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Airmen, NCO award candidates tout real-world accomplishments

The winners of the Airmen of the Year and Officer of the Year Awards on Nov.  5, 2011: (left) First Sgt. DeJuan Neal, Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shalz, Senior Airman Kalonie Taylor, 2nd Lt. Robert Lovelady, and Tech. Sgt. Fredrick Pierce. These winners will go on to compete with other winners throughout the state. (Photo by Senior Airman Katie Kidd/Missouri Air National Guard)

The winners of the Airmen of the Year and Officer of the Year Awards on Nov. 5, 2011: (left) First Sgt. DeJuan Neal, Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shalz, Senior Airman Kalonie Taylor, 2nd Lt. Robert Lovelady, and Tech. Sgt. Fredrick Pierce. These winners will go on to compete with other winners throughout the state. (Photo by Senior Airman Katie Kidd/Missouri Air National Guard)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- It's never difficult to find excellent candidates for the 139th Airlift Wing's yearly awards for outstanding airmen, NCOs and officers.

But a 2011 which saw the unit neck-deep with natural disasters at home and contingency deployments abroad, the accomplishments of this year's Outstanding Airmen easily continued the impressive tradition of the past.

The chief master sergeants who interviewed the candidates took notice.

"The candidates' packages were all full of accomplishments ... real world accomplishments," said Chief Master Sgt. Bill Thomas of the 139th Logistics Readiness Squadron. "(We had) very deserving candidates."

"After managing (the AOY boards) for six years," said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Duncan, "the candidates just get better and better.

"The (packages) are full of State Emergency duty for flooding and the Joplin tornado, deployments ... some real world resumes."

All of which makes the face-to-face interview critical in distinguishing the best from the rest. The three Chiefs interviewing candidates for the top senior master sergeant agreed they were looking for particular leadership traits.

"Mentorship ... and (if) they are doing it," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Frye of the 180th Airlift Squadron.

Chief Master Sgt. Randy Miller agreed, adding, "I want to know if they want to be a Chief."
To which Frye added, "Are they looking to be a Chief, or (just) an E-9?"

Duncan said most of the AOY candidates have the right attitude to go with their accomplishments.

"A lot of them are here, plus they have full-time jobs, family, volunteering, school ... they have a full plate," he said. "Until they get to this level, they don't think they are doing anything out of the ordinary. But they are.

"They are our new leaders."

Winners will compete against Missouri Air National Guard members from other units in December at Missouri Air National Guard headquarters in Jefferson City.

Here's a look at the 2011 139th Airlift Wing Airmen of the Year winners:

Airman - Senior Airman Kalonie N. Taylor (139th Maintenance Squadron) - Taylor, a 2009 enlistee, graduated with top honors from Basic Training and has continued to excel at the wing as a personnel specialist, maintaining accountability reports and pay records for her squadron. She was hired as a temporary technician and worked extensively as a part of Operation Northern Tide, the flood-fighting effort this summer. She is very active in church and charity organizations.

NCO - Tech. Sgt. Fredrick G. Pierce (139th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) - Pierce, a crew chief, began his Air Force career in 1999 and joined the 139th in 2006. He has deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, three times with the wing and has volunteered for other deployments. Earlier this year, he was hired as a full-time technician. He is active with church activities and with Girl Scouts, as he and his wife have three daughters with another on the way.

First Sergeant - Master Sgt. DeJuan D. Neal (139th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) - Neal, the 139th AMXS first sergeant, has been a member of the Missouri Air National Guard since his enlistment in 1985 and the 139th since 1991. Neal served for five months this year as a first sergeant for an Expeditionary Force Support Squadron operating out of the United Arab Emirates. Previously, Neal has participated in numerous deployments, including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In civilian life, Neal has worked as a locomotive engineer since 1995. He is pursuing his bachelor's degree.

Senior NCO - Senior Master Sgt. Robert J. Shalz (139th Operations Group) - Shalz, a Standardization and Evaluation loadmaster, has been with the 139th since 1980 and full-time as a technician since 1990. Shalz is a former distinguished graduate of NCO Leadership School, and has worked as an instructor loadmaster. Shalz has deployed numerous times, including Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, among others. He has more than 9,300 hours in the C-130, including more than 800 in combat and another 430-plus in combat support, with more than 700 combat or combat support sorties. He and his wife and children are active in church and community activities in St. Joseph.

Company Grade Officer - 2nd Lt. Robert D. Lovelady (139th Logistics Plans Office), Lovelady is prior enlisted after joining the wing in 1999. He earned his commission in 2010, after a distinguished enlisted career which saw him top graduate honors at basic training, tech school and Airman Leadership School (the distinguished John Levitow Award). He has a long, distinguished community service record with special needs children, including extensive work with the wing's participation in the Camp Guardian summer camp for special needs children. His organizational excellence was lauded by the Air Mobility Command IG team during inspection. In 2010, he again was again named the top graduate, this time at Logistics Readiness Officer school. In 2011, he was a critical leader in moving wing assets off base during the flood fight.