12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year shine at gala

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location - Pentagon

The Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year earned praise at a dinner hosted by the Air Force Association as part of the 2013 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 16.

The award recognizes 12 outstanding enlisted service members for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.

“I don’t have any hesitation that we have picked the right 12 people,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody said. “They are an exceptional representation of the 690,000 Airmen serving in our Air Force around the world.”
The chief master sergeant of the Air Force, a general officer and selected major command chiefs comprise the selection board, and the Air Force chief of staff reviews the selections.

Before a crowd of more than 600 people, the 12 Airmen stood arm-in-arm with family and friends as the emcee read the Airmen's accomplishments.

The 12 Outstanding Airmen earn the Outstanding Airman ribbon with the bronze service star device and wear the Outstanding Airman badge for one year. They also serve on the Air Force Enlisted Council for one year. Guidelines for submissions are outlined in Air Force instruction 36-2805, Special Trophies and Awards.

The honorees are:  

Master Sgt. Tessa Fontaine
Duty title: Counterintelligence and Cyber Counterintelligence Superintendent
Unit: National Reconnaissance Office, Chantilly, Va.
Hometown: Holyoke, Mass.
Highlights: In 2012, Fontaine drove multiple joint espionage investigations to secure spy convictions and protect $5 billion of national security systems. She also managed 14 investigators and led 279 counterintelligence inquiries, closing a NRO’s record of 133. Fontaine was also the NRO’s representative for an intelligence community working group that developed a mitigation plan to counter an international threat and secure a $1.5 billion asset. She also piloted a $506,000 network upgrade that doubled threat detection capabilities for the United States.

Master Sgt. Andre Davis
Duty title: Unit Education Training Manager
Unit: 203rd RED HORSE Squadron, Camp Pendleton, Va.
Hometown: Newport News, Va.
Highlights: Davis directly bolstered the experience and education of Airmen through training and education initiatives by facilitating 228 Career Development Course examinations and conducting 65 professional military education tests for joint service officers. He designed an upgrade training process that streamlined skill-level upgrades. He also simplified multiple Air Force training records by cutting redundancies in half.  Davis further acted as a career and education advisor where he mentored 30 junior enlisted Airmen on education opportunities. He then coordinated college enrollment for 20 Airmen, adding 30 courses and nine degrees to his team’s accomplishments.
Senior Master Sgt. Ernesto Rendon Jr.
Duty title: Air Freight Superintendent
Unit: 62nd Aerial Port Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Hometown: Weslaco, Texas
Highlights: Rendon pushed his wing to the highest nuclear inspection rating as he coordinated the movement of 1,200 pieces of cargo and four tons of nuclear assets on four aircraft. In less than 96 hours he directed the delivery of 74 utility vehicles and 474 tons of cargo during Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. He also advanced aircrew training where he led the upload of 20 platforms on 10 aircraft and qualified 50 aircrews. He further supported the men and women of the 62nd Maintenance Squadron as a first sergeant where he flawlessly managed a crisis for a deployed Airman’s family and provided calming leadership to 418 Airmen during a post-suicide response.
Senior Airman Casey Anderson
Duty title: Mental Health Technician
Organization: 59th Mental Health Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
Hometown: New Brighton, Pa.
Highlights: Anderson bolstered Air Force readiness by briefing 68 suicide prevention classes, conducting 985 post traumatic stress disorder assessments, and processing 5,000 mental health consultations during 2012. The Air Force Medical Operations Agency handpicked her to serve as the brain study site officer in a program that is saving the Department of Defense $66 million.  Anderson also prepared 400 Airmen for deployment by conducting pre-deployment stress management briefings, and trained 80 medics on traumatic stress prevention. She further educated 2,000 Airmen on the effects of alcohol, which dropped alcohol incidents at her base by 55 percent the following quarter.
Senior Airman Joseph Senteno
Duty title: Budget Technician
Unit: 2nd Comptroller Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Hometown: Carlsbad, Calif.
Highlights:  Senteno oversaw a $9.2 million budget and executed more than $129 million in Air Force funds as a budget technician in Air Force Global Strike Command during 2012. During this time, recaptured more than $13 million of over-estimated costs to return buying power to his wing and developed a detailed balance tracker for all financial obligations, which became a benchmark for the command. He processed 176 financial documents worth $18 million and made funding available ahead of schedule for security forces and Airmen Leadership School upgrades. He also demonstrated financial stewardship by identifying and correcting $52,000 in financial transaction errors to ensure Air Force funds were in the appropriate funding stream.
Senior Airman Steven Hedgepeth
Duty title: Contracting Specialist
Unit: Organization 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
Hometown: Sioux Falls, S.D.
Highlights:  Hedgepeth executed 278 contract actions with an impact of $1.7 billion dollars touching six countries, 50 states and three contingencies. He was a member of a contingency construction flight supporting Air Force and Army operations in Afghanistan where he orchestrated a $10 million fire station construction contract that enabled six emergency response activation sites in Kabul. He cleared a backlog of $5.7 million in contractor claims and awarded a $43,000 facility upgrade that enabled NATO intelligence training for 200 Afghan citizens a year. Hedgepeth also obligated $212 million to assess weapons survivability and drive Department of Defense warfighter superiority.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Hanna
Duty title: Explosive Ordnance Disposal Journeyman
Unit:  Organization 36th Civil Engineer Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
Hometown: Bellwood, Pa.
Highlights: Hanna deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he executed 151 joint combat missions in Kandahar. There, he led robot operations for 65 responses where his team quickly disarmed improvised explosive devices to maintain 34 safe routes for joint partners. He also ensured freedom of movement in a 24-kilometer area for Soldiers working reconstruction projects in Kandahar, and supported 23 Army dismount operations, meshing seamlessly with quick reaction forces during enemy contact to secure more than 7 square kilometers. Hanna further capitalized on his expertise to train 347 coalition forces on improvised explosive device search techniques and mentor 10 Afghan technicians to prepare Afghanistan for an increased security role.
Tech. Sgt. Adam Gomez
Duty title: Cyber Transport Craftsman
Unit: 3rd Combat Camera Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.
Highlights: Gomez deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he supported Headquarters United States Forces-Afghanistan as the American Forces Network Theater Planner. He managed more than $3 million in broadcast equipment throughout the region, where he oversaw maintenance services for 620 Forward Operating Bases and served more than 91,000 warfighters. He led 12 maintenance technicians and established new American Forces Network services in 137 austere sites. Gomez earned the Combat Action Medal as he led a team through a successful hostile-fire engagement and completed all scheduled maintenance missions. Gomez also operated 127 days outside the wire as the sole maintenance technician during 49 missions, assuring American Forces Network services despite 39 indirect fire attacks and small arms fire incidents.
Tech. Sgt. Celeste Okokon
Duty title: Dental Hygienist
Unit: 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Highlights: Okokon elevated her wing to a 97 percent dental readiness standard by conducting 715 procedures, managing schedules for 15 providers, and guiding a $64,000 budget. She secured three oral prevention assistant positions, which generated 300 additional appointments and saved $105,000 in off-base referral costs. Okokon also maximized deployment readiness for 830 Airmen by establishing an access-to-care standard that dropped deployed dental requirements to less than one percent. She further improved the dental clinic by launching a self-inspection program for 34 staff members that validated eight tasks and corrected 64 critical items.
Tech. Sgt. Jason Payne
Duty title: Combat Control Craftsman
Unit: 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
Highlights: Payne deployed as the sole combat controller with a 50-man U.S. Navy Seal team where he directed close-air support during 31 high risk missions with zero losses. He conducted 19 combat operations that led to the killing or capturing of 44 enemy fighters, severely crushing local Taliban networks. He also served for 120 days on a one-hour alert with a national crisis response force where he postured for and executed global contingencies, and he contributed to a plan to capture the joint task force’s number one priority target, enabling a surprise assault and mission success. He further served his team by building a professional development curriculum for flight NCOs that directly improved public speaking and writing skills.
Master Sgt. Shawn Jones
Duty title: Photojournalist
Unit: 514th Air Mobility Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
Hometown: Galloway, N.J.
Highlights: Jones is the first Air Force Reserve Airman to win the top journalist award at the Air Force Reserve Command, Air Force, and Department of Defense levels. He served as a lead writer during the chief of staff of the Air Force transition and used his advanced communication skills to flawlessly integrate leadership messages into all stories. His expert management of the 514th Air Mobility Wing’s public website led to a 30 percent increase in viewer traffic. Jones also furthered Air Force messages by cultivating a relationship with a local television network and integrating wing Airmen into daily talk shows broadcast to 50,000 civilian viewers.

Staff Sgt. Lauren Everette
Duty title: Aerospace Medical Service Journeyman
Unit: 48th Inpatient Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England
Hometown: Jackson, Mo.
Highlights: Everett deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom where she courageously saved five lives by stabilizing fractures and stopping heavy bleeding while under fire after an improvised explosive device attack. She also identified and secured treatment for 51 Airmen with early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. She championed a health record system at a forward deployed location which managed 36 accounts, and enabled post deployment care for 1,200 joint warfighters. Everett also identified and reversed critical levels of 10 jaundiced babies, and consolidated a five-step deployment process into a one-stop processing line for 1,100 Airmen.

For more information on these Airmen and this year’s AFA Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, visit