136th Airlift Wing Airmen recognized as Outstanding Airmen of the Year

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kristina Overton
  • 136th Airlift Wing
A line of nominees stand, patiently adjusting their uniforms and silently reciting memorized answers as they wait to be interviewed. On the other side of heavy conference room doors, panels of senior noncommissioned officers review documents and prepare a series of questions to ask each awaiting member. This distinguished panel is charged with identifying the Outstanding Airmen of the Year for the Texas Air National Guard.

The Airman of the Year award recognizes outstanding Guardsmen for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements. Five individuals were selected from the 136th Airlift Wing to move forward to Austin, Texas, Jan. 11-13 to compete for the state title.

“Even though each individual Airman is committed to the core values of service, integrity and excellence,” said Col. Jerald Williams, 136th Airlift Wing vice commander, “it’s important to recognize those who do stand out. The OAY program is an excellent way for an Airman to showcase the type of person they are and things they do outside the unit, but also their dedication to service and accomplishments as members.”

The three-day event was more than just an opportunity to test the Airmen on their presentation skills and professionalism, but was also an opportunity to congratulate them on their selection as Airmen of the Year from their respective wings. Nominated from the 136 AW, honorees included:

Company Grade Officer Tier: Capt. Anna Griffin, 136th Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance officer

Senior Noncommissioned Officer Tier: Master Sgt. Christopher Macharelli, 136th Maintenance Group quality assurance chief inspector

First Sergeant Tier: Master Sgt. Neil Robertson, 136th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant

Noncommissioned Officer Tier: Staff Sgt. Sean Kornegay, 136th Airlift Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist

Airman Tier: Senior Airman Kristopher Benfer, 136th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-130 Hercules crew chief

“I met so many interesting and professional Airmen, NCOs and SNCOs at the state competition,” said Macharelli. “It really opens your eyes to see past your wing and sheds some light on the minuteman concept that we all are a part of. I met folks from Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and several geographically separated units located throughout the state of Texas. Obviously not everyone can win, but we can be confident that Texas will put its best foot forward at the next level.”

The official ceremony took place on Jan. 13, and in the Airman category, the wing’s very own Senior Airman Benfer took first place for the Texas Air National Guard. He will move forward to compete at the national level for the entire Air National Guard.

“It’s such an honor,” said Benfer. “Not only to be recognized from the wing, but to move forward and be selected for the Texas Air National Guard. The competition across all categories was filled with some of the finest Guardsmen I’ve ever met and to be able to represent for crew chiefs and my unit is something I am really proud of. There is no way I would have been in this position without those who mentored and pushed me, and I hope moving forward to represent our wing well and make the men and women of the 136 AW proud.”

Maj. Gen. David McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, presided over the official ceremony at Camp Mabry. Family, friends and unit members were in attendance to support their Airmen and celebrate their success.