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SecAF recognizes exceptional Air University Airmen

SecAF recognizes exceptional Air University Airmen

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, Air University commander, recognized the exceptional academic and leadership qualities of nine Airmen during a ceremony at Air University, May 8, 2017. Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award recipients were (left to right) Tech. Sgt. Michelle Buitenhuis, Master Sgt. Terrell Mickens, Dr. Margaret Sankey, Capt. Jessica Harris, Lt. Col. Nia Bluford, Senior Airman Megan Eichmann, Maj. Katherine Mack, Capt. Shea Humphrey and Senior Master Sgt. Evan Serpa. (Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson presented each of nine Airmen with the 2018 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award while here for the National Security Forum, May 8-10, 2018.

The award recognizes Air University students, cadets, faculty and staff who exhibit exemplary leadership, character and ethical behavior in the educational environment. These are the most prestigious award opportunities for Air University Airmen and the competition in each category was intense.

Each year, Air University command teams take on the arduous task of sifting through their respective organizations to single out the one person who best exhibits exceptional academic and leadership qualities. Those individuals then compete at the university level though a rigorous board process where the winners are selected. The secretary of the Air Force personally presents the awards.

Recipients in the student category:

Maj. Katherine Mack, Advanced Study Group, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, July 5, 2017-June 13, 2018

“It was a huge privilege to meet Secretary Wilson and the other inspiring award winners. I'm extremely grateful to my classmates who have made the past year an amazing - and interesting - adventure. There are so many deserving folks in Air University, and I am humbled and honored to even be considered.”

Capt. Shea Humphrey, Squadron Officer School, Sept. 27-Nov. 9, 2017

“My experience at SOS was humbling, and being selected for this award even more so. Along with our flight commander, my peers at SOS fostered an environment which spurred each other to think more critically, to communicate more clearly and to lead with more conviction. For me, this award represents that environment and it motivates me to encourage and support those around me, regardless if I'm leading or following. It is an honor to represent my flight and all the students who attended SOS last year.”

Senior Master Sgt. Evan Serpa, Air Force Senior NCO Academy, July 17-Aug. 18, 2017

“The opportunity and privilege just to attend our Air Force’s Senior NCO Academy was incredible; it was truly one of the most formative events that I have ever experienced. But to be nominated by my peers to represent Class 17-E, and subsequently all 2017 graduates, is one of the most humbling experiences of my life. While I’m certainly honored to carry the torch, this award is really a testament to all those who put in the long hours just to make it to SNCOA, and also to all of my previous mentors’ efforts and determination.”

Recipients in the faculty/staff categories:

Lt. Col. Nia Bluford, chief, International Programs, International Officer School

“I was humbled to be selected for the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award, honored to receive the award from Madam Secretary and proud to showcase the awesome mission and work being done at the International Officer School. It is a great privilege to learn leadership lessons from both tremendous Air Force and international leaders from over 80 countries and serves as a key reminder of the importance and strength of our alliances, coalitions and partnerships.”

Capt. Jessica Harris, chief, Dependent and Sponsorship Program, International Officer School

“This award is a reflection of the commanders, supervisors and Airmen who I've had the honor to serve with throughout my career, and I am truly humbled to be recognized for my role at the International Officer School. Over the past year, I've had the privilege to work with our international officers and families at Maxwell, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience for which I am deeply grateful.” 

Dr. Margaret Sankey, director, Research and Electives, Air War College

“Being selected means a great deal to me because it reinforces the integration of civilian academics here as Airmen and part of the Maxwell community. It would not be possible for me to do a good job without the expertise and support of the military and civilian staff, fellow faculty and students who all pull together to achieve our goals—preparing students to be outstanding senior leaders, providing the Air Force with innovative thinking and research and being productive members of the national security community. I was honored to be on stage with such outstanding military personnel of all ranks, and humbled to see the importance of what we do reflected in these fellow Airmen.”

Master Sgt. Terrell Mickens, superintendent, Curriculum and Analysis, Sheppard Air Force Base NCO Academy, Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education

“I don't believe any major accomplishment is achieved alone, through one's own work, but it is through the support of a great team. I’m thankful for my teammates and leaders who trusted and believed in me. They are the real MVPs. Leading is a privilege.”

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Buitenhuis, NCO-in-charge, Standards and Evaluations Section, Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education

“It was a true honor to be selected as a Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award winner and to receive the award from Madam Secretary herself. It meant a lot to me to have the support of my leadership and those who I work with to be recognized for all of our efforts and hard work in mentoring our Airmen to become better leaders of the Air Force.”

Senior Airman Megan Eichmann, Air University Portal lead developer, Headquarters, Air University

“Receiving the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award has proved to me that we may be single entities within the ‘big’ Air Force, but without all of our individual efforts, we cannot guide our country to a greater future!"
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