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139th Airlift Wing praises 'outstanding' Airmen

Nominees for the 2010 Airman of the Year award at the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, St. Joseph, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crane)

Nominees for the 2010 Airman of the Year award at the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, St. Joseph, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crane)

ST JOSEPH, Mo. -- The 139th Airlift Wing announced its five Outstanding Airmen of the Year (OAY) for 2011 here Nov. 6 in a ceremony attended by the nominees, their supervisors and base leaders.

The Wing selects its top performers each year to compete statewide for recognition as Missouri's top Airmen.

The 2011 Outstanding Airmen of the Year are:

-Officer: Capt. Chad Bannwarth, 180th Airlift Squadron
- Senior Noncommissioned Officer: Master Sgt. John Stone, Security Forces Squadron
- Noncommissioned Officer: Staff Sgt. Matthew Couchman, Operations Group
- Airman: Senior Airman Erik Groven, Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
- First Sergeant: Master Sgt. David Albin, Wing

"All of those who were nominated are winners," said Chief Master Sgt. Gaila Sullivan, command chief. "They represent the 139th well."

The Airmen come from a mix of Air Force and civilian career fields.
Their wide-range of accomplishments includes service in Iraq and Afghanistan, volunteer work in their communities and pursuit of higher education.
Groven works as a crew chief in the aircraft maintenance squadron. At home, he works in his family's trucking business and farm.

Officials pointed out Groven's membership with the civil air patrol, as well as his enrollment at Northwest Missouri State University. His supervisors also said he "strives to make mission accomplishment a top propriety" and possesses a "do it right the first time attitude."

"You always do the best at something you care about, and I do care about this," said Groven. "This is for the base, and the better ... anybody in the 139th can do, the better for us."

Couchman is an operations intelligence Airman with service in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Officials called him an "expert in intelligence operations." He provided numerous intelligence briefings to "key leaders" during his deployment. His supervisors called his work there "critical" to thousands of aircraft sorties, their cargo and passengers in the area of operations.

For Stone, a security forces specialist, officials highlighted his multiple deployments in OIF and Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as his joint service with the Marine Corps and the Army as a non-lethal weapons instructor.

"It's a real honor to be able to represent the 139th," said Stone. "The 139th is a family, and when you are asked to represent that family, it's always a privilege."

Among other off-duty accomplishments, Stone is pursuing his bachelor's degree at Columbia University and volunteers as a youth football coach.

Albin distinguished himself as first sergeant for the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron in OEF, said officials. He "boosted morale" and managed the lodging, processing and special duty projects of hundreds of Airmen.

As a first sergeant here, Albin "worked closely with the Command Chief to resolve issues effectively for enlisted personnel."

Officials lauded Bannwarth's service as a C-130H Hercules aircraft commander.
He supported missions worldwide, with joint and coalition forces, including Special Forces training missions and in support of OEF, at "austere locations."

Bannwarth also achieved high recognition for his community involvement at air shows, at counter-drug school events and with the "Toys for Tots" program.

The Airmen are scheduled to meet in December with the state's Air Guard leaders in Jefferson City, Mo., for consideration as Missouri's outstanding Airman.

"We wish them luck," said Gaila.

State winners will compete for the Air Guard's OAY, this spring.
The Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year recognition is held in the summer.