Tech. Sgt. Michael Walker received the 2021 Air Force Sergeants Association William H. Pitsenbarger Heroism Award, an annual recognition to an enlisted member who has performed a heroic act, on or off duty, resulting in the saving of life or the prevention of serious injury. Walker was credited with helping save the lives of 28 people while off-duty in 2020 during an active-shooter incident in the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, Ariz. Walker was having dinner with friends when he noticed people running outside the restaurant, followed by the sound of multiple gunshots. He ran to the entrance to barricade the doors where he stood some 10 to 15 feet from the shooter. “All I could think about was locking the doors and getting people safely inside,” Walker said. He guided the staff and customers into the kitchen to hide, told them to barricade the doors, then retrieved the keys to the restaurant’s front doors and Walker exited the building to close garage-like rolling security doors from the outside, putting himself at risk.
Capt. Taylor Bye was forced to land an A-10C after a catastrophic gun malfunction prevented her landing gear from deploying, causing aircraft panels to fly off, and sending the canopy soaring. Managing to safely land the aircraft on April 7 with minimal damage to the runway at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., earned her the Air Combat Command Airmanship Award. Bye said, “The amazing thing about the A-10 is even though all these things happened, I had two perfectly working engines and hydraulic systems.”
The USAF Thunderbirds flew with a guest, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin, aiming to attract UFC fans to fields which Air Force Recruiting Service finds especially hard to fill. UFC’s huge social media following let Griffin share his experience with a vast group of potential recruits. “I can honestly say … [it] was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done in my life, and I’m honored to have shared as much time as I have with the men and women of the Air Force,” Griffin said.
The Air Force Women’s Initiative Team won USAF’s Diversity and Inclusion award for creating DOD’s pregnancy policy allowing pregnant Airmen to participate in Professional Military Education and driving the initiative that authorized braids and ponytails for female Airmen in uniform. The team also updated the service’s aviator height standard and pushed for DOD’s first maternity flight duty uniform. David Frank earned the individual award for his role as the co-chair on the Women’s Initiative Team.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth presented seven Air University Airmen with the 2021 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award during a ceremony May 11 at Maxwell AFB, Ala. The award recognizes AU students, cadets, faculty, and staff who exhibit exemplary leadership, character and ethical behavior in the educational environment. This award represents AU Airmen who are the “best of the best” in their respective category. The recipients are: U.S. Space Force Maj. Kyle Keith, Faculty/Staff Field Grade Officer category, Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education; Capt. Tamara Merritt, Faculty/Staff Company Grade Officer category, Air University International Officer School; Master Sgt. Jaime Matekaitis, Faculty/Staff Senior NCO category, Airey NCO Academy, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; Jason Womack, Civilian category, Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development; Master Sgt. Charles Simper, Student-Senior NCO category, Air Force Senior NCO Academy.
The remains of U.S. Army Air Forces Tech. Sgt. Alfred Turgeon were identified Jan. 13 after the Army used DNA analysis from remains buried in Europe. Turgeon was received with honors at Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in Seattle. On Aug. 1, 1943, Turgeon served as a B-24 gunner and radio operator during Operation Tidal Wave at Ploesti, Romania. His unidentified remains were buried as “unknown” in the Hero Section of the Civilian and Military Cemetery Romania, then later moved to Belgium.
Retired Gen. Maryanne Miller, former head of Air Mobility Command, and retired Gen. Robin Rand, former head of Air Force Global Strike Command, were presented the Order of the Sword—the highest honor and tribute enlisted Airmen can bestow upon a commissioned officer—at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and Barksdale AFB, La., respectively, on April 23. Some 250 such senior officers and civilians have been so honored since the first award in 1967. USAF Airmen are the only U.S. service members who bestow such an honor.
Air Force Reserve Key Spouse Mentors from around the country came together virtually for a conference May 7 to share their ideas, struggles and best practices. The conference also provided guidance and education on a host of Reserve programs available and resiliency and wellness techniques. Janis Scobee and Edith White, AFRC Key Spouse Mentors, hosed the event. The Key Spouses are commander-appointed and serve as a resource to command teams in an effort to support USAF families.