Two of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year are in contention to be named the Air National Guard Outstanding Airman in their category.
Senior Airman Hannah Corbett, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s Outstanding Airman of the Year, and Master Sgt. Adam Zuniga, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s First Sergeant of the Year, came out on top of the Air National Guard Region 4 review board. Corbett is a civil engineering emergency manager with the 128th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) in Milwaukee, and Zuniga is the first sergeant with the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing (FW) Security Forces Squadron.
Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Frederickson, command chief for the 128th ARW, said he could not be any more proud of Corbett, a traditional Guard member originally from Milwaukee now attending college in the Twin Cities who drills once per month.
“Senior Airman Corbett no doubt deserves this recognition,” Frederickson said, noting that last year the young Airman — then an Airman 1st Class — assumed the duties of a senior noncommissioned officer in her section while at least one third of the wing’s civil engineers were deployed. During this time, the Defense Department launched its “Full Spectrum Readiness” initiative with renewed emphasis on weapons qualification, first aid and training for response to weapons of mass destruction.
“She didn’t just keep her head above water — she excelled,” Frederickson said. “She personally trained one-third of the wing on both lecture and hands-on” training for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive requirements. Corbett also led her squadron’s active shooter training.
“These skills were essential when our wing had a real-world lockdown,” Frederickson said, referring to an incident last October when a civilian vehicle smashed into a security gate at the base during a drill weekend.
Corbett’s normal duties are to help prevent, prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters and man-made incidents in both war and peacetime settings. She said the consideration for national Outstanding Airman of the Year means a great deal.
“I am extremely honored for this recognition,” she said. “It would not be possible without the incredible support from my family, friends and my leadership within the Civil Engineering Squadron. They set me up for success.”
Outside of the military, Corbett is preparing to graduate the University of Minnesota this spring as a psychology major with minors in leadership and family therapy. She also is a shelter advocate and volunteer for Boynton Health.
Chief Master Sgt. James McKay III, command chief for the 115th FW, said Zuniga is always willing to help an Airman in need regardless of rank or situation.
“Master Sgt. Zuniga is a compassionate senior noncommissioned officer who has consistently been an advocate for Airmen — not only within his section, but across the base,” McKay said. “He has been an approachable first sergeant who puts the needs of his Airmen above his own, and is always willing to listen to an Airman.
“Simply said, he is the steady hand in a storm who helps navigate the way,” McKay continued. “This achievement not only speaks volumes for the type of senior noncommissioned officer that Master Sgt. Zuniga is, but also for the Airmen that he advocates for.”
For his part, Zuniga, a Waukesha, Wisconsin resident, deflected the accolades.
“To compete at the national level is the ultimate, but not in ways many may think,” Zuniga explained. “It’s about the 115th Fighter Wing advancing, not just me. I am honored to represent my wing at the national level — without my leadership team and the great Airmen of this unit, none of this is possible.
“It’s pretty easy to come to drill motivated when you get to work with the many professionals we have here.”
Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Safer, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, emphasized the significance of two Wisconsin National Guard Airmen contending for being the best representative for Airman and first sergeant in the entire Air National Guard.
“It’s not only that our Airmen are accomplishing some really great things for our state and the Air National Guard as a whole,” Safer said. “Our senior enlisted leaders are putting in a tremendous amount of time and effort ensuring our Airmen’s superior accomplishments and achievements are articulated in a way that a layman can understand.”
Safer explained that the review boards include service members who may not have the same military job skills as the competitors, so the importance of their achievements need to be presented in a way that someone who has never done that particular job can understand what makes the achievement outstanding.
“It is a great team effort,” Safer continued. “Our Airmen are doing their part by being awesome, and our senior enlisted leaders are giving them the best chance to be successful by assembling a powerful award package.”