Getting to know the 12 OAY

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
In August, Air Force officials selected the service's top enlisted members, naming the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2016.

A board considered 36 nominees who represented major commands, direct reporting units, field operating agencies and Headquarters Air Force. The board selected 12 Airmen based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements.


Below are the 12 Airmen and their accomplishments for which they were chosen.

Tech. Sgt. Michael A. Asuncion Jr.


Duty title: Pavement and equipment craftsman


Organization: 45th Civil Engineer Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida


Home of record: Mangilao, Guam


Tech. Sgt. Michael A. Asuncion Jr. was vital in the construction of the Royal Air Force’s 44,000 square foot aircraft maintenance area, enabling coalition forces to obliterate more than 500 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets. He filled the NCO in charge position across two work centers, leading 51 Airmen for 130 days and enabling 16 space launches with more than $6.3 billion in payload while slashing the workload by 60 percent. Additionally, he presided over two junior enlisted organizations, influencing more than 1,500 Airmen across two areas of responsibilities. His leadership led to six quarterly awards, culminating in his team earning the Heavy Equipment Shop Team of the Year, which contributed to his squadron and operations flights being named the best in Air Force Space Command in 2015.



Tech. Sgt. Sharry L.  Barnshaw


Duty title: NCO in charge, cyberspace plans and implementation


Organization: 436th Communication Squadron, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware


Home of record: Dundalk, Maryland


Tech. Sgt. Sharry L. Barnshaw magnificently led 16 projects, 45 contractors and $30 million in command and control programs, enabling $450,000 in savings to her wing. Additionally, she finalized a six year, $12 million military construction project by migrating 20,000 telephones and 30 systems, leading to her unit earning recognition as Dover Air Force Base’s Team of the Quarter. She lobbied for 10 projects within Air Mobility Command, garnering approval for a $6 million engineering and installation work plan, cementing information technology support to 19 squadrons. As president of Team Dover’s Junior Noncommissioned Officer Association, she partnered with three other organizations to raise more than $9,000 and donate more than 1,200 volunteer hours in support of programs across the state of Delaware.

Senior Airman Raquel R. Caramanno


Duty title: Medical readiness technician


Organization: 412th Medical Support Squadron, Edwards Air Force Base, California


Home of record:  Staten Island, New York


Senior Airman Raquel R. Caramanno was instrumental in leveraging a 50 percent staff loss while flawlessly managing 17 medical contingency response teams and $1 million in war reserve materiel.  Her attention to detail drove “Outstanding” test wing ratings in the Air Force Input Tool, Defense Readiness Reporting System, Air Expeditionary Force Reporting Tool, and emergency management programs. As the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear program manager, Caramanno directed a 42 percent capability surge, leading to $40,000 in modernization upgrades to critical assets. Additionally, she identified a pandemic influenza shortfall, resulting in the procurement of $26,000 in protective equipment, ensuring the operational integrity of $895,000 in allowance standards. Finally, her dedication to excellence culminated in her selection as the 2015 Air Force Medical Service Outstanding Enlisted Health Services Management Airman of the Year.  

Tech. Sgt. Cassandra L. Cruz


Duty title: Professional military education instructor


Organization: 81st Force Support Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi


Home of record: Hau’ula, Hawaii


Tech. Sgt. Cassandra L. Cruz aided the Total Force Integration initiative by educating 113 active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve leaders, facilitating 1,000 hours of instruction. She identified credentialing shortfalls for her primary Air Force specialty code and aligned civilian requirements with the Career Field Education and Training Plan, enabling the expansion of seven additional certifications available to over 2,000 Airmen. As a base victim advocate, she dedicated 1,300 hours to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, serving as a first responder and trainer for base personnel. She served as the vice president of the Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 652, which was recognized as the number one recruiting chapter in the Air Force. She was also recognized as a distinguished graduate from the Archibald Mathies NCO Academy’s Intermediate Leadership Experience.



Senior Master Sgt. Mark E. Farmer


Duty title: Operations superintendent


Organization: 114th Space Control Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida


Home of record: Cleveland, Tennessee


Senior Master Sgt. Mark E. Farmer is the first enlisted Air National Guard command and control member to deploy to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. As the NCO in charge of a command and control space cell, his team executed three intelligence collection missions, identifying two high-value individuals and guaranteeing battlespace awareness. He led three operation crews through more than 30 rehearsal of concept drills that exercised space effects and elevated the crew’s ability to execute combatant command missions. He modified four mission critical documents and created a command and control real-time tracker to organize events during multiple missions, which increased situational awareness during periods of high operations tempo. As the operations superintendent, he guided the transition from classroom-based training to high-fidelity performance-based scenarios that developed ready warriors.

Senior Airman Jasmin Figueroa


Duty title: Emergency services technician


Organization: 51st Medical Operations Squadron, Osan Air Base, South Korea


Home of record: Lakewood, Colorado


Senior Airman Jasmin Figueroa facilitated five specialty clinics and trained 14 personnel on the Air Force Medical Service Provider and Patient Continuity Program. Her efforts helped support the medical care of more than 11,000 active-duty and civilian personnel. In addition, she spearheaded a base-wide influenza campaign, surpassing the Air Force’s goal of immunizing 90 percent of the base’s populace within a two-week period, sustaining an overall 99.5 percent medical readiness rating for her base. Additionally, she arranged three separate speed mentor events where she connected five Osan Air Base senior leaders with 60 Airmen, providing easily accessible network opportunities within the community. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in nursing, applying her training and leadership principles to mission objectives.

Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah F. Grisham


Duty title: Superintendent of an explosive ordnance disposal flight


Organization: 11th Civil Engineer Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland


Home of record: Lakewood, Colorado


Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah F. Grisham led a flight of 22 Airmen in support of more than 250 United States Secret Service missions, representing 54 percent of the Air Force’s total quota of missions in 2015 and saving the Air Force $677,000 in temporary duty travel costs. Additionally, his flight provided the sole Air Force counter improvised explosive device capabilities at the 18 acre White House Complex, guarding the president of the United States and the first family. Furthermore, Grisham revolutionized his flight’s support to the Very Important Persons Protection Support Activity by adapting a model used by large range bases to simultaneously cover home station and range missions. This system allowed his flight to execute 50 percent more missions than the previous year and was positively highlighted during the 11th Wing’s 2015 Unit Evaluation Inspection. Finally, he developed a streamlined tasking process for VIP missions, which was adopted by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center for use throughout the enterprise.


Master Sgt. Marcus A. Mader


Duty title: Superintendent of recruiting, assessments, and selection


Organization: Special Tactics Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida


Home of record: Clarksville, Tennessee


Master Sgt. Marcus A. Mader lead the Special Tactics Training Squadron’s largest assault team, training 37 Airmen in four separate Air Force specialty codes while managing an operating budget of more than $470,000. When a Louisiana National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, he alerted the dive team, stood up the unit control center and oversaw 92 dives in five days, ensuring the remains of the seven Marines and four Soldiers onboard were returned honorably. Additionally, he led 60 Airmen through a seven month deployment preparation, pushing 22 special operations forces to three areas of responsibility where they crushed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with 582 strikes and an estimated 1,200 enemies killed in action. Finally, Mader led a local memorial and dignified transfer, raising $5,000 in his fallen teammate’s honor.


Master Sgt. Rebecca F. McNelley


Duty title: Superintendent of standardization and evaluation


Organization:  90th Security Forces Group, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming


Home of record:  Clearwater, Kansas


Master Sgt. Rebecca F. McNelley pioneered the 90th Missile Wing’s first active shooter exercise by partnering with the Wyoming Air and Army National Guard, preparing more than 8,000 personnel to avert one of the largest threats facing our nation. She directed more than 1,000 evaluations and assessments for four squadrons, reducing the number of defenders posted in missile fields by 10 percent. McNelley engineered weekly missile field and weapons storage team visits, covering three squadrons and 17 flights, ensuring 1,200 security forces Airmen were nuclear security ready. Additionally, she was proactive in the community, serving as the Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1178 president where she boosted local membership. She also managed the Air Force’s largest “Airman’s Attic” program and oversaw her wing’s loan locker, assisting more than 3,000 families.

Senior Airman Derek F. Miles


Duty title: Ground radar systems technician


Organization: 39th Operations Support Squadron, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey


Home of record: Buffalo, New York


Senior Airman Derek F. Miles guided a four-member emergency response team, rewiring the Turkish Air Force precision approach radar in under one hour to secure host nation F-16 alert capabilities. He repaired a vital radar control unit, which saved $19,000 in procurement costs and restored air traffic control of 6,700 NATO missions supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Additionally, he stepped outside his career field to install nine ground-to-air radios in less than 48 hours, establishing operations centers for five deployed squadrons flying more than 1,000 OIR missions. Miles displayed his adaptive leadership ability during a three-week stretch leading his work center through 103 maintenance actions and an unprecedented 99.9 percent radar uptime rate. These leadership skills were also recognized during Airman leadership school where he earned the John L. Levitow Award for academic and leadership excellence.

Staff Sgt. Aaron M. Tobler


Duty title:  Geospatial intelligence analyst


Organization:  50th Intelligence Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, California


Home of record:  Rocklin, California


Staff Sgt. Aaron M. Tobler repeatedly filled active-duty intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, logging hundreds of combat mission hours. He exploited 45 high-value targets, providing key indicators and warnings to seven combatant commands. He provided intelligence support to special operations forces, resulting in the neutralization of terrorist camps and associated members. He identified insurgent weapon manufacturing compounds which led to the destruction and crippling of the terrorist network. He facilitated joint task force convoy overwatch, clearing more than 2,000 miles, securing forces, and marginalizing hostile combatants. He earned a Project Management Professional Certification and was awarded a Master Analyst Program Certificate from Sacramento State University.  Additionally, he led the “Friendship Place” charity event attended by president of the United States and first family, raising more than $4 million for research and grant writing.

Senior Airman Jamie K. Zimmer


Duty title: Intelligence analyst


Organization: 347th Operations Support Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia


Home of record: Newburgh, New York


Senior Airman Jamie K. Zimmer was instrumental in establishing the annual Joint Rotary Wing Intelligence Working Group, increasing inter-service operability across 14 rotary wing intelligence squadrons spanning all branches of the Department of Defense. As the acting NCO in charge of intelligence training, she created five scenarios and crafted deployment briefings, increasing the expertise of 187 personnel in the 23rd Wing and directly impacting multiple high-level exercises including Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest joint and coalition force exercise. She also excelled scholastically, obtaining an associate’s degree through the Community College of the Air Force, earning a Pitsenbarger scholarship, and winning the John L. Levitow Award for academic and leadership excellence upon completion of Airman leadership school.