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

June 1, 2020

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2nd Lt. Rachael Parks

One Airman’s grassroots initiative to lift up Air Force basic trainees during an unprecedented moment in history has grown into a global movement. Airman 1st Class Cailey Brislin, who works in the 434th Squadron Aviation Resource Management at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, was inspired to start the “Letters to Lackland” initiative in April after rediscovering encouraging notes she’d received while completing Basic Military Training at JBSA-Lackland, Texas.  Brislin hoped to help these trainees feel less alone at a time when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has them going through 14-day Restrictions of Movement, practicing social distancing, and even spending time living in an on-base tent city. Since the effort kicked off last month, more than 50 Airmen in the U.S. and abroad have agreed to pen paper-based pep talks to these potential future Airmen. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright even endorsed the effort on Twitter, creating a #LettersToLackland hashtag. 

Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal

Airmen from Travis Air Force Base’s 621st Contingency Response Wing delivered nearly a ton of food to a Head Start Center in Mariposa, Calif., through a food drive during the new coronavirus pandemic. “It’s wonderful to make a difference in people’s lives,” said 921st Contingency Response Squadron Aerial Porter Tech. Sgt. Steve Rogers. “We are always ready at a moment’s notice to answer our nation’s call, and this time that call is coming from our local community.”

Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford

On April 22, Nigerien air force Capt. Ouma Laouali—the service’s first female pilot—finished her C-130 Hercules pilot training at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The experience marked her first time training on a stateside base. “The most important part was that there were other female pilots here. I felt like I could talk to these women and we could share and learn from our experiences,” she said. Laouali has spent a decade in uniform and has accumulated 2,600 flying hours.

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Owen

Senior Airman Reid Cook and his mom, Army Staff Sgt. Brandi Sullivan—the inspiration behind his enlistment—are sharing a deployment to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. Cook was very interested in serving in Central and South America, but after his mom was stationed at Soto Cano, he put it at the top of his deployment wish list. Sullivan said the deployment changed the way she sees her son. “It’s just been the biggest eye-opener for me, and it makes me extremely proud.”

Lt. Col. Bruce Simpson/courtesy

After New York City’s morgues were overwhelmed by pandemic fatalities, Lt. Col. Bruce Simpson deployed there in a civilian capacity as part of an HHS Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team to help identify victims, provide backup for mortuary services, and help prep National Guard combat engineers for the mission. “They didn’t have any experience with this type of situation, so I … prepped them with pre-incident stress talks,” Simpson said.

Army & Air Force Exchange Service/courtesy

After Spangdahlem High School students who work at the installation’s AAFES had their prom canceled due to COVID-19, their bosses decided they deserved some normalcy. On April 25, they went to work in their formal finest, took photos, and participated in socially distant activities­­—even dancing—between shifts and on breaks. “Being able to do that on the same day they would have gone to prom was very meaningful to them,” said Food Court Manager Michelle Hetcher.

Christian Turner/USAF

Airmen from the 412th Test Wing, including 412th Maintenance Logistics Test Squadron Tech. Sgt. Justin Aguilar, are making commissary runs and delivering groceries to members of the Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., community amid the pandemic. The service, launched April 20, helps individuals who can’t shop for themselves because they’re high-risk or are in quarantine or self-isolation. The service also supports deployed families, a wing release said. 


Felicia Harlow, a senior security research engineer with AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, won the 2020 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Dayton Section Women in Engineering Award. The award recognized her contributions. Harlow also founded an affinity group. “Felicia has always set a great example here,” said AFRL Sensors Directorate Integration and Operations Division Chief Neeraj Pujara, who nominated Harlow for the award. 


Capt. Benjamin Vowell, a 2014 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, received the inaugural Space Force-level Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship. The award, given out by USAFA, recognizes notable alumni contributions to airmanship. Among other achievements, Vowell helped his team defeat a year-long acceleration challenge issued by Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper. He’s now in the running for the Department of the Air Force-level honor.