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AFMC honors, announces annual award winners

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Air Force Materiel Command honored its top Airmen of 2016 during the command's Annual Excellence Awards Banquet March 8, 2017.

Sixty-one Airmen from throughout AFMC's headquarters, centers and wings were nominated to compete in nine separate categories -- airman, non-commissioned officer, senior NCO, first sergeant, company grade officer, field grade officer, civilian category I, civilian category II and civilian category III.

Almost 300 family members, friends, community leaders and command officials gathered in the Modern Flight Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force to honor the nominees.

Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, AFMC commander, hosted the awards ceremony. After congratulating all the nominees and winners on a job well done, she commented on how fortunate she felt to be the commander of such Airmen.

"I am the luckiest commander in the Air Force," said Pawlikowski. "No other place in the Air Force other than AFMC will you find Airmen who have such a direct effect on protecting our freedoms."

The winners are:

Airman Category -- Senior Airman Nathan M. Koenig, Air Force Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. As a Base Defense Operations Center Controller, Koenig stood out first as the No. 1 Airman in the Air Force’s largest wing. From this position he directed 75 persons, securing the Defense Department’s largest base. Koenig managed the DoD’s largest alarm system, and became the first Airman selected as Electronic Security Manager, normally an E-5 position.

Non-Commissioned Officer Category – Tech. Sgt. Amanda R. Esparza, Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Esparza distinguished herself as Non-Commissioned Officer in the group’s largest squadron in the position of Cost Center Manager. She readied 360 Security Forces enabling base defense Initial Operational Capability for F-15s. Additionally, Esparza restructured a 39-vehicle fleet, increasing patronage coverage of 308,000 acres.

Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Category -- Master Sgt. Michael J. Stevens, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Stevens distinguished himself by serving as the interim Superintendent of Military Training for three months of Air Force Materiel Command’s sole military training program. He was selected as AFMC’s 2015 Military Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. In addition, Stevens managed the 88th Air Base Wing Airmen Leadership Program, graduating the highest number of distinguished and honor graduates in three years.

First Sergeant Category -- Master Sgt. William D. Schipper, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Schipper distinguished himself by his proven leadership as First Sergeant for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center Squadron and the Air Force Research Laboratory, earning awards and inspiring Airmen. He led the Below The Zone program. Three Levitow Airmen Leadership School wins were garnered as a result of his trusted leadership. Schipper also spearheaded eight base promotion ceremonies, and led the First Sergeant Diamond Sharp Award in nine months.

Company Grade Officer Category -- Capt. Tanner V. Smith, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Smith acted as Chief Operations Management Division in a lieutenant colonel division chief billet. During this time, he led 11 civilian and military personnel, while guiding engineer operations for 180 total force bases. He advanced the division with 60 percent manning, overhauling position descriptions for rapidly evolving requirements. During this time, Stevens also drove a $1.6 billion program, building requirements and advocating budgetary processes enabling operations at 82 active-duty bases.

Field Grade Officer Category – Lt. Col. Timothy M. Helfrich, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. A strong leader and deployed warrior, Helfrich served as a materiel leader commander. In this role, he led a 38-member joint Special Operations Forces unit, providing life support to seven units at locations across the area of operation in a deployed environment. He was named headquarters Training Manager for two consecutive quarters. He commanded a 79-member team and managed four programs.

Civilian Category I – Brett M. Castle, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Castle distinguished himself as engineering technician in the energy program engineering squadron. He carried the program to new heights, reducing energy usage in the 150-building inventory by 21 percent in fiscal year 2016, as compared to 2 percent in fiscal year 2015. He also ramrodded $94 million in upgrades, resulting in 20 percent less energy use.

Civilian Category II - Brian Carr, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, Battle Management. Carr distinguished himself as the Recap Deputy Radar Installation Planning Team Lead for the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization Division. To meet Defense Acquisition Executive direction, he developed a $130 million acquisition strategy to mitigate risk associated with Recaps $2.9 billion engineering and manufacturing development phase. The acquisition strategy resulted in two contracts awarded in less than two months, where Carr was the execution program manager on a $70 million letter contract.

Civilian Category III – Kenneth D. Pickler, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Pickler distinguished himself as Chief of Financial Management for the Long Range Standoff Cruise Missile Program, Nuclear Weapons Acquisition Division, Air Delivered Capabilities Directorate. Pickler led six top financial management experts executing a $10 billion program. Additionally, his innovations in staffing the program were lauded by Air Staff leadership for setting new benchmarks in civilian hiring. He co-led Air Force-wide streamlining of acquisition finance self-inspection checklists, reducing line items by 86 percent and focusing inspections on the most critical processes and policies.

Winners in the four enlisted categories will represent AFMC in the United States Air Force Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Year and First Sergeant of the Year competitions held later this year.