Officials announce annual award winners

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
Officials from the 353rd Special Operations Group honored the group's top Airmen during its 2011 Annual Awards Luncheon here Jan 12.

The individual award winners are:

Airman of the Year
Senior Airman David Craig, 320th Special Tactics Squadron

During 2011, Airman Craig participated in 90 direct action missions while deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. He also flew 53 casualty evacuation and personnel recovery missions where his medical expertise helped save 15 lives. He continued to use his medical training to teach lifesaving skills to U.S. Army Soldiers during multiple classes during the year as well.

In his off-duty time, he aggressively pursued further medical education by completing 14 hours of classes spanning seven subjects. Airman Craig also volunteered time at various unit functions and at the base clinic.

Noncommissioned Officer of the Year
Tech. Sgt. Jason Lemke, 1st Special Operations Squadron

Sergeant Lemke's award-winning year saw him capture an Air Commando Association Leadership award, a quarterly award and earn his squadron's nomination for the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year and the Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award. While deployed, he flew 63 combat hours moving more than 370 Special Forces personnel and 154 tons of cargo. He was also key to multiple combined training exercises with foreign militaries by teaching loadmaster techniques, showcasing MC-130H flying operations and conducting airdrops of 80 personnel and 53,000 pounds of cargo.

While not working as a loadmaster, Sergeant Lemke spent time as an instructor for the base's NCO Professional Development Seminar. He also donated time collecting donations for Cambodian and Okinawan schools and orphanages.

Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year
Master Sgt. Robert Longhenry, 1st SOS

As the senior enlisted leader for the squadron, he was instrumental in helping the unit and group achieve an "Excellent" rating during the Air Force Special Operations Command Operational Readiness Inspection. He also served as a senior enlisted leader while deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom where the squadron flew more than 300 missions and 1,300 flight hours. As an evaluator loadmaster, he wrote new tactic, techniques and procedures for new delivery system that increased resupply capabilities by 200 percent.

In his off-duty time, he earned 18 hours toward his bachelor's degree and spent more than 95 hours taking special operations development courses. Sergeant Longhenry also volunteered to serve multiple base agencies and orphanages in Thailand and Cambodia.

First Sergeant of the Year
Master Sgt. Chadd Malin, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron

Sergeant Malin spent 2011 serving as the first sergeant for more than 250 special operations Airmen, but provided his guidance and leadership a much larger audience. Within the SOG, he advised enlisted Airmen on military standards and professional development. Around the base, Sergeant Malin mentored Airmen at the First Term Airman's Center, Airman Leadership School, NCO Academy and NCO Professional Development Seminars. He also served as the deployed first sergeant for multiple exercises.

Sergeant Malin moved within two classes of completing his bachelor's degree in 2011. He also helped collect more than 700 toys as part of the First Sergeant Council's Angel Tree and led an the Operation Warmheart fundraiser to help needy families on base.

Company Grade Officer of the Year
Capt. David Robertson, 17th Special Operations Squadron

Captain Robertson spent part of 2011 deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom where he flew more than 255 hours on more than 50 combat missions moving more than 922,000 pounds of cargo and 1,300 special operations forces personnel. On one of the missions, he piloted the first low cost/low altitude combat drop mission from a MC-130. He also flew 20 missions in support of two different exercises with Special Forces from the Philippines and Thailand.

In his off-duty time, he completed 12 hours toward his master's degree and completed two joint operations planning courses. He also led visits donating toys to a Philippine orphanage and painting local school while at Squadron Officers School in Alabama. The captain also volunteered at numerous base events.

Civilian of the Year, Category I
Irene Jones, 353rd SOG

Ms. Jones served 2011 as the secretary for the group commander and deputy commander by flawlessly managing more than 1,650 calendar events and hundreds of correspondence items. As one of the main points of contact most of the evaluations, decorations and other administrative paperwork in the unit, she was responsible for an increase in the on-time rate for evaluations from 54 to 85 percent and made sure more than 95 percent of the end-of-tour decorations were complete before Airmen leaving the SOG departed Kadena. She also served as the group's protocol officer and assistant to the group command chief for one month during position vacancies.

While away from work, Ms. Jones is a leader of her church's Couples for Christ ministry. She is the group's booster club secretary and volunteered her time to support the Okinawa Marathon and sports day at the Child Development Center. She also completed 17 computer-based training courses throughout the year.

Civilian of the Year, Category II
Kevin Waddle, 1st SOS

Mr. Waddle served 2011 as the unit's deployment manager leading seven people on all deployment related issues for a heavily tasked squadron. His expertise was vital to identifying and correcting deployment-line discrepancies for a joint exercise and processing more than 90 people with no issues. He also expedited the removal of more than 12,000 pounds of obsolete equipment and spearheaded the replacement of four storage units. As a trained combat arms instructor, Mr. Waddle also revamped the squadron's armory.

In his off-duty time, he completed his associate's degree and completed seven non-required computer-based training courses. Mr. Waddle is and active member of the Parent Advisory Council at the Child Development Center and sponsors two children at a local orphanage.

Civilian of the Year, Category III
Kevin Pham, 353rd SOSS

During 2011, Mr. Pham served as the tactical communication expert for the group. He provided more than 740 hours of training enabling communication specialists to be ready to deploy. When not teaching, he was able to use his expertise to troubleshoot and fix a problem that eluded 15 technicians. He also developed a new network design that doubled tactical response options and directed the team to integrate the procedures with Special Operations Command, Pacific.

Mr. Pham also found time during the year to learn about new equipment and procedures. He taught himself a complex defense network defense system and saved the Air Force more than $8,000 in costs. He also became the first in the group qualified on two new modems increasing satellite data link reliability by 300 percent. Mr. Pham also volunteers at his church and base events.