Maj. Kenneth Brandon, 374th Communications Squadron director of operations, and a formation of airmen stand at attention and prepare to render a salute as the American flag is lowered at a retreat ceremony at Yokota AB, Japan, on Oct. 18, 2019. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe.
Photo Caption & Credits

Faces of the Force

Sept. 1, 2020

Know of someone we should recognize? Send nominees to afmag@afa.org

Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer

Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez—a professional magician turned 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist—came up with the Space Force’s official motto, “Semper Supra,” Latin for “Always Above.” Sanchez said “Semper,” was meant, among other things, to reflect the service’s 24/7 watch over the space domain and its resolve. The “Supra,” too, has layers of meaning, he said. It was intended as “a reminder that no matter what we have accomplished, there is no ceiling or boundary. … [It] represents the age-old impulse of humankind to look up. To see the skies and stars, and wonder what else is out there. It is also symbolic of our standards of excellence. … Our citizens will rest easier, knowing there is always a shield above them.” Gen. John W. Raymond, USSF Chief of Space Operations, called Sanchez to personally thank him for his contribution to Space Force history. “It was the perfect fit,” Raymond said. … We’re proud of your motto; we’re proud to have it. You’re a part of history.”

Airman 1st Class Alison Stewart

52nd Operational Support Squadron Air Traffic Control Watch Supervisor Tech. Sgt. Erron Sayas prevented a collision between a C-17 Globemaster III and a sweeper vehicle whose driver was tuned into the wrong radio frequency. Such a collision could have caused the loss of a $202 million aircraft or—worse—several lives. He was subsequently nominated for the 52nd Fighter Wing’s Chainbreaker Award, which recognizes Airmen whose early interventions in minor events prevent major mishaps. 

Airman Anabel Del Valle

325th Security Forces Squadron Resource Adviser Staff Sgt. Candis Mathews won an “Angel Award” from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., for logging more than 500 hours of volunteering in 2020. Mathews, who also serves as an Air Force Sergeants Association community liaison, has been recognized for her commitment to service before, having been named volunteer of the year for her squadron, wing, and base in 2019. “One of the greatest things you can give is your time,” she said.

USAF

Airman 1st Class Emily Perina, a physical therapist assistant (PTA) with the 56th Healthcare Operations Squadron, recently became the first Airman in her AFSC to skip technical school. She met her technical training requirements before enlisting by earning an associate degree, a license in Florida, and amassing four years of experience. “Her PTA license is a higher qualification than one would earn from graduating tech school,” said 56th HCOS Surgical Services Flight Chief, Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Rigby.

Airman 1st Class Erin Baxter

37th Intelligence Squadron Senior Intelligence Analyst Staff Sgt. Drew Mayo de- escalated a mid-air conflict after a commercial passenger locked himself in the plane’s bathroom and refused to communicate with anyone but the flight’s captain or the FBI. Mayo talked the man down and got him to surrender a pen he’d used to threaten individuals on the flight. Mayo said his SERE training made it possible. “You get a lot of knowledge about how to communicate with hostile individuals and de-escalate situations,” he said.

Master Sgt. Alexander Cedillo/courtesy

52nd Fighter Wing Protocol Specialist Master Sgt. Alexander Cedillo helped high-risk families amid the COVID-19 pandemic, soliciting shopping lists and making commissary runs for them, coordinating online Catholic masses for military families, and facilitating a mass donation of PPE and isopropyl alcohol to benefit 51 hospitals in the Philippines. “Difficult situations like these bring out the best in people,” he said. “Never underestimate small gestures of love and kindness.”

Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers

The Kirtland Spouses Club at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.,. hosted a food and supply drive from July 16-17 to benefit the Navajo Nation. “The Navajo Nation has been hit hard with COVID-19, so we really wanted to show our support and participate,” said club President Brittni McDonald. “They were in need and that’s what we’re all about, helping our community.” Partner organizations including DreamLab and Women to Be gave out the collected items to Navajo Nation families.

Rachel Kersey/ IAAFA

The 37th Training Wing’s Inter American Air Forces Academy, which primarily provides Spanish-language PME to boost U.S.-partner nation interoperability, won Hq. Air Force’s 2019 Enlisted Professional Military Education (EPME) Center of the Year Award. “This award is the result of our efforts, dedication … culminating in this recognition as the best EPME center of the year” for USAF and USSF, said 837th Training Squadron Director of Operations Maj. Eduardo Barajas.

2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson

15th Wing Legal Office Assistant Staff Advocate 1st Lt. Arielle Heald, PACAF Logistics Directorate Weapons System Support Branch Chief Capt. Christopher Piha, and an Army soldier helped a Honolulu police officer after a highway collision threw her from her motorcycle. Piha helped assess the officer’s condition, Heald directed traffic, and both helped keep her still and alert until first responders arrived. “When things get stressful, you just have to get the job done,” Heald said.