Salutes & Awards

June 29, 2012

Wetzel award recognizes unsung heroes

By Airman 1st Class Matthew Lancaster
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Senior Airman Heather Kelly, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center military justice paralegal, Airman1st Class Blake Wirth, 99th Security Forces Squadron elite gate guard member and patrolman, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Holmes, Public Affairs chief of photography, take a group photo after receiving the Wetzel award June 21, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Also receiving the award but not pictured here, was Staff Sgt. Samantha Mendrop, a 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron engine mechanic. Each award recipient will receive gift certificates for local area attractions.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Four installation Airmen were recognized for their exceptional efforts in a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center here June 21.

The Rotary Club presented Staff Sgt. Dustin Holmes, Senior Airman Heather Kelly, Staff Sgt. Samantha Mendrop, and Airman 1st Class Blake Wirth with the Wetzel Award. The award recognizes four Nellis Airmen each quarter for their exceptional efforts towards the Air Force mission, and who exhibit the highest standards of professionalism beyond their normal work load.

Holmes, a Public Affairs photographer, was the creator of a computer program which automates the Aerial Achievement Medal review process, making the review process faster. The new program will save 2,000 man hours each year.

Kelly, a Warfare Center military justice paralegal, was the case paralegal for five special court-martials and one general court-martial. While busy with court-martial duties, she was still able to assist Nellis Airmen, dependants and local retirees with drafting and notarizing a multitude of legal documents, saving clients over $1,000 in legal fees.

Mendrop, a 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron engine mechanic, expertly took the lead in replacing an F-16 engine that had experienced extensive fan blade damage. Her efforts ensured minimal downtime for the aircraft as the aircraft met its next scheduled sortie just one day later.

Wirth, a 99th Security Force Squadron elite gate guard member and patrolman, demonstrated leadership during multiple emergency responses, among them several vehicle accident responses and the safe evacuation of more than 100 people away from a gas leak site on Creech Air Force Base. His actions cumulatively helped ensure Creech’s 4,000 personnel were kept safe and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing combat operations were able to continue uninterrupted.

“I feel honored to be able to be a part of this along with the other people who were nominated because only a few Airmen are chosen,” said Kelly.

However, Kelly said competing for awards should not be the end goal of personal effort.

“Everyone should strive to commit to excellence in their duties and life. You do not have to be competitive to achieve this,” she said.

Bruce Quinn, the Las Vegas Rotary Club’s specialty planner, said the Rotary Club wants to use the Wetzel Award to showcase the achievements of the installation’s unsung heroes.

“A lot of times junior service members don’t think anybody recognizes what they do,” he said. “This award recognizes the guys working around ordnance or dragging fuel to aircraft. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it on a day to day basis and are outstanding at their jobs.”

“The award also allows us to recognize top performers because they don’t only perform their job but give back to the community,” Quinn said.

Quinn offered this advice to others:  “Do your best even when nobody is looking, and give back to your community,” Quinn said. “I look forward every year to see these young Airmen who are going above and beyond the call of duty even when nobody is looking.”




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