chief for the 116th Air Refueling Squadron, 141st Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild AFB, Wash. Mensik advises and assists her group leadership on the health and welfare of 120 Airmen.  She coordinates unit deployments, occupational health, and medical readiness programs for all individual medical requirements, waivers, flight statuses and initial flying class III physicals. She also coordinates medical screening, testing and contact tracing during COVID-19.

First Sergeant of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Jenny M. Wirkkala, 194th Wing

Wirkkala is the first sergeant for the 116th ASOS, 194th Wing, Camp Murray, Wash.  She communicates and advises the commander on matters of health, morale, welfare, training, and utilization of unit personnel. Her duties include professional guidance, counseling personnel on qualities of leadership and followership, and personal and professional development. She also monitors administrative actions, performance reports, awards, decorations, professional military education, and family care programs.

Base Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Courtney F. Lawson, Western Air Defense Sector

Lawson is a knowledge manager with the 225th Support Squadron, WADS, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. She is responsible for coordinating and distributing information for the 225th Air Defense Group, 225th Air Defense Squadron, and 225th SPTS. Lawson also performs the role of executive assistant to the 225th ADG senior enlisted leader.

Outstanding Company Grade Officer of the Year: Capt. Matthew A. Tasin, 194th Wing

Tasin serves as the chief of training for the 116th ASOS, 194th Wing, Camp Murray, Wash. Tasin manages all aspects of operational training for the unit’s 78 TACP personnel and develops and implements the ANG’s leading Assessment and Selection Course along with the most robust One-Level Program. Additionally, he is an air liaison officer and JTAC who advises senior Army ground commander’s on precision strike and close air support integration.

Outstanding Civilian Employee of the Year: Douglas Briles, Western Air Defense Sector

Briles is the director of operations for the 225th SPTS, Western Air Defense Sector, JBLM, Wash.  He is in charge of synchronizing the squadron cyber, logistics, and civil engineering resources to enable the WADS 24/7 homeland defense operations.

Production Recruiter of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Jalisha M. Storment, 194th Wing

Storment is a production and retainer recruiter for the 194th Wing’s Tacoma Flight.  She supports the wing commander’s goal of reaching 100% manning by recruiting across all spectrums of applicants. She ensures applicant and service members are placed into a career field that best suits their skill set and needs.  Storment facilitates palace-front/palace chase Airmen, coordinates officer appointments and assists Active Guard Reserve processes.

Recruiting & Retention Manager of the Year: Master Sgt. Ruben Wright, 141st Air Refueling Wing

Wright is the recruiting & retention flight chief for the 141st Air Refueling Wing’s Spokane Flight, Fairchild AFB, Wash. He is responsible for the supervision, administration and management of wing recruiting and retention programs.

Recruiting Team of the Year: Tacoma Flight, 194th Wing

Flight of the Year: 194th Security Forces Flight, 194th Wing

Squadron of the Year: 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing

Outstanding Civilian Employer of the Year: Dung Nguyen of T-Mobile USA