From the moment an individual raises their right hand and repeats the Oath of Enlistment, they become an ambassador for the U.S. armed forces.
In order to be an effective ambassador for the Air Force, Airmen must exemplify the Whole Airman Concept.
This concept details the expectations for an Airman to embody the Air Force Core Values, engage in personal and professional development, esprit de corps and community relations.
Senior Airman Iiae Hess, 355th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., was recently named Air Combat Command’s Outstanding Airman of the Year in the Airman category for her personal and professional accomplishments.
As an ATC, Hess plays a vital role in Davis-Monthan’s daily operations by safely and efficiently managing the flow of aircraft through all aspects of flight.
“What I love about my job is the team concept of it — up in the tower cab,” Hess said. “Those moments when there is an emergency or something happening, you know everyone who is in position is working toward the same goal of getting the aircraft down on the ground safely. It’s a really rewarding experience, especially when the nerves are high and very quick decision making (is involved).”
Having exceled at her core duties, Hess has also taken on the added responsibility of incoming controllers who are fresh out of technical training.
“Airman Hess is an excellent trainer and she always strives to improve,” said Staff Sgt. Alex Donovan, Hess’ supervisor. “As trainers, they have to take all the experience they have and give it to the future 5-levels of the Air Force. That takes active investment — you can’t just be passive in this career field and succeed.”
Hess volunteers regularly, fulfilling the other core components of the Whole Airman Concept.
“I’ve been her supervisor for about a year,” Donovan said. “I knew she was really active, not only in air traffic, but also in the community. It was pretty obvious if there was someone who should be put up for recognition in the squadron, it would be her.”
The award-winning airman volunteered for the Davis-Monthan AFB honor guard and worked with STARBASE, a Department of Defense youth program that introduces students from local elementary schools to Air Force jobs that utilize science, technology, engineering and math.
“Just seeing the impact I was having on other people was what really motivated me,” Hess said.
Hess has also been recognized for her strong work ethic in her personal life.
“If she can help somebody, she’s going to whether they ask her to or not,” said Tara Dorough, Hess’ close friend. “She just does things because she wants to help people and make an impact.”
Hess has proven time and again she possesses the qualities outlined in the Whole Airman Concept; for that she is being recognized by some of the Air Force’s highest leadership.
“It was a surprise when I was told I was put up for (the award) and really shocking when I kept moving on and kept winning,” Hess said. “I’m very grateful for my leadership and everyone who has helped push me this far.”