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Keesler announces Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Winners of the 81st Training Wing's 2019 Annual Awards Ceremony pose for a photo inside the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 14, 2020. During the ceremony, base leadership recognized outstanding Airmen and civilians from across the installation for their accomplishments throughout 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Winners of the 81st Training Wing's 2019 Annual Awards Ceremony pose for a photo inside the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 14, 2020. During the ceremony, base leadership recognized outstanding Airmen and civilians from across the installation for their accomplishments throughout 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Medallions are displayed during the 81st Training Wing's 2019 Annual Awards Ceremony inside the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 14, 2020. During the ceremony, base leadership recognized outstanding Airmen and civilians from across the installation for their accomplishments throughout 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Medallions are displayed during the 81st Training Wing's 2019 Annual Awards Ceremony inside the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 14, 2020. During the ceremony, base leadership recognized outstanding Airmen and civilians from across the installation for their accomplishments throughout 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)


Thirteen of Keesler Air Force Base’s Airmen were recognized by Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Jason Buckley, 81st Training Group superintendent, during Keesler’s Annual Award Ceremony here, Feb. 14. 

These Airmen were recognized for embodying the whole Airman concept by excelling in their primary duties and seeking professional development opportunities outside their core responsibilities in 2019.

“You all have spoken with your actions,” said Blackwell. “You’re doing it because you want to make this base a better place.”

In total, 41 Airmen were nominated for 13 different categories.

“You all have spoken so loudly with your actions,” said Blackwell. “It’s the single acts of service, integrity, and excellence that can change the course of the future.”

In closing, Buckley reminded us that everyone who contributes the mission is essential.   

“There are a bunch of All-Stars on this base,” said Buckley. “To those who won, the accomplishments are awesome. The things you all accomplish outside the duty day are amazing and I’m honored to serve on this team.”  



The honorees are:


                                Airman Category – Senior Airman Jessica A. Ownbey-Fishel

                                Duty title: Public Health Technician

                                Unit: 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron

                                Highlights: After identifying three discrepancies in the blood exposure program she revised the 81st Medical Group’s policy and protocol to help prevent the spread of infectious disease to 1,700 staff members. She also revitalized the wing’s medical deployment operations, and partnered with the pharmacy to develop a tracking system that cut wait time down by 48 percent. Additionally, Ownbey-Fishel sustained a 4.0 GPA in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “Reflecting upon this past year, I have realized the importance of not focusing solely on my own strengths, but instead how I can merge my strengths with the attributes of my wingmen to best accomplish the mission. I feel immense honor to be a candidate for Airman of the Year at the wing level, but I would not have been selected for such an award without the continuous support of my team and the diverse talent we each bring to lead our team toward success. My Public Health team consistently strives for excellence at all levels, and our ability to work together is what drives my motivation to persevere through the challenges that lie ahead. I am not representing just myself. Instead, I am representing the joint efforts of my team.

I doubt myself too often, and if it weren't for my leadership and family seeing something I didn't yet see in myself at the time, I would not be here. With that, I encourage those who have not yet had the opportunity to be recognized for their efforts to continue pushing yourself to be better than you were yesterday. Believe in yourself when your leadership says, “you can do it”. Lastly, I want to sincerely thank my peers, leaders, and family who have guided me toward the path of success. I am proud to serve alongside my team in the 81st TRW.”




                                Noncommissioned Officer Category – Tech Sgt. Travis Schupp

                                Duty Title: NCOIC, Air Traffic Control Training and Standardization

                                Unit: 81st Operations Support Flight

                                Highlights: As the wing’s sole air traffic control and Federal Aviation Administration examiner, Schupp evaluated 24 personnel, 54 certifications, and sanctioned 9,700 annual safety operations. Schupp also led Keesler’s largest joint exercise where he coordinated with 15 agencies, and developed six injects. Additionally, Schupp acted as a first sergeant for six weeks where he upheld standards, discipline, and morale for 217 personnel.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “I am incredibly humbled and grateful to be nominated by the Wing Staff Agencies for this award. Being nominated at this level indicates that I must be doing something right and that my teammates believe in me. I have been blessed by God to be surrounded by amazing leaders, mentors, coworkers, subordinates, family and friends that have played a significant role in my development. I am thankful for all of the opportunities afforded to me to grow and develop my teammates and myself. For all of the Airmen that I work with and support me, thank you for your faith, determination, and positive attitudes day in and day out. I learn from each of you constantly and you make me a better overall person. Thank you OSF, WSA and the 81st TRW.”


                                Senior Noncommissioned Officer Category – Master Sgt. Aaron D. Franklin

                                Duty Title: Flight Chief, Medical Information Systems

                                Unit: 81st Medical Diagnostics Squadron   

Highlights: Franklin managed a $15 million network and guided his 39 member team to the AETC Medical Systems team of the year award. He troubleshot a communication outage that affected four AETC hospital’s and helped restore their networks. Franklin also defined airpower to the United States population as he was the narrator for an Air Force commercial.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “Having the support of my leadership, my peers, and my Airmen is what makes this nomination such an honor. It is both a humbling and reassuring reflection of their faith and trust in me which, in turn, inspires me to pay it forward every day. I have the privilege of serving with a spectacular team of Airmen, and this nomination is truly theirs as much as mine. We bring it every day with a relentless pursuit of excellence, because our service members and their families deserve nothing less. So, to my flight of LAN Sharks at the 81st Medical Group…”KEEP KILLIN’ IT!!!”



                                Company Grade Officer Category – Jeremy D. Jinkerson

                                Duty title: ADAPT Program Manager                       

                                Unit: 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron

                                Highlights: In leading the ADAPT program, Jinkerson directed 4,000 appointments and trained 11,000 personnel. Furthermore, he is also in the top 3 percent of Air Force psychologist productivity as he led 375 physical training appointments and generated $755,000 in clinic services. He is also the first-ever United States Air Force Red Cross course leader.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “The past year was characterized by an increased need for connection and to help Airmen lead meaningful, mission-filled lives – in some cases, instead of taking their own. In my roles with the KCAT and the Medical Group, I’ve been fortunate to serve with and, at times, lead teams who are focused on doing just that. Putting together the Keesler LEADS curriculum was a thrilling challenge and one of the highlights of my Air Force career thus far. Being nominated gives that program additional visibility and shows the wing’s commitment to professional and personal development in a culture of resiliency. I’m honored to be considered because it’s less about me and more about the impact that the CGOC, LEADS, MDG, Mental Health, and Team Keesler have made in 2019 and continue to make.”



                                Field Grade Officer Category – Lt. Col. Nathan S. Sumner

                                Duty title: Flight Commander, Medical Specialties                            

                                Unit: 81st Medical Operations Squadron

                                Highlights: In directing neurology operations, Sumner managed approximately 3,000 appointments and saved the Medical Group upwards of $2.1 million as he crushed the business plan by 22 percent. He also briefed the Air Force’s only neurology residency program. These feats earned him 2019 AETC Field Grade Officer Physician of the Year. In addition, Sumner was the Air Force liaison for Biloxi’s Chamber of Commerce, he supported six events and led 135 volunteers.

                        How does earning this award make you feel? “I am humbled and honored to have been selected by leadership to represent our unit for such an award. I know that I would not have made it where I am today without the support of my leadership who guide me to be a stronger leader and push me outside of my comfort level at times to ensure I reach my full potential. I have had an amazing team of Airmen supporting me throughout the year. My accomplishments are a result of outstanding Airmen that come to work each day, give their best, and ensure our mission to ‘Train, Teach, Treat….for Today and Tomorrow’ is a success. Finally, I would not be where I am at today without the support of my wife and kids who are always behind the scenes lifting me up when times are hard, cheering on our successes, and ensuring thing at home are taken care of so that I can focus on the mission at hand.”



                                First Sgt. Category – Senior Master Sgt. Patrick A. Holmes

                                Duty title: First Sergeant                              

                                Unit: 335th Training Squadron

                                Highlights: Holmes served as a huge asset to the 335th TRS as their first sergeant. Not only did he anchor AETC’s number one mission as he mentored 720 students and 181 joint personnel, he even rushed to aid four suicidal Airmen. He oversaw the first sergeant marathon which guided 220 volunteers over 432 hours and the marathon raised $35,000 for families in need. Holmes also earned the title of distinguished graduate at the senior noncommissioned officer academy by leading study sessions, excelling in leadership and didactic performance.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “When I think of being nominated for this award, the one word that comes to mind is fortunate. Not for the nomination but because of the job I have the opportunity to do that led to the nomination. How fortunate I am to have such an amazing wife and three amazing children who are patient and resilient and loving. How fortunate I am to have the opportunity to change lives on a daily basis. I never know what is going to happen when my phone rings but I know that no matter what the call is, it is always an opportunity to help and support someone. And who knows, maybe even save a life. So I want to dedicate this award to my late father-in-law, Jim Bratton; a servant leader in every aspect of life. I’m honored for this nomination but the true honor and privilege is having the opportunity to be a first sergeant in the United States Air Force.”



                                Civilian category Non-Supervisor I – Joshua Duncan

                                Duty title: Assistant NCOIC, Electronic Security Systems                 

                                Unit: 81st Security Forces Squadron

                                Highlights: Duncan conducted over 110 training hours for 30 personnel. In doing so, he identified 11 major discrepancies. He also directed security for the Thunder over the Sound Air Show where he helped protect five miles for 50,000 base spectators. Moreover, Duncan mastered the Department of the Air Force Police Academy and acquired 60 credit hours in doing so.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “I am extremely humbled and excited to be nominated and selected for this award. Although, I cannot say that it is a one way street and I alone who earned it. I have outstanding leadership who have given me the tools to be able to perform my job as well as I do. We are all cogs in the system who have to turn together in unison to be able to perform our tasks to precision and if one should slow down or falter the others move in to help set you back in place. This team here at the 81st SFS S5 section is hands down the most cohesive group of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with and for me, the honor of this award is a team effort. I am humbled to be nominated with the others who were and they all should receive this award because their hard work does not go unnoticed. I appreciate everyone who has helped me along the way and look forward to what the future brings here at Keesler Air Force Base.”



                                Civilian Category Non-Supervisory II – Andres Torres

                                Duty title: Medical Equipment Management Office                         

                                Unit: 81st Medical Diagnostic Squadron

                                Highlights: Torres expedited 61 requirements and modernized six squadrons in 56 clinics. He also pioneered innovation as he instituted automation for 15 accounts by aligning 890 records with Defense Health Agency standards, which cut workload by 21 percent and saved approximately 980 hours. Additionally, Torres is a youth coach for football and baseball where he teaches young athletes fundamentals and team building skills.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “It means a lot to me to be nominated for this award. I get up each morning not to earn recognition, but to do my job to the best of my ability by helping bring modernized medical equipment to the Medical Group to help treat patients. I truly appreciate my peers recognizing me for this award, it’s extremely humbling. I work with some of the best, most dedicated Airmen in the world which makes it easy for me to complete our mission. I am thankful to work alongside such a professional group of individuals at the 81st MDG. Receiving this nomination is truly an honor.”



                                Civilian Category Non-Supervisory III – Seth Giddens

                                Duty title: Antiterrorism Program Manager                         

                                Unit: 81st Security Forces Squadron

                                Highlights: Giddens created wing risk assessment template which evaluated 221 standards for 32 base agencies. He oversaw the wing’s security project. Giddens also graduated from Harrison County Law Enforcement Academy where he completed 40 hours of active shooter training. He used the training to amplify 81 TRW antiterrorism & force protection response.


                                Civilian Category Supervisory I – Jason Medenwaldt

                                Duty title: Mobile Equip Mx Supervisor                 

                                Unit: 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron 

                                Highlights: Medenwaldt invigorated the 2019 fleet corrosion plan by inspecting 86 vehicles for paint conditions. He in turn galvanized the workload priority for 331 of Keesler’s assets. He also eliminated mission deficiencies by soliciting local service departments for 14 representatives. Additionally, Medenwaldt attended two management courses that optimized his human resources skills and personal productivity.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “I am appreciative for the recognition but the honors truly belong to the men and women of vehicle maintenance who put in the hard work day in and day out. It’s their effort that drives production and ensures the safety and serviceability of the wing’s vehicle fleet. The results of their hard work impacts each and every unit across the wing and it is they who ensure we all have the vehicle resources necessary to accomplish our mission.”



                                Civilian Category Supervisory II – Faith Edwards                               

                                Unit: 81st Medical Diagnostics and Therapeutic Squadron                                

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “As a newcomer to Keesler, oh my, this has been a whirl wind experience. I have been in the medical field for over 30 years and this is the first time that my co-workers, immediate and higher level supervisors have presented me with such a prestigious honor. Believe me, I am so fortunate and grateful to have received this honor and I never would have been able to accomplish all the goals I set for the Mammography Clinic if I had not had such an exceptional group of co-workers, immediate and higher lever mentor supervisors behind me. I am truly privileged that my staff at the 81st Diagnostic & Therapeutic Squadron has the same ideology as myself when it comes to patient care. This honor has allowed me to become a full-fledged member of an elite team. After coming from the civilian sector, this experience has shown me what it feels like to be trusted and valued. The cohesiveness of the 81st Diagnostic and Therapeutic Squadron allows for a thriving and growing environment where morals, ethics, safety and learning are not only valued and appreciated but extended to all.”




                                Civilian Category Supervisory III – Andrea Nayfa

                                Duty title: Chief of Protocol                        

                                Unit: 81st Training Wing

                                Highlights: Nayfa led the Secretary of the Air Force’s visit to Keesler where she armed Headquarters Air Force and civic leader with housing issues for Senate testimony. She also pioneered the Air Force’s first retreat training video by fusing three organizations and coordinating four practices, in turn, upholding military tradition for personnel service wide. Furthermore, Nayfa was selected for an elite Air University Civilian Associate of Applied Science program where she earned three credits with a 4.0 GPA, which sharpened her leadership ability.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “Wow! It’s so very exciting and humbling to be nominated for the 81 TRW Civilian of the Year (Cat III Supv) Award. This nomination is confirmation of all the hard work, long hours and energy that the Protocol Office puts into every event and visit. We had an extremely busy schedule last year, and the office could not have accomplished all that we did without such an amazing team of professionals. So for me, this nomination is for my entire office not just me. We are also very lucky to have the support and guidance of a great leadership team. They make this job easy and fun!”

                Volunteer Category – Senior Airman Matthew Ketterling

                                Duty title: Bioenvironmental Engineering                             

                                Unit: 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron

                                Highlights: As an executive member for the Air Force Sergeants Association, Ketterling briefed over 7,000 Airmen and recruited approximately 1,800 members during 102 recruitment drives. He donated numerous amount of time to coordinating and leading events such as the Biloxi National Memorial Day event, the 81st TRW POW/MIA 24-hour run and the 81st TRW’s suicide prevention color run. Ketterling’s efforts were recognized when he was awarded Senior Airman below the zone, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron Volunteer of the Quarter, and Air Education and Training Command Bioenvironmental Airman of the Year.

                                How does earning this award make you feel? “Community involvement is vital to creating an environment of leadership and servitude, and being nominated for Volunteer of the Year for my efforts of being actively engaged with Keesler AFB and our Biloxi community is an exciting and humbling moment. I would not have been able to achieve these aspirations without my squadron leadership, flight leadership, fellow Airmen, mentors and off base community partners who lead and support me. They have taught me teamwork, selflessness, and the value of giving back. I am grateful to be recognized with the other Airmen competing in this category who strived to make this base and community a better place all year. I am honored to be a part of the 81st TRW and all the hardworking Airmen I get to work with day in and day out.”