The Vince Lombardi Trophy wasn’t the only trophy hoisted in the air Feb. 7 – Super Bowl Sunday.
Three Cal Guard senior leaders made a whirlwind tour around the state to deliver and present minuteman trophies to the California Air National Guard’s six Outstanding Airmen of the Year and recognize nominees from each category.
The visits included a stop at the 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Gregory Jones, commander of the California Air National Guard, along with Command Chief Master Sgt. Steven Pyszka, the component’s senior enlisted adviser, and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager, who commands the California Army National Guard, visited four of the state’s five wings to honor the top Airmen.
In the past year, Airmen across California have risen to meet unprecedented challenges.
“It seems every year we discuss how busy a year it’s been for all Airmen,” said Jones. “This year, in addition to deployments within our five wings and activations for wildfires and civil unrest, we were met with another huge challenge called COVID-19.”
“It’s a challenge our Airmen continue to battle, are they are helping California in so many ways,” he said.
Last fall, each wing named six of its own Outstanding Airmen of the Year, who then competed against one another for statewide honors.
Minuteman trophies, which are traditionally presented during the California Military Department’s Service Member of the Year Banquet, were presented locally during drill weekend as an alternative to large gatherings during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We agreed it was so important to present these award in person to each of our winners,” said Pyszka, who serves as the state’s top enlisted Airman.
The winners are:
Airman of the Year: Staff Sgt. Tamara Frankie, 163rd Attack Wing
Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Bryson Barnette, 129th Rescue Wing
1st Sgt. of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Angel Torres, 163rd Attack Wing
Senior Noncommissioned of the Year: Master Sgt. James McGowen, 146th Airlift Wing
Company Grade Officer of the Year: Capt. Jim Kane, 144th Fighter Wing
Field Grade Officer of the Year: Maj. Jeremy Anderson, 129th Rescue Wing
Though only six of the state’s nearly 5,000 Airmen will move on to compete at the next higher level, every Airman made an impact in 2020, Pyszka said.
“Even if a few select Airmen received trophies, all California Air National Guard Airmen have done, and continue to do, amazing things every day for the citizens of California and the United States of America,” he said.
State winners advance to compete nationally for top honors in the Air National Guard with a chance to vie for the U.S. Air Force honors as one of its 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.