By Staff Sgt. William J. Buchanan, 125FW Public Affairs
/ Published March 04, 2010
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla -- The Legends Ballroom at the Renaissance Resort Hotel was a sea of stars and stripes on the night of Feb. 26. Airmen rubbed elbows with generals in bowties and the cheesecake came with strawberries and whipped cream. The occasion was more than the usual attention to orders. In a crowd where everyone dressed in blue, five Airmen stood out as the 2010 Airmen of the Year.
Selected were: Airman First Class Michael D'Amico of the 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron, as Airman of the Year, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Flores of the 114th Range Operations Squadron, as the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, Master Sgt. Virginia Boak of the Headquarters Florida Air National Guard Detachment 1, as the Senior NCO of the Year, Master Sgt. Jeffrey Armes of the 125th Fighter Wing, as the First Sergeant of the Year, and Master Sgt. Michael Haynes of the 125FW as the Honor Guard Member of the Year.
"The competition for this recognition is always very intense and [these Airmen] have been selected above the rest to represent the qualities that all Airmen should be striving for, to be recognized as the 'Best of the Best' in our organizations," stated State Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles Wisniewski in the banquet program.
The winners were selected from the 25 nominated members from the various units of the Florida Air National Guard. Each FLANG unit held its own competition and had chosen members in the five categories to represent it at the state level. Those who were honored as the Florida Airmen of the Year will now have their profile packages sent to the national level to compete with other Air National Guard winners, and winners there will go on to compete against active duty Airmen at the U.S. Air Force level.
The winners were unanimous in describing their achievement as both a surprise and a blessing, even Flores who is celebrating his second victory.
"To be selected by my leadership is almost overwhelming," Flores said. "When they called my name, I was just filled with pride."
D'Amico said that there is really nothing one does to prepare for this sort of thing. He said that he just always tries to work hard and makes the most out of every opportunity that's presented. Boak added that being involved in the community is just as important as being involved at work.
All 25 Airman of the Year nominees were presented with the Florida Commendation Medal. The five winners were awarded the Florida Distinguished Service Medal, which is the state's second highest decoration, a $50 gift certificate from the Air Force Association and various other prizes. All nominated Airmen and their families were invited to visit and tour St. Francis Barracks, the Florida National Guard Headquarters in historic downtown St. Augustine on Feb. 28.
Following the awards presentation, the keynote speaker, Brig. Gen. Joseph Balskus, Assistant Adjutant General for Air and the Florida Air National Guard Commander, spoke about how personal the Airman's Creed is.
"They begin the creed with the definition of us, and they personalize it: I," Balskus said. "Leaders don't use 'I'. You as Airmen don't use 'I', but this creed is personalized. Why? Because, they are trying to let us know what we are.
"Every single one of you in the Air Force Specialty Codes are Airmen that are flying, fighting and winning," Balskus said.
Airman of the Year D'Amico is a Network Integration Journeyman assigned to the 290JCSS at Macdill Air Force Base, Fla. He enlisted in the Florida Air National Guard in May 2008. He completed basic military training in Oct. 2008 and demonstrated his commitment to the Air Force's core value of "excellence in all we do" by earning the honor of Top Basic Military Training Honor Graduate out of more than 700 Airmen. During technical training at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss., D'Amico was selected for the Airman Leadership Program by the Military Training Leaders and graduated as the Distinguished Graduate from the Airman Leadership Course; he also became "Red Rope" - the highest leadership position that a student can attain during technical training. D'Amico is currently enrolled in college to continue his education and plans on attending the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of Florida.
NCO of the Year Flores is a Satellite and Wideband Communications Equipment Craftsman assigned to the 114ROPS at Patrick AFB, Fla. He attended technical training at Fort Gordon, Ga., and was selected as "Red Rope," being put in charge of approximately 200 Airmen. In 2006, Flores deployed overseas in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In 2009, he was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal as a Telemetry Systems Operator which led to the BMRST receiving the first full certification for an external range system by NASA, and the Air Force Commendation Medal for successfully completing over 20 operations for the BMRST program and for being selected to man and train the newly formed Radio Frequency Support Systems position. Flores is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering.
Senior NCO of the Year Boak is currently assigned as an Operation Resource Management Craftsman, NCOIC/HARM office, to Headquarters Florida Air National Guard, Detachment 1 at Tyndall AFB, Fla. She joined the active duty Air Force in August 1998, and transferred to the Florida Air National Guard via the Palace Chase program in August 2004. Boak has obtained her CCAF degree in Business Administration/Aviation Management and an associate's degree in Applied Science Business form Gulf Coast Community College. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in business from Florida State University.
First Sergeant of the Year Armes is the First Sergeant of the 125th Maintenance Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla. He enlisted on active duty on Aug. 18, 1988. In 1989, he married his wife of 20 years, Melissa, and they later had a daughter, Kennedy, who is 13 years old. Armes was stationed at Beale AFB in Marysville, California, until his honorable discharge in 1992. In June 1996, he enlisted in the South Carolina Air National Guard as a Drill Status Guardsman. He transferred to Florida in 1999. Armes graduated First Sergeant Academy in May 2007 and most recently graduated the in-residence USAF Senior Non-commissioned Officers Academy in September 2009. In his personal time, Armes reads to children in Wachovia Banks Reading First Program. He is also active with the National Bone Marrow Registry where he orchestrated a bone marrow drive at the 125FW in an effort to help people with debilitating Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Honor Guard Member of the Year Haynes is a Weapons Director Technician in the Combat Operations Division assigned to the 101st Air and Space Operations Group at Tyndall AFB, Fla. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army in 1989. He served as an Air Traffic Controller in the Army deploying to Kuwait in support of Operations DESERT STORM and RESTORE HOPE. In 1996, Haynes transferred to the Florida Air National Guard and joined the Southeast Air Defense Sector that recently transitioned into the 101AOG. He has earned the Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Florida Distinguished Service Medal. He is currently working toward an associate's degree.