PHOENIX, Ariz. — Arizona’s military citizenry honored the best of its air and ground power at the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa here March 21.
The 162nd Wing nominees at the Arizona National Guard’s 2015 Outstanding Soldiers and Airmen of the Year (OSAY) Banquet were as follows:
For Airman of the Year category: Senior Airman Nicholas Hoffman, Structural Maintenance Specialist
For Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year category: Tech Sgt. Donald Byrd, Unit Training Manager and Resource Advisor
For Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year category: Master Sgt. Tracie Parrott, Weapons Supervisor and Unit Career Advisor
For First Sergeant of the Year category: Senior Master Sgt. Jason Handa, Maintenance Group First Sergeant
For Command Chief Master Sergeant Award category: Tech. Sgt. Eugene Sanders
For Major General Donald L. Owens Junior Officer of the Year category: Capt. Amy O’Neil, member of the 214th Reconnaissance Group
The awards recognized guardsmen who “exemplified talent, positive leadership, dedication toward mission accomplishment” and “duty performance, self-improvement related to their primary duty, and the impact of their positive leadership and their involvement both militarily and within their community.”
The six Guard Airmen from the F-16 training and reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence unit joined their 161st Air Refueling Wing counterparts and Army comrades for an evening described by many attendees as “honoring the best of the best.”
Some of the nominees attributed their success to landing a mentor.
“They helped me get to this point,” said Master Sgt. Tracie Parrott. “I have taken many things with me throughout my entire career because of mentors.”
Senior Master Sgt. Jason Handa, who was humbled by his nomination, said that all career-minded, military individuals should eventually “act like first sergeants,” and agreed that establishing relationships with inspiring wingmen provides the makings for confident and capable Guard Airmen.
“Find multiple mentors and work with them,” he said. “They can give you a perspective outside the tunnel that you might find yourself in.”
Handa added that such guidance should not only come on the technical front, but a personal one as well.
For Tech. Sgt. Donald Byrd, who won the award in his respective category, the ability to adapt was crucial for his career success. “When you come into a new situation – have an open mind, be attentive, see what’s happening, see what’s being done….and make it better,” he said.
“It’s nice to be recognized on a larger scale like this, especially with our Army brothers and sisters,” said Capt. Amy O’Neil, who won in the category that recognized Air Guard junior officers. “It’s a huge honor for me.”
In addition to offering his personal thanks to all 60 nominees from the Army and Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the Adjutant General for the Arizona National Guard and former commander of the 162nd Wing, highlighted to the more than 700 banquet attendees that military cohesion sets the course for individual excellence.
“These winners could not have won without the rest of the team – their fellow soldiers and airmen – and that team is built on trusting one another,” the general said.