Exceptional Airman earns volunteer award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Becoming an exceptional Airman can stem merely from the desire to be busy and involved. To one force management journeyman, excellence comes naturally.

Senior Airman Sharla Starks, 81st Force Support Squadron, was honored by the City of Biloxi as the military volunteer of the year recently, with a nearly endless list of base and community involvement.

"She has an unlimited drive," said Staff Sgt. Katrina Mitchell, 81st FSS noncommissioned officer in charge of force management. "She's always going for more; more challenges, more opportunities that will help build and mold her into the woman that she strives to be."

Starks, originally from California, joined the Air Force to find new challenges for herself, she said.

"When I was in High School I always thought it was something very grand, so I decided to pursue it," said Starks. "So far, I have learned a lot about myself, different cultures, and I have had some of the greatest experiences in life. Experiences that I cannot get anywhere else."

"The Air Force has made me a better person and I am thankful for it," she continued. "I am honored to be able to serve."

Her community involvement played a major part in her selection for promotion to senior airman below the zone last year, said Senior Master Sgt. Lisa Thomas, 81st FSS Manpower and Personnel Flight superintendent.

Along with constant weekends at the Armed Forces Retirement Home and various homeless shelters, Starks is a certified Court Appointed Special Advocate for local children. After a year of waiting and 30 hours of training, a CASA act as guardians for children in foster homes.

"Some volunteer opportunities took some getting used to," said Starks. "But, when I heard about CASA I couldn't wait to be a part of it."

Starks is the base POC for the program, as well as the Keesler Toastmasters secretary. She is a trained victim advocate and frequent Airman Against Drunk Driving volunteer.

"She has willingness to put in the hard work it takes to make a difference on Keesler and in her community," Thomas added. "She seeks opportunities and devotes her down time to participate or complete specialized training in order to volunteer across numerous venues."

"Starks is multi-talented," Thomas added.

Starks's aptitude for variety isn't limited to the workplace or the community, either. She is an art major and plays the piano and the trumpet, said Thomas.

"Her artistic abilities make her unique," said Mitchell. "She has an eye for art, and she's always finding ways to perfect it."

It's understandable that a well-rounded Airman would be recognized by the city, but Starks said she was surprised.

"It's really an honor," she said. "I know I have my leadership to thank for any milestones I make this early in my career."