2019 USAF Outstanding Airmen of the Year
SMSgt Sylvetris Hlongwane
Duty Title: Eleventh Air Force Paralegal Manager
Organization: Eleventh Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK
Home of Record: Sumter, SC
Senior Master Sergeant Sylvetris Hlongwane led five teams in the command’s largest military justice arena, servicing five wings, 26 sites, and 55,000 clients. As the staff superintendent and acting first sergeant, she guided 380 mission partners through 320 joint taskers, linking critical mission gaps. She excelled as a senior enlisted advisor during a commander-directed investigation, delivering 448 hours of testimony, supporting improvements in pilot training. Sergeant Hlongwane executed exercises to assess a $21 million security contract that authenticated safeguards of $3 billion in protection-level assets, contributing to the return of 26 defenders to home station. Her leadership to 534 peers and 800 junior leaders culminated in her recognition as the Pacific Air Forces’ Lance P. Sijan recipient.
SMSgt Andrew J. Kehl
Duty Title: Deputy Fire Chief
Organization: Air Combat Command, Nellis Air Force Base, NV
Home of Record: Indio, CA
Senior Master Sergeant Andrew Kehl led 124 firefighters at the busiest airfield in the command, providing command and control capabilities for 1,400 emergencies. While leading the best training program in the wing, he secured 624 manpower days to support the America’s largest multi-nation exercises. As the Air Force’s Innovator of the Year, he built a standardized business platform to conduct all daily fire operations at 47 bases, eliminating 80 percent rework and setting the stage for the first-ever fire department vehicle standardization project. He pioneered an expeditionary tasking aid, syncing available posturing to 99 multi-national personnel at three areas of responsibility in support of 1,200 combat sorties. Simultaneously, he finished his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and published a 287-page book on enlisted force growth.
SMSgt Philip B. McAlpin Jr.
Duty Title: Heavy Repair Superintendent
Organization: 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, ND
Home of Record: Philadelphia, PA
Senior Master Sergeant Philip McAlpin Jr. led 28 multi-craft Airmen in the daily maintenance of Syria’s sole austere C-17A capable semi-prepared landing zone. His efforts delivered 7,900 warfighters, ensured 900 combat sorties, and the immediate reception and deployment of 8,900 tons of mission essential cargo directly supporting Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. He expertly identified critical airfield deficiencies and established courses of action to ensure Air Line of Communications remained open throughout the Region during the Battle of Ar Raqqa. His efforts and data led to him authoring the U.S. Air Force’s first Comprehensive Landing Zone Maintenance Plan, reducing down time from 12 to four hours daily, resulting in an increase of 90 sorties per month for mission planning. Sergeant McAlpin also managed 32 projects valued at $3.7 million in support of the Special Operations Joint Task Force Syria.
MSgt Jahara A. Brown
Duty Title: Plans and Programs Superintendent
Organization: 78th Security Forces Squadron, Robins Air Force Base, GA
Home of Record: Atlanta, GA
Master Sergeant Jahara Brown directs 25 military and civilian personnel in developing and maintaining security plans for the protection of $18.7 billion in assets and 24,000 personnel. His expertise in law enforcement and security proved evident in his leadership of 85 personnel during 64 patrol responses that netted 32 criminals. While deployed as a combat arms program manager, he streamlined the movement of 1,500 weapons in 48-hours, aiding the success of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization air-strikes against Syria. A true wingman, Sergeant Brown sustained injuries during a vehicle rollover where he quickly reacted to save the lives of six other Airmen.
TSgt Inna A. Lvova
Duty Title: Financial Analysis Non-commissioned Officer in Charge
Organization: 50th Comptroller Squadron, Schriever AFB, CO
Home of Record: San Jose, CA
Technical Sergeant Inna A. Lvova skillfully managed the 50th Space Wing's $3 million reimbursement program, surpassing five command metrics, which led directly to Team Schriever’s number one ranking across Air Force Space Command. Her superior analytical skills proved pivotal in vaulting Installation Mission Support Center's obligation rate to $24 million, a 93 percent surge from the prior year. Her actions drove the execution of 15 construction projects, integrating joint operations for two combatant commands, and instituting the first $85 thousand network enclave, enabling data transfer across 89 Civil Engineering Squadrons. Furthermore, Sergeant Lvova's leadership elevated her team and delivered the Comptroller Organization and Financial Analysis Flight of the Year for Space Command.
TSgt Andrew C. Merrylees
Duty Title: Radio Frequency Transmission Systems Noncommissioned Officer in Charge
Organization: 166th Communications Flight, New Castle, DE
Home of Record: New Castle, DE
Technical Sergeant Andrew Merrylees’ innovations saved the 166th Airlift over 1,000 man-hours, regaining over 550 training hours. His efforts in the quality assurance program automated processes and eliminated redundancies, increasing evaluation output by 200 percent and overcoming a major unit effectiveness inspection deficiency. As the unit training manager, he created a new workflow and developed a database system which led to a 70 percent drop in overdue training. Sergeant Merrylees crafted a vital analysis tool that captures major wing-level deficiency trends and arms leadership with key metrics to enable critical decision-making capabilities.
TSgt Kenneth T. O’Brien
Duty Title: Special Tactics Team Element Leader
Organization: 320th Special Tactics Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan
Home of Record: Bunker Hill, IN
Technical Sergeant Kenneth O’Brien seamlessly embedded with the Secret Service and Joint Special Operation Forces as part of a President of the United States protection team, ensuring safety and security during the first United States and North Korean negotiation summit in history. While on temporary duty, he charged into a burning vehicle in South Korea where he extracted an injured civilian and successfully performed life-saving procedures. Additionally, he played an instrumental role in the Thailand Cave rescue mission. He was essential in creating the rescue plan, which placed himself as the furthest American inside the cave. During the mission, he also led the effort to retrieve and successfully resuscitate a Thai Navy SEAL. His team’s heroic efforts led to the rescue of 13 Thai civilians.
SSgt Caryn N. Frederick
Duty Title: Satellite Systems Operator and Orbital Analyst Technician
Organization: 19th Space Operations Squadron, Schriever AFB, CO
Home of Record: Aurora, CO
Staff Sergeant Caryn Frederick qualified as the second Reservist to certify as an orbital analyst in support of the $7.5 billion Global Positioning System 35-satellite constellation. Additionally, she participated in a three-day exercise and developed a 240-step procedure for the first-ever Block IIR satellite disposal. She advised a 70-member contractor team in the validation of launch and early orbit processes and identified and corrected severe training deficiencies prior to the first GPS Block-3 launch. These efforts led to 235 critiques for the next-generation technical order, driving over 200 modifications and three major risks associated with the command and control system, which culminated in the redesign of its maneuver planning interface.
Sgt Christopher M. Stuebbe
Duty Title: Forward Area Refueling Point Program Manager
Organization: Air Mobility Command, Joint Base Charleston, SC
Home of Record: Mentor, OH
Sergeant Stuebbe was a critical member of the crew that enabled Special Operation Task Forces to conduct raids against high-value targets during Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL. He flew 35 combat missions totaling 133 hours and transferred 283,000 pounds of fuel to aircraft that were vital to the mission. Additionally, he used his extensive FARP knowledge to expedite emergency repairs on Air Force Special Operation Command equipment valued at $500,000, enabling joint force teams to be mission ready in under 12 hours. Sergeant Stuebbe also led a presidential-approved operation where he refueled 28 aircraft, ensuring mission success.
SrA Gary G. Jeffrey III
Duty Title: Medical Materiel Technician
Organization: 81st Medical Support Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, MS
Home of Record: Tiffin, OH
Senior Airman Gary Jeffrey led the wing’s flu vaccine program by securing 190,000 doses and coordinating with four agencies, ensuring immunizations for three Department of Defense sites five weeks early. He secured a cross-command leech treatment transfer within 24 hours, avoiding a two-week patient care delay, ultimately saving a patient’s limb. He designed training for 29 accounts, briefing three acquisition processes to 96 customers, cutting 1,500 errors and decreasing delivery time from seven days to one. He balanced cost center operations, certifying 44 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve accounts, worth $670, supporting one of three national disaster response teams.
SrA Misty A. Richmond
Duty Title: Public Health Technician
Organization: 52d Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany
Home of Record: Blue Creek, OH
Senior Airman Misty Richmond managed the preventative health assessment program for 21 units, reviewing 1,800 medical records, validating 21,600 requirements. Her efforts led to a 99.4 percent compliance rate, culminating in the 52d Medical Group earning the number one rating in USAFE. Additionally, as the group’s liaison for TRIDENT JUNCTURE, she readied 321 members, validated 4,000 individual medical requirements enabling 209 Joint sorties, vital to the execution of United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s largest exercise since the Cold War. Furthermore, Airman Richmond completed a food vulnerability assessment, evaluating 360 security items, identifying five concerns, safeguarding a $65 million food supply.
SrA Justin Allen Starks
Duty Title: Fire & Emergency Services Driver and Operator
Organization: 11 Civil Engineer Squadron, Joint Base Andrews AFB, MD
Home of Record: Reston, VA
Senior Airman Justin Allen Starks is a driver and operator for Joint Base Andrews’ Fire & Emergency Services, where he is the lead trainer for 25 assigned shift personnel. An expert at his craft, he responded to 11 motor vehicle accidents, seven suspicious package emergencies and four fires, safeguarding 16,000 personnel. As a staff assistant, he scrutinized 53 training records and corrected 231 errors, realigning the flight within Air Force Instruction and validating the department’s 2018 accreditation selection. Airman Starks received the first ever Military Honeywell Scholarship from the International Association of Fire Chiefs which showcased firefighter training across the enterprise. He completed his master's degree in Public Administration with a 3.9 GPA, and authored two books on investing and finance.