2nd Lt. Mahala Norris, now a USSF officer, continues to rack up awards for her performance with the Air Force Academy as a distance runner. Norris is the first Falcon woman to win an NCAA national title in a running event. She went on to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and in July, she was named the Mountain West Female Athlete of the Year for the 2020-21 season, becoming just the second Academy athlete in any sport to win that honor.
Jacqueline Fisher, a civilian employee at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was honored with the National Public Service Award for outstanding contributions to her community. Fisher’s positions at the base included BRAC office director for the 88th Air Base Wing, deputy of the Agile Combat Support directorate, and deputy of the Sensors Program Office. She volunteered with a food pantry and as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate and guardian ad litem for kids.
Tech. Sgt. Adam McDonough, Tech. Sgt. Kelly Manibusan, and Tech. Sgt. Paola Fay, members of three different squadrons at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., separately stopped at the sight of a car crash on June 16, jumping into action to help both drivers involved. They used a fire extinguisher to put out a blaze and rendered medical aid until paramedics arrived. Though all from different squadrons, “training kicked in for all three of us—every piece mattered, no matter how small,” Manibusan said.
Master Sgt. Jose R. Pagan Jr. was selected as the Air Force’s First Sergeant of the Year for 2021. In January 2020, Pagan was deployed in Iraq when he urged top commanders to evacuate after hearing reports of a potential ballistic missile attack, according to the Buffalo News. They did, shortly before missiles fell, potentially saving the lives of 255 Airmen. He also founded the First Sergeant Council at Al Asad AB, Iraq, mentoring acting first sergeants from eight squadrons.
Air Transportation Superintendent Tony Rodriguez, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., took home the top prize in the Adult Novice category at the annual Air Force Art Contest for his work labeled “Nai.” Erin Shaffner, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and Lauren Sutton, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., were second and third place in that category. Elsewhere in the contest, Lt. Col. Francis Becker’s threechildren (Hill AFB, Utah), each picked up awards in the youth categories.
Lori Waddell, spouse of Master Sgt. Mitch Waddell, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., was named 2020 Air Force Spouse of the Year. In a year upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Waddell helped families arriving at Malmstrom by explaining the area and resources available, organizing to provide produce to families on base, helping organizations oversee emergency response for communities, and also writing articles detailing the benefits available to military spouses.
1st Lt. Griffin Jax, Air Force Reserve, became the first-ever Air Force Academy graduate to play Major League Baseball when he was promoted by the Minnesota Twins in June. Jax, a pitcher, was drafted in 2016 and has fulfilled his Air Force duties while rising through the minor leagues. During his stint in the majors, Jax made more history by becoming the first Air Force Academy alum to pick up a win and start a game, making his first start during the July 4 weekend.
Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt, head of Combined Force Space Component Command, was sworn into the Space Force on June 1, but what really got social media’s attention was the scene behind her—members of the 501st Legion, a film-quality “Star Wars” costume club, volunteering as part of International Space Day festivities. Burt’s swearing-in ceremony was added to the celebration but Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and stormtroopers weren’t actually involved in the ceremony.
Col. Kristen Thompson made history June 22, becoming the first woman to take command of the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The Wing is the largest in Air Combat Command and the second largest in the entire Air Force, and Thompson is the 65th commanding officer in its 80-year history. Thompson replaces Col. Gavin Marks, the wing’s first-ever African American commander—Marks and Thompson have known each other for years and both flew the E-3 AWACS aircraft.
Kieran Moïse, an Alabama teenager headed to the Air Force Academy, shaved his 19-inch afro over Memorial Day weekend in the first haircut he said he’d had in roughly six years. But in doing so, Moïse raised more than $30,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and donated his locks to Children With Hair Loss, which provides human hair replacements to children and teenagers facing medically related hair loss. Moïse’s actions were in honor of a middle school friend who died from cancer, he said.