The Air Force Association established the Team of the Year program in 1979 and introduced the first group in Washington, D.C., the next year. Team of the Year originated as an incentive for the service’s recruiters, who were striving to fill quotas because of the end of the military draft, but AFA soon broadened the program to recognize other specialties.
Team of the Year members (l-r) MSgt. Michael Sailer, TSgt. Scott May, SrA. Jared Kordos, SrA. Kathleen Eliseo, and SrA. David Pederson II spent four days in Washington, D.C. They visited the Pentagon, their congressmen on Capitol Hill, and attended meetings and receptions. This one took place at the home of CMSAF James Roy.(USAF photo by Jim Varhegyi)
Each year, career field managers submit nominations, detailing the accomplishments of their fields. A board comprising the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and command chief master sergeants from five major commands then make the final selection. The chiefs and career field managers select five airmen to accept the award on behalf of their peers. Team members come from different units across USAF’s Total Force.
For 2012, the board chose airborne operations.
Airmen in airborne operations serve on AWACS, JSTARS, AC-130, and MC-12 aircraft. They operate sensors, electronic countermeasures, and communications systems to gather, interpret, and distribute mission information.
In 2009, SrA. David M. Pederson II volunteered for the MC-12 Liberty program and deployed to Balad AB, Iraq. Backed by this experience, training, and other deployments, he became a key to the smooth transition in 2011 of MC-12 training from Key Field, Miss., to Beale AFB, Calif. He is now an instructor sensor operator for the 489th Reconnaissance Squadron (ACC) at Beale. Pederson wrote and implemented training curricula, created training aids, and organized participation in joint training. Some 120 students a year receive mission qualification training from him, learning about the MC-12’s sensors, radios, and computers.
SrA. Kathleen I. Eliseo, 4th Special Operations Squadron (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Fla., deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011. As a gunship sensor operator, she took part in some 68 direct-action missions over the course of 160 days. Eliseo developed imagery and intel products, supported a multinational parachute mission involving tracking “friendlies” and clearing the landing zone, and edited 20 hours of classified sensor video. She also conducted AC-130 sensor familiarization training for coalition forces and civilian-contract engineers.
SrA. Jared S. Kordos deployed for Operation Odyssey Dawn in March 2011 and the follow-on Operation Unified Protector. The airborne surveillance technician with the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron (ACC) at Tinker AFB, Okla., had been in the first crew on the ground in theater to support enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya. He flew on 62 combat sorties, accumulating 550 airborne combat hours, helping kill a column of main battle tanks, targeting SAM systems, and assisting intercepts of unknown aircraft.
TSgt. Scott C. May, from Robins AFB, Ga., has deployed eight times in his eight-year career and has 2,500 flying hours in the JSTARS. He has put this experience to use as an evaluator airborne operations technician, overseeing and training JSTARS airmen for the 116th Air Control Wing. He serves as the commander’s enlisted executive for the 129th Combat Training Squadron (ANG), the Air Guard’s only JSTARS formal training unit, which stood up last October. In 2011, he also helped the wing on a short-notice USAFRICOM tasking, enabling its deployment in less than 72 hours.
Squadron Superintendent MSgt. Michael Sailer, 551st Special Operations Squadron (AFSOC), Cannon AFB, N.M., deployed in 2011 as an operations superintendent and as an instructor for AC-130H gunship sensor operations. He planned joint special operations forces infiltration-exfiltration missions and flew on missions that provided on-call close air support and ISR. Today he is senior enlisted advisor to the squadron commander on aircrew training for AC-130, MC-130W, Predator, and Reaper platforms.