KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
There are only 12 Airmen in the Air Force that get selected as the Outstanding Airmen of the Year every year, and one of those is Staff Sgt. Gary Jeffrey, 81st Medical Support Squadron storage and distribution NCO in charge.
This award recognizes 12 outstanding enlisted personnel for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.
When Jeffrey submitted his award package he treated it as his last hoorah as a senior airman before he became a staff sergeant. He never thought he would go this far.
“I found out while I was deployed that I was selected as one of the 12 OAY,” said Jeffrey. “I didn’t really expect it. When people talk about the 12 OAY it seems so farfetched; you don’t really expect it to happen. I thought I was just going to win at the wing level and it would stop there.”
Although Jeffrey didn’t expect to win at the Air Force level, his supervisor thought otherwise.
“I absolutely knew he would win,” said Master Sgt. Keyactha Knight, 81st MDSS medical material section chief. “Given the information and his accomplishments that were highlighted in his package, I had no doubt it would lead to this outcome. He’s a superstar.”
Knight has been his supervisor for six months, but she has witnessed him excelling at everything he put his mind to since he was an airman first class when she first arrived at Keesler.
“When I first came here, they [leadership] were already thinking about making him a section lead as an airman 1st class,” said Knight. “He was in a NCO position where he was in charge of 10-12 personnel. That is very rare.”
Jeffrey took charge of many leadership roles in his section, organized volunteer opportunities and led base wide programs that improved not only his work place but the base as a whole.
“He is eager and always looking to get better,” said Knight. “He’s hungry, a lot of what he does is self-initiated and you never have to poke him.”
Jeffrey contributed his motivation to his peers and the Airmen in Team Keesler.
“A lot of young Airmen are trusted with a lot of big things and they carry it out on their shoulders and execute it amazingly,” said Jeffrey. “To not only work in a work section like that but to work all across base and witness a lot of stuff Airmen are doing and the quality stuff that comes out of Keesler, well, I have to contribute somehow.”
When Jeffrey reflects on the past year he feels he did not do anything special.
“When you go through the motions of everyday life, you don’t really think about it,” said Jeffrey. “Then you look at your award package and you think to yourself, ‘Did I really do this in a year?’ It’s just another day in the life.”
Jeffrey said being selected as an OAY not only means that he is able to put his career field in the spotlight, but it also solidified to him that he is on the right track to living up to the Air Force core values.
“As cheesy as it sounds, I’m doing what the Air Force core values told me to do,” said Jeffrey. “When I graduated basic training I told myself if there’s anything I can give 100 percent to, it’s to something that I’m going to do for the rest of my life. So it meant a lot to me that I’ve lived up to the core values enough to be recognized at this level. So it’s a proud moment to know that I’m on the right track.”