12 Outstanding Airmen of Year recognized during Air Force’s season of celebrations

The 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022 were recognized and honored during the Air Force’s 75th Anniversary week and the Air and Space Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Sept. 15-21.

These 12 Airmen embody the spirit of Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall’s “One Team, One Fight,” and will be ambassadors for the entire Air Force going forward in their careers.

“For 66 years, our Air Force has recognized its outstanding Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “Today, our 12 OAY represent the best of our enlisted force and serve as an example for all Airmen. I am extremely proud of their accomplishments and look forward to working with them throughout the year.”

The 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year (alphabetically, by command of assignment when selected) are:

Master Sgt. Brandon S. Blake, Air Force Special Operations Command

Senior Airman Demarion N. Davis, United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa

Senior Airman Monica A. Figueroa Santos, Air Force Global Strike Command

Master Sgt. Kade N. Forrester, Air Force District of Washington

Senior Master Sgt. Megan A. Harper, Air Combat Command

Tech. Sgt. Brianne E. Kelleher, Air Force Reserve Command

Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Messinger, Air Education and Training Command

Staff Sgt. Steven C. Peters, Air Mobility Command

Senior Airman Kristina L. Schneider, Air National Guard

Senior Airman Caden A. Soper, Pacific Air Forces

Senior Airman Christopher T. Thao, Air Force Materiel Command – Airman supporting Space Force

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer G. Thomas, AFMC – Air Force

The diverse group of leaders bring with them a plethora of experiences, knowledge and values that will come to shape Airmen in different ways. These factors directly highlight the strength of the Air Force as a whole. Leveraging these differences while taking advantage of their individual expertise will allow the Air Force to continue to innovate and thrive into the future.

The impact these Airmen will have across the force could be sensed during the myriad of conversations and discussions they had with U.S. Air Force Academy cadets and senior leadership.

Mentorship and development of the force were recurring themes underscored throughout the celebration when the 12 Airmen met with their advisor and the CMSAF’s team in preparation for their first sojourn together as the frontline ambassadors of the Air Force.

Before bearing the weight of their new responsibility, each Airman was able to see first-hand the nation’s capital to include the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, Virginia, and other national landmarks.

These outstanding Airmen experienced a unique opportunity in being recognized as the Air Force’s best during the Air Force’s 75th Anniversary. The theme of this year’s monumental event is “Accelerate, Innovate, Thrive,” encapsulating what it means to be one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen.

Whether an Airman or senior noncommissioned officer, each awardee has shown an ability to lead those around them, act as an exemplar of new Airman Leadership, and advance change at every level, making the Air Force more ready.

“This is a unique team of incredibly talented Airmen,” Bass said. “Over the course of the year, I challenge them to work together to collectively get after some of the issues facing our Air Force.”

Another key message each Airmen heard was how important it is to recognize the efforts of those around them. Whether spouses, teammates, leaders or mentors — Airmen don’t serve alone.

This was further underscored during the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year award dinner and celebration event when the Airmen were accompanied by Bass and Gerald Murray, the 14th Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, who also joined them on stage to celebrate their accomplishments.

The winners are authorized to wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon with the bronze service star device on the ribbon. They are also authorized to wear the OAY badge for one year from the date of formal presentation.

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