Six Airmen hailing from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's three bases will compete against their peers from across the country for the chance to be named the 2014 Air National Guard Outstanding Airman of the Year.
The Wisconsin Outstanding Airmen for 2014 include Airman 1st Class Jonathan Vargas of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Airman of the Year; Tech. Sgt. Scott Daentl of Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Christian Schweitzer of the 115th Fighter Wing, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Linda Schwartzlow of the 128th Air Control Squadron, First Sergeant of the Year; Master Sgt. David Coker of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Honor Guard Program Manager; and Senior Master Sgt. Patricia Gross, Honor Guard Member.
According to Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Cullen, the Wisconsin Air National Guard's top enlisted member, the six were selected based on their achievements during the 2013 calendar year ó including their primary job accomplishments, self-improvement, community service, physical fitness and a records review. The candidates also wrote about being a professional in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.
A five-member panel of chief master sergeants reviewed each Outstanding Airman packet individually. A tally of independent scores determined the state winners.
Daentl, of Bloomington, Wis., works at the Hardwood Gunnery Range as an equipment operator, wildland firefighter and target maintainer. He has nearly 10 years in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, and an additional 10 years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He called his selection an honor and a pleasure.
"Very few Airmen are given this opportunity to represent their peers," he said. "It is my intent to be the very best representative."
Schweitzer Schwitzer, of Rio, Wis., is a fuel operations section chief at the 115th Fighter Wing. He has been in the Wisconsin Air National Guard since August 2009.
"It feels good to be recognized for my contributions to my unit, and motivates me to keep on growing and working hard," Schweitzer said. "I believe there are many other highly qualified Airmen that could represent the Wisconsin Air National Guard in my category, so I am honored to be nominated and selected."
Schweitzer also thanked his coworkers, supervisor, command leadership and his local community for their support.
Gross, of Milwaukee, is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the commander's support staff at the Combat Readiness Training Center. She has just over 24 years in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, but is a relatively new member of the Volk Field Honor Guard.
"I have learned and trained from the best," she said. "[They] are among the most sharp and patriotic Airmen I have served with. I believe the entire team deserves this award ó definitely not just me."
Gross said her selection is one more reminder of why the Air National Guard is an amazing career. Who gets awards for attending veterans funerals, posting the U.S. flag, or folding the flag for a service member's retirement ceremony? she asked.
"Although it is an honor to have been selected for this award, I feel proud and honored to have the opportunity to be on the Honor Guard team," Gross said.
Schwartzlow, of Holmen, Wis., has been a Wisconsin Air National Guard member for 15 years. She said she was "taken aback" by her selection as the Wisconsin Air National Guard's First Sergeant of the Year.
"All the first sergeants in the state are dedicated and committed professionals," she said. "Each have unique qualities and qualifications that set them apart from their peers, and to be selected from amongst this group ó I am astonished and honored."
Cullen said national winners should be announced in mid-March. The Wisconsin Air National Guard has had recent success at the national level, with Senior Master Sgt. Mike SchmalingSenior Master Sgt. Mike Schmaling and Senior Master Sgt. Jessica MapleSenior Master Sgt. Jessica Maple being named the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year in 2013 and 2010, respectively.