A look back on momentous year for Keesler

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
At year's end, it's often easy to think, "Thank goodness that one is over!"

In Keesler's case, however, a look back at 2013 shows many accomplishments, leadership changes, awards, distinguished visitors, charitable fundraisers and involvement in community events.


The 81st Medical Group earned one team and six individual awards from Air Education and Training Command in the 2012 Air Force Medical Service competition. The 81st Medical Support Squadron's medical information management flight is the top medical information services team, and individual award winners are Airman 1st Class Andrea Capela, Airman 1st Class Jason Boyd, Senior Airman Robert Chambers, Maj. (Dr.) Robert Cromer, Lt. Col. Winnie Lok-Park and Lt. Col. John Childs.

Keesler's recycling center won the Environmental Hero Award for Recycler of the Year in the state or federal government category from the Mississippi Recycling Coalition.

Keesler welcomed the three-member installation selection board to evaluate the base for the 2013 Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award.

Lt. Gen. Darren McDew, 18th Air Force commander, was the guest speaker for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon hosted by Keesler's African-American Heritage Committee.

Jan. 12, Airmen from the 81st Training Group served as honor escorts for World War II veterans at the dedication of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion Boeing Center at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Two members of the Keesler Honor Guard participated in the joint service color guard for the event.

Marine Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking enlisted member of the U.S. military, visited Keesler Jan. 16.

Keesler's Air Force Medical Genetics Laboratory was accredited by the College of American Pathologists. Keesler operates the only combined comprehensive genetics clinic and laboratory in the Department of Defense.

The 81st Training Wing won four awards in AETC's Public Affairs Communication Excellence Awards competition. The office won the Hap Arnold Award for public affairs communications excellence. First Lt. Victoria Porto, Jerry Taranto and Susan Griggs received individual awards.

Tops in Blue performed at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Jan. 27. One member of the musical team was Senior Airman Emmanuel Maldonado-Rosario, 81st Dental Squadron.


Keesler's chapel was named the outstanding chaplain corps team in the large base category and Staff Sgt. Tomeka Gordon was the outstanding chaplain assistant noncommissioned officer in the 2012 AETC's Chaplain Corps annual awards program.
Keesler Medical Center won the Energy Star award from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 335th Training Squadron claimed the base intramural basketball title.
Retired Col. Richard Toliver was the guest speaker at Keesler's 2013 National Prayer Luncheon.

Keesler Medical Center obtained two multiple amputation trauma trainers to help first responders practice more realistic emergency care.

The base earned the Tree City USA award from the National Arbor Day Foundation for the 20th consecutive year for its tree management program.

Twenty-two members of the 81st Security Forces Squadron returned from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia.

Removal of vestiges of former skeet ranges north of the Triangle track began as part of Keesler's Military Munitions Response Program.

Keesler leaders and marching units participated in several Gulf Coast Mardi Gras parades.

The sexual assault prevention and response office moved to its new location in Dolan Hall.

The African-American Heritage Committee hosted a soul food sampling event at the youth center to observe Black History Month.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for Keesler Medical Center's Back Bay Tower.


The 338th TRS was recognized as the 81st TRW's technical training squadron of the year and competed at 2nd Air Force level.

Capt. Kyle Perry, a nurse in Keesler Medical Center's intensive care unit, was selected to join the White House clinic.

Golf pro Steve Jones, winner of the 1996 U.S. Open, held a free golf clinic at the Bay Breeze Event Center in conjunction with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic.

Becky Green, 81st Force Support Squadron, was named the Air Force's manpower and personnel flight chief of the year.

Medics from Keesler Medical Center and the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron joined with staff from the 14th Medical Group at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., and joint partners across the Gulf Coast to earn AETC's Team Aerospace award.

Maj. John Bellflower from the wing legal office became one of the Air Force's first special victims' counsels to serve survivors of sexual assault.

The Air Force Honor Guard held a month-long training camp at Keesler to prepare for the new season.

Thirteen Keesler military members and civilians were recognized at the 81st TRW's annual award banquet.

The 81st TRG's Top Tech competition was revived at Keesler.


Keesler was named the winner of the 2013 Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award.

Keesler participated in the first of three Honor Flight welcome home ceremonies this year to recognize World War II veterans as they returned from one-day trips to visit various monuments in Washington, D.C.

Installation of new gas piping across the base is just one of Keesler's infrastructure improvements.

The 81st TRG collected 750 stuffed animals for children in crisis during its Teddy Bear Run.


Keesler hosted the Special Olympics Mississippi Summer Games for the 27th year.
Keesler received the "Storm Ready Award" from the National Weather Service in recognition of its ability to handle severe storm conditions.

Brig. Gen. Brad Spacy, 81st TRW commander, spoke at the Memorial Day ceremony at Biloxi National Cemetery and the Keesler Honor Guard performed a 21-gun salute.

The Keesler Spouses Club and African-American Heritage Committee presented college scholarships to local students.

The Latin-American Heritage Committee held a food sampling and a cultural extravaganza at the youth center.

The 81st Surgical Operations Squadron operating room flight earned the Stryker Sustainability Solutions "Silver Healthy Hospital Award" for the second consecutive year.
Ed Guardanapo, Ceasar Purnell, Carl Nehlig and Juanna Lyons earned Air Force Volunteer Excellence Awards.

At the City of Biloxi's annual volunteer recognition ceremony, Tech. Sgt. Brian Margavich, 333rd TRS, was recognized as military volunteer of the year; the chapel's Fishbowl Student Ministry Center's white rope program was honored as military volunteer group of the year, and Jennifer Ferguson, a former military member married to Master Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, 333rd TRS, was named health services volunteer of the year.

Keesler Commissary received the Defense Commissary Agency's 2012 Bill Nichols Award for the best large commissary in the United States.
Maj. Brian Fitzpatrick took command of the 81st SFS.


Team Keesler held a 5-kilometer race to raise more than $10,000 to assist Oklahoma tornado victims.

New commanders at Keesler are Lt. Col. Ronald Merchant, 81st Medical Support Squadron; Lt. Col. Teresa Roberts, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron; Maj. Jayson Cabell, 81st Comptroller Squadron; Maj. Sharon Nickelberry, 81st FSS, and Maj. Kevin Bray, 334th TRS.

Gen. Edward Rice, Jr., commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, command chief of AETC visited Keesler June 10-11.

Thirty-nine physicians and dentists graduated June 11 from internship and residency training at Keesler Medical Center.


The Mathies NCO Academy hosted 138 Junior ROTC cadets from four states at the annual Leadership Laboratory Activity sponsored by Biloxi High School.

New commanders at Keesler are Col. George Tombe IV, 81st TRG; Lt. Col. Dorene "Betsy" Ross, 335th TRS; Maj. Cliff Bayne, 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron; and Maj. James Coughlin, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron.

Staff Sgts. Tabitha Hickson and Tammi Fish have been selected for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program.

The first civilian furlough for 2013 began for nearly 1,400 civilians at Keesler.


Brig. Gen. Patrick Higby took command of the 81st TRW.

Keesler won AETC's C3 (cost conscious culture) King of the Hill competition.

Barry Newman, program specialist in the sexual assault prevention and response office, and Airman 1st Class Seth Balla, 338th TRS student, played lead roles in "Frankly, Scarlett, You're Dead!" a murder mystery dinner theater performance Aug. 23-24 at the Bay Breeze Event Center.

Keesler hosted the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce Morning Call Aug. 7.
A firearms counter opened at the base exchange.


Keesler celebrated the Air Force's 66th birthday and the 81st Training Wing's 20th anniversary Sept. 21 at the Air Force Ball sponsored by the Air Force Association John C. Stennis Chapter 332.

Airmen celebrated the Air Force's 66th birthday Sept. 20 on the parade field with a cake-cutting ceremony, music, games, contests and food.

A new system of "patient kiosks" intended to simplify the sign-in process for both patients and staff was installed throughout Keesler Medical Center.

Sept. 16, the 338th TRS held a street dedication ceremony to honor a former technical training student, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger. Etchberger posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest decoration, in 2010.

The 81st MDG defeated the 335th TRS to clinch the base intramural basketball championship.

Capt. Iesiah Harris, nurse manager for the 81st MSGS general surgery clinic, completed a doctor of philosophy degree in health care administration from Capella University.


Another civilian furlough affected more than 1,000 Keesler employees.
Keesler hosted its annual Retiree Appreciation Day Oct. 25.

Oct. 25, Ghouls in the Park took place in marina park, with food, entertainment, "trunk or treat" and a haunted house.

Master Sgt. Becky Patterson, Mathies NCO Academy, was presented the Thomas V. Fredian Community Leadership Award during the 35th Annual Salute to the Military Oct. 22 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.

Keesler Medical Center was one of three Air Force hospitals named as ORYX® top performers on key quality measures for 2013 by The Joint Commission.


The 81st Communications Squadron earned the 2013 AETC Lt. Gen. Harold W. Grant Unit Award and Jose Fuertes received the Gen. John Jumper Award for excellence in warfighting integration. Other individual information dominance award winners were Michael Carradine, 81st CS; Rhonda Blackwell and Tech. Sgt. Danny Gargano, 333rd TRS, Tech. Sgt. Ebonique McCray, 336th TRS, and Senior Airman Byron Bevis, 338th TRS.

Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, Chief, Information Dominance and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon, came to Keesler Nov. 21 to speak to the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and to visit the 81st TRG and the 333rd TRS.

Master Sgt. Terrance Boyd, 334th TRS, was recognized as AETC's 2013 Lance P. Sijan award winner in the junior enlisted category.

In AETC's A1 manpower, personnel and services competition for 2013, Keesler's winners include Airman Leadership School, the 81st FSS for outstanding personnel program of the year and three individuals from the 81st FSS - Master Sgt. Tomeika Frazier, Jackie Pope and Deatrice Jimerson.

The 81st TRW won the TOPS (To Promote Safety) trophy and Master Sgt. Michael Asdel was the ground safety technician of the year in Air Education and Training Command's 2013 safety awards competition.

Gen. Robin Rand, new AETC commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, command chief, visited Keesler Nov. 13-14.

Keesler was represented by wing leaders, honor guard, 50 state flag team and drum and bugle corps at the 13th annual Gulf Coast Veterans Parade in Biloxi.

The Keesler Marine Corps Detachment defeated the 81st AMDS in the base's intramural football championship game.


Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jim Binnicker, the ninth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, visited Keesler to speak to students at the Mathes NCO Academy and various other groups on base.

The "5K for AJ" sponsored by the 335th TRS for Master Sgt. Albert "AJ" Jackson, who was paralyzed from the waist down due to surgical complications, netted a $2,000 therapeutic cycle and nearly $14,000 in cash donations.

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, spouse of Brig. Gen. Kory Cornum, 81st MDG commander, spoke about her experiences as a prisoner of war in Iraq Dec. 5 at Keesler Medical Center.

Brig. Gen. Patrick Higby, 81st TRW commander, participated in the 6th annual Mississippi Bowl national junior college football championship in Biloxi, along with the honor guard, a drill team and the 50 state flag team.

The annual Gulf Coast Messiah Chorus performed at Triangle Chapel. The choir's first performance began at Keesler 61 years ago and has expanded to include civilian and military musicians.

The Dec. 4 Christmas in the Park included a tree lighting ceremony, tour train rides, holiday music, cookie decorating, visits with Santa, face painting and free food and beverages.

The Asian-Pacific American Heritage Committee raised $4063.50 by sponsoring a 5-kilometer race Dec. 4 to benefit American Red Cross typhoon recovery efforts.

The Keesler Airman and Family Readiness Center was endorsed by the Council on Accreditation, an international, independent, not-for-profit, child- and family-service and behavioral health accreditation organization.