They say lightning only strikes once, but for one unit here at Luke Air Force Base the saying doesnâ€™t hold true. For the second time in three years, Luke has an Air Force Outstanding Airman of the Year.
Master Sgt. Sandra Plentzas, 944th Fighter Wing Chapel superintendent, was selected as one of the 12 outstanding Airmen for 2012.
â€œIt is with the utmost respect and pleasure that I was able to announce our very own 944th Fighter Wing warrior as one of the United States Air Forceâ€™s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year recipients,â€ said Col. Jose Monteagudo, 944th FW commander. â€œShe has shined bright this past year with multiple Air Force-level awards.â€
The Golden, Colo., native was also selected in 2011 as the John L. Levitow Award recipient and distinguished graduate at the Senior NCO Academy, USAFCENT Outstanding Chaplain Corps Senior NCO of the Rotation and even earned the Senior NCO Airman Excellence in Fitness award during her deployment to Southwest Asia. All the while, Plentzas volunteered with several different organizations on Luke, including working with spouses of deployed members and the Air Force Sergeants Association.
â€œMaster sergeant Plentzas is a true representation of the professionalism of our military and the caliber of our service members,â€ Monteagudo said. â€œHer accomplishments and dedication speak louder than words. Itâ€™s a distinct honor to have her in our wing. She is an inspiration to us all.â€
Over the past year she not only completed SNCOA but she also completed Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education, the Chaplain Assistant Senior Leadership Course, the Air Force Reserve Senior NCO Leadership Development Course, and to top it off, she completed her third associate degree in social services.
â€œSome of the best career advice I ever received was to do everything I have control over to make myself eligible and competitive,â€ Plentzas said. â€œYou need to be sure you are taking care of your PME and education at the earliest opportunity. Take care of any upgrade or qualification training in a timely manner and strive to do your best on the job.â€
Plentzasâ€™ advice to others is to know what to do to make it to the next stage of their career and be proactive in pursuing it.
â€œTake charge of your own career and donâ€™t wait for someone else to work things on your behalf,â€ she said. â€œBut above all, be sure that you do everything with excellence and for the right motive. If you are genuinely concerned about your fellow Airmen and the mission, recognition will follow.â€
Plentzasâ€™ concern for her fellow Airmen was never more evident than during her recent deployment. As the NCO-in-charge of the largest chaplain team in the area of responsibility, spanning four sites in three countries and supporting more than 18,100 deployed members, Plentzas brought her expert leadership to a struggling team. Her deployed wing chaplain said she was â€œthe key to the Air Expeditionary Wing team.â€
Plentzas forward deployed three times during her seven-month deployment and was handpicked to fill a critical helping agency void in Saudi Arabia where she helped military members dealing with a fellow Soldierâ€™s suicide.
Plentzas also benchmarked a comprehensive Airman fitness program and led 26 members in a resiliency outreach to 1,100 joint forces.
â€œPutting on the resiliency week for newly arrived Airmen was the highlight of my deployment,â€ Plentzas said. â€œItâ€™s the thing Iâ€™m probably most proud of.â€
Because of Plentzasâ€™ selfless dedication to Airmen and the Air Force, it was no surprise to anyone that she was chosen as an OAY.
â€œMaster sergeant Plentzas is the consummate military professional,â€ said Capt. Kevin Rash, 944th FW chaplain and Plentzasâ€™ supervisor. â€œThose of us who work with her daily are not surprised that she won.â€
When asked how she felt about being selected, she was humbled and shocked.
â€œI never dreamed my name would be associated with such a prestigious award,â€ Plentzas said. â€œBut it is really not about me or my name. I know everything that went into the awards package was the culmination of mentoring, guidance and opportunities I received as a result of the hard work of others. I was entrusted with situations to handle and people to lead that allowed what Iâ€™ve learned from others to shine.
â€œI havenâ€™t always been successful the first time around,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ve learned some painful lessons. Iâ€™ve been placed in the path of some amazing people over the past few years who have invested their time, expertise and friendship in me. I am very fortunate and so thankful that I can represent them, my wing, the Chaplain Corps, and AFRC at this level.â€
The Air Force Association will honor the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in September during its Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C.