Airmen receive trophies for maintenance excellence

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Two Airmen earned trophies and praise here for their abilities to keep Air Force aircraft flying and munitions ready for the mission.

Master Sgt. Timothy Kellner, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Capt. Abigail Ruscetta, 16th AMXS, Hurlburt Field, Fla., were honored with the 2006 General Lew Allen Jr. Trophy, presented at the Pentagon by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. John D.W. Corley.

"We have enormously complex systems in the air and on the ground, and it takes exquisite leadership and supervision to be able to take those extremely complex systems and get them airborne, to generate the sorties for combat purposes," General Corley said. "These two people have demonstrated they do it better than does anyone."

The General Lew Allen Jr. trophy is awarded annually to base-level officers and senior NCOs in aircraft, munitions or missile maintenance directly involved in sortie generation.

Captain Ruscetta was chosen because of her expert leadership which led to the generation of more than 6,500 flying hours for fiscal 2006. Her unit was the only fixed-wing unit to exceed the wing's flying hour program by more than 500 hours.

Her direct involvement also was key in generating 235 Operation Enduring Freedom combat sorties, which included 730 flying hours and a 97 percent mission-effectiveness rate. Those sorties resulted in 108 enemies killed in action, 50 enemies captured, 704 troops and 128 vehicles escorted, 209 troops moved and 1.4 million leaflets dropped.

Captain Ruscetta credited members of her unit for her receipt of the honor.

"I'm honored to receive this award," she said. "But it really represents much more than me. It represents the entire Air Force team behind me.  The men and women of the 16th Special Operations Wing and the 16th Maintenance Group are absolutely phenomenal."

Sergeant Kellner was recognized for the support he provided while on deployment to Balad Air Base, Iraq. There, he directly affected the generation of 1,291 combat sorties and 5,622 flying hours supporting operations Restore Rights, Saratoga and Steel Curtain.

His contributions to aircraft maintenance led to the destruction of 38 weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, which ensured the security of an Iraqi election poll site and resulted in the death of a senior al Qaeda facilitator. His maintenance and planning efforts also contributed to the 31st AMXS being selected for the United States Air Forces in Europe's Maintenance Effectiveness Award for 2005.

"I really owe this to all the men and women, the young Airmen and noncommissioned officers, of the 31st AMXS, for their hard work and dedication. That's what made this possible," Sergeant Kellner said.