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Awards shine spotlight on Air Force's best, brightest

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFPN) -- The efforts of the best and the brightest scientists, technicians and engineers were honored at the Air Force Scientist & Engineer and Science & Technology Awards ceremony that took place here Oct. 4.

Among the award winners was 2nd Lt. Robert Bethancourt, recognized for his outstanding contributions in cadet research in 2007. While he's pursuing his Air Force career as a pilot instead of a scientist, he said the scientific understanding and research skills he learned at the Academy can be applied to his overall Air Force career. 

The 2007 Academy graduate acknowledged the role fellow award recipient, Dr. Paul Vergez, played in his growth as a scientist and an officer. He said all Academy faculty play important mentoring roles for the cadets and teach them research methods for life. 

Dr. Vergez was named Outstanding Science and Engineering Educator of the Year.
He mentored and led cadets as part of the Attitude Control of Satellites program. The astronautical engineer said the "hands-on" learning opportunities cadets receive are key building blocks for the Air Force's future scientists, technicians and engineers. The program Dr. Vergez leads allows cadets to benefit from Department of Defense funds and support for their projects. 

The award recipients were saluted by guests including Terry Jaggers, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, and other top Air Force leaders from around the country. 

Dr. Mark Lewis, the chief scientist of the Air Force, and Brig. Gen. Dana Born, the Academy's dean of faculty, addressed the crowd. 

General Born said it is indicative of the Academy's dedication and contribution to the overall scientific achievement of the Air Force, that the award ceremony was held at the Academy. Among this year's honorees were several Academy faculty members, officers and a 2007 Academy grad. 

"In just a few years, our cadets will be using technologies that don't exist today and will be facing problems we could not possibly predict today," General Born said. "We are dedicated to cultivate adaptable leaders and critical thinkers who can confidently problem solve, communicate and collaborate, regardless of the challenge, who will excel in a global, technical, complex, ambiguous and dynamic environment." 

Mr. Jaggers spoke of the tenacity shown in past years following personnel and fiscal cuts, and the impressive achievements accomplished despite those challenges. 

Dr. Lewis marked the anniversary of the start of the space race and the former U.S.S.R.'s launch of Sputnik. He called for America's leaders, and those in the Air Force in particular, to re-dedicate themselves to America's continued dominance of space. He said the men and women in the Air Force and America have learned, by trial and error in their bid to control space, and that it's in the country's best interest and security to continue to dominate space. 

Dr. Lewis added the inclusion of the Academy honorees showed the institution's leadership, not only in science, technology and engineering, but in the overall education of future officers. He said the Academy teaches research skills to cadets and those real-world skills help them be independent thinkers and teach them to respond creatively to situations. He cited the cadet contributions to the FalconSat satellite design program.

The program teaches science and technology while simultaneously giving them hands-on research and presentation skills. The program culminates in the cadet-designed satellites being used in space for research. 

Learning is a two-way street, added Dr. Vergez. He has fun and learns from his students, while teaching them the skills to be "good problem solvers, work together as a team and be better officers."

Winners of the 2007 Scientist & Engineer and Science & Technology awards include: 

-- Dr. Jim Riker, Air Force Research Laboratory, Harold Brown Award

-- Leonid Perlovsky, AFRL, McLucas Basic Research Award

-- Tim Edwards, Biswa Ganguly and John McGuire, AFRL, Honorable Mention, McLucas Basic Research Award

-- John Raquet, Air Force Institute of Technology, Honorable Mention, McLucas Basic Research Award

-- Lt. Col. Dennis Montera, AFRL, Air Force Research & Development Award
-- Lt. Col Andrew Berry and Maj. Michael Latanzi, U.S. Air Force Academy Institute for Informational Technology Applications, Air Force Research & Development Award

-- Capt. Joseph Hank, Capt. Nidel Jodeh and 1st Lt. Josh Markow, AFRL, Air Force Research & Development Award

-- Dr. Terry Lyons, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Science & Engineering Award (Research Management) 

-- Dr. Tom Jackson, AFRL, Air Force Science & Engineering Award (Exploratory Development) 

-- Dr. Skip Williams, AFRL, Air Force Science & Engineering Award (Engineering Achievement) 

-- Dr. Howard Sizek, AFRL, Air Force Science & Engineering Award (Manufacturing Technology) 

-- Dr. Carl Lombard, AFRL, Air Force Science & Engineering Award (Manufacturing Technology) 

-- 2nd Lt Robert Bethencourt, Air Force Academy Department of Astronautics, Outstanding Cadet Researcher 

-- Dr. Paul Vergez, Air Force Academy Department of Astronautics, Air Force Outstanding Science & Engineering Educator Award 

-- Trenton White, AFRL, Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award, Junior Civilian 

-- Dr. Rajesh Naik, AFRL, Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award, Mid-Career Civilian 

-- Dr. John Borsi, HQ Air Force, Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award, Senior Civilian 

-- Capt. Scott Bjorge, AFRL, Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award, Junior Military 

-- Maj. Joseph Troy Morgan, U.S Central Command, Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award, Mid-Career Military

-- Lt. Col. Scott Long, Air Education and Training Command Studies and Analysis Squadron, Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award, Senior Military 

-- Jay Ostler, 730th Aircraft Sustainment Group, Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award, Junior Civilian 

-- Richard Evans, 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron, Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award, Mid-Career Civilian 

-- Lothar Deil, 453rd Electronic Warfare Squadron, Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award, Senior Civilian 

-- 1st Lt. Mark Mallory, AFRL, Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award, Junior Military 

-- Capt. Melvin Baylon, 730th ACSG, Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award, Mid-Career Military 

-- Lt. Col. Brian D. Raduenz, Det. 3, Predator Systems Squadron, Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award, Senior Military 

Several larger team awards were also given.

The Air Force Science & Engineering Team Award (Advanced Tech Development) went to the Air Force Technology Applications Center Nuclear Detection Team: Capt. Ty Miller, 1st Lt. Joseph Dratz, Doris Bruner, John Lucas, Kevin Muhs, Dr. William Johnson, Evan Nitz, George Gonzales, Jonathan Barrett, Brett Mapston, Frank Sornatale, Dr. P. Anil Rao, Craig Sloan, Capt. Robert Evans, Brian Strahl, Scott Smith and Marvin Owen. 

The Air Force Outstanding Scientist Award for a team went to the B-52 Fischer-Tropsch team at AFRL: Willam Harrison III, Dr. Tim Edwards, John Datko, Edwin Corporan, Robert Morris Jr., Donald Minus, Robert Allen, Capt. Tammy Low, 1st Lt. Jeremiah Miller, 1st Lt. Grant Parker, Dr. Vincent Belovich, Matthew Wagner, Dean Brigalli, Alan Fletcher, Joseph Leone and Omar Mendoza. 

The Air Force Outstanding Engineer Award for a team was awarded to the 53rd Electronic Warfare Groups' F-16/A-10 Mission Data Team: of Maj. Andrew Proud, James Hurst, Perry Wilson, Chris Erk, Angel Ramos, Richard Evans, Sandy Rehr, Felix Blair, Truong Nguyen, Si Nguyen, Wil Loosen, Keith Broyles, Joelle Tintle, Dale Bradley, John Evert, Blas Gutierrez, Michael Minton, Sharon Conley, 1st Lt. Craig Labrecque, 1st Lt. Chun-te Chiang, Tod Gliesche, John Moats, TSgt. Kevin Hopkins, TSgt. Matthew Duncan, TSgt. Daniel Davis and SSgt. Steven Burchett.

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