According to Headquarters AFSA, “the Excellence in Leadership scholarship is presented to an individual who demonstrates leadership qualities in their current performance of duty. The individual shows great potential for increased leadership roles. In addition, the individual is dedicated to continuous improvements of themselves, others and the community.” Senior Airman Asia Gray, 2nd SFS counter unmanned aircraft systems noncommissioned officer in charge, was exactly the person they were looking for.
Gray, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi native, grew up close with her parents and three younger siblings. After graduating high school in 2015, she had plans of becoming a kinesiologist after attending college at the University of Mississippi. She joined the track team in college, but it slowly started to become more of a job than a sport for her and she needed a change.
“I came to this realization that ever since middle school I had just been going, going and going. There was no break for me,” Gray said. “So, I decided I needed a break from school and I knew that if I would’ve gone back to little ole’ south Mississippi, I would’ve got a cute little job down there and said forget college and just fell in line like everybody else.”
Shortly thereafter, her younger brother enlisted in the Army. After attending his graduation she knew that the military was her next step. She set up a meeting with a recruiter and three months later, she shipped off to Air Force basic training in 2017 to become a “Defender.”
“I was not anticipating being a part of security forces. I was a medical student and how I got to law enforcement, only God knows and the Air Force had different plans for me,” Gray said. “But I love my job. I love my life. I love being at Barksdale (AFB). Being a cop has been very educational to me and it has shown me a different side of life.”
Even though it was not the career path she expected, she has fully immersed herself and continues to grow where she was planted.
“Airman Gray is a leader among Airmen, she is a selfless leader,” said Master Sgt. Tamieka Morgan, 2nd SFS Defense Force Operations NCOIC and Gray’s former flight chief. “She always leads by example. She is what I believe to be the epitome of an Airman. She operates far beyond her pay grade and even goes as far as leading (noncommissioned officers). She’s a phenomenal Airman.”
Gray receives her inspiration from mentors. From her military training instructors at Basic Military Training to her squadron leadership at the 2nd SFS, she believes they have helped her get to where she is today in her career. Another inspiration she has is retired Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright himself.
“Before I even got to meet Chief Wright, I had just seen the work he had done with others and for others, and I thought that was just the coolest thing ever,” Gray said. “I want to be just like this man. Literally, I just want to pick up where he left off and just keep finishing that race.”
So far in her Air Force journey, she has won numerous awards to include Barksdale (AFB)’s Diamond Sharp Award, coined by various Air Force leadership and just recently received a “promote now” on her enlisted performance report, which she was selected as No. 1 out of 52 eligible applicants. And now, she is able to add this scholarship to her list of achievements.
“As an Airman 1st Class, she was the only person on my flight of 40 personnel to be an installation patrolman. Typically A1Cs are installation access controllers, which to the public, coincides with gate-guards,” Morgan said. “She was so good at her job, she was trusted by her leadership to do something that usually is reserved for seasoned Senior Airmen and NCOs.”
“She trains others, she cares, she takes other Airmen under her wing. And she was just an A1C a couple months ago. I want to say Gray has had Senior Airman on for maybe three or four months,” Morgan added.
With the scholarship, she plans on finishing her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and then obtain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“It’s my push. Not only financially, but it is my push to go in and finish school because, you know, you get in and you get super busy in your Air Force life and career. You start putting your personal stuff aside. I know I am all work, work, work, and not really personal,” Gray explained. “So, now it’s going to push me to go on and finish school because I have been putting it off for a while. This is the push I needed to go and finish my degree.”
“Becoming the first recipient of his award is really amazing. You can’t really put anything like this into words to explain how grateful I feel,” Gray added.
Her selection will officially be announced Aug. 26, during AFSA’s Virtual Professional Airmen’s Conference and Virtual Professional Education and Development Symposium.