AFA Recognizes Top 5 Airmen in Massachusetts

February 29, 2024   |   By Joe Bisognano

The Massachusetts State AFA organization, working with the Boston-area Minuteman Chapter, recognized the “Top 5 Massachusetts Airmen” for 2023 at an awards dinner on Jan. 13, 2024, at the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Mass. 

The “Top 5 Massachusetts Airmen” event is a major local AFA initiative that recognizes Airmen for embodying the Air Force mission across Massachusetts and emphasizes the importance of the “Total Force” concept. It serves as an excellent opportunity for AFA to demonstrate how its mission to Advocate, Educate, Support includes Airmen and Guardians in the Active duty, Reserve, and ANG forces. This was the seventh annual awards dinner.

Airmen were nominated by their respective commanders and selected by the State AFA based on performance, contributions to the Air Force mission, and community support.

More than 80 Air Force leaders, coworkers, and family members attended, including two representatives from the Massachusetts Office of Veterans Services. Brig. Gen. Joseph Morrissey, Jr., Chief of Staff and Air Component Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, gave a keynote address. 

In addition to the AFA members from the Minuteman Chapter, the event planning and execution team included AFROTC and Arnold Air cadets from Boston University and AFJROTC cadets from North Quincy High School. The primary sponsors were USAA and Torrington Properties, a new Community Partner.

Meet the Top 5 Massachusetts Airmen of 2023 winners below:

Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Ross

Emergency Management Superintendent, 102d Civil Engineering Squadron, Otis Air National Guard Base

Ross trained over 200 personnel in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Defense (CBRN) response; developed and executed a Forward Operating Base Large Scale Readiness Exercise; and led five CBRN team exercises—all contributing critical mission readiness and preparation.  

In the community, she volunteered with the Make-A-Wish foundation and mentored college students from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in their professional and personal goals.  

Ross performed a true act of heroism after witnessing a horrible automobile accident. Disregarding her own safety, she extracted a woman from a burning car wreckage through the passenger side window. For her bravery, she was awarded a Massachusetts State House commendation award. 

“Ross is an active leader making sure Wing Airmen are trained and prepared to fight in contested chemical environments,” said Col. Timothy Gordon, 102d Deputy Wing Commander. “She develops and oversees large scale exercises that challenge our mettle, identify weak spots, and help us improve our combat abilities.”

Master Sgt. Michael J. Anderson

Airframe and Powerplant (APG) Element Supervisor, 439th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Westover Air Reserve Base

Under Anderson’s leadership, the 50-person APG team generated over 400 C-5M sorties, totaling 1,653 flying hours, with mission capable rates peaking at an unprecedented 82.8 percent. The team successfully completed more than 6,700 maintenance actions while maintaining a 91 percent Data In Transit (DIT) rate, the highest data rate within the Westover Maintenance Group. 

Outside of the workplace, Anderson dedicated more than 50 hours to the Shaker Pines Lake Association, planning and directing seven community fundraising events for more than 75 children. His efforts facilitated a water treatment procedure, which ensured a safer environment for thousands of annual visitors and residents alike.

“Master Sgt. Mike Anderson is not only an aircraft maintenance expert, but he also goes above and beyond as our exercise and readiness planner for the entire Maintenance Group,” said Lt. Col. Greg Behr, 439th Maintenance Group Deputy Commander. “He is literally the key individual in making certain our unit is mission ready. Every commander needs a ‘go-to’ person to ensure the unit is prepared to perform when the call comes. For the 439th Maintenance Group, that person is Master Sgt. Mike Anderson.”

Tech. Sgt. Emily McCarthy

Group Training Manager, 66th Air Base Group, Hanscom Air Force Base

McCarthy monitors progress, identifies deficiencies, determines causes, recommends corrective actions, and provides counsel to more than 300 assigned and supported personnel. Her work and leadership guarantee the workforce can successfully complete the group and unit missions. She personally trained 30 Unit Training Managers including those assigned to geographically separated units. 

McCarthy also bridged a manning deficit in the Security Forces Squadron. As a certified augmentee, she worked 18 shifts while simultaneously balancing her role as unit training manager. She vetted 10,000 base access requests daily, helped secure $70 billion in assets, and became the unit’s first non-cop to earn the prestigious Defender of the Month award. 

Her contributions and commitment to diversity and inclusion were showcased in the community when she served as the keynote speaker at the Home Base LGBTQ+ event where she told her personal story to Boston city leaders. She also served as the project officer for the Women’s Equality Day event. 

“Emily has demonstrated remarkable competence and expertise in education, training management, and intelligence analysis,” said Col. Taona Enriquez, Commander of the 66th Air Base Group. “Her wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience have been invaluable assets in advancing the mission of our installation.”

Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Smith

Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), Logistics and Readiness Section, 66th Security Forces Squadron, Hanscom Air Force Base

Smith is primarily responsible for executing the unit’s mobility and deployment mission. He provided ready and equipped warfighters to Combatant Commanders across multiple overseas contingency operations. He flawlessly postured, deployed, and re-deployed 42 squadron members ensuring the success of two named military operations in six different countries. His mission contributions were recognized by the Pacific Air Forces Command (PACAF) Command Chief.

Smith dedicated 144 hours to helping co-workers facing mental health crises by sharing his own inspiring story of overcoming adversity. This dedication to the unit and Airmen was recognized by both the Mayor of Boston and the City of Boston Veterans’ Services Commissioner who commended him for his professionalism with awards for excellence. He was one of only six Airmen in the state of to receive this honor.

“I’ve had the privilege of witnessing his exceptional dedication, exemplary service, and outstanding contributions to the United States Air Force,” said Col. Taona Enriquez, Commander of the 66th Air Base Group. “Tech. Sgt. Smith exemplifies duty and honor in everything he does. He is an outstanding NCO who exudes a positive attitude with a strong work ethic, unmatched integrity, and continual professionalism.”

Staff Sgt. Dayana Jimenez Serrano

Duty Controller, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover Air Reserve Base

Serrano deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in support of Operation Enduring Sentinel. During her deployment, Serrano helped lead Aeromedical Evacuation mission operations across four distinct Areas of Responsibility—the United States, Qatar, Djibouti, and Germany. As the duty controller, she facilitated the successful execution of 206 mission launches and recoveries, enabling the safe transport of over 875 patients without encountering any delays or incidents. Additionally, she responded to 3,000 alert hours, addressing 43 short-notice In-Service Select missions, and coordinating the transportation of more than 72 urgent and priority patients. 

Serrano’s job commitment and dedication transitions to her personal life. She has proudly served as a foster parent to an 8-year-old boy for the past four years, with plans to adopt this coming May.

“In her position as a duty controller for the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT) in Germany, she truly excelled in a critical role by managing and coordinating the entire Aeromedical Evacuation mission,” said Col. Gregory Buchanan, 439th Wing Commander. “She had a global mission with responsibility for coordinating Aeromedical Evacuation operations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.”