By Senior Airman Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 06, 2013
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Strong leadership, a commitment to self-improvement and a passion for community service are just a few of the reasons why Senior Airman Vincenzo Lafronza, Tech Sgt. Harley Bobay and Master Sgt. Sharon Foster have been named the Kentucky Air National Guard's 2013 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
"I am extremely proud to announce the selections for this year's Airmen of the Year," said Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, state command chief for Joint Forces Headquarters--Kentucky. "As with every year, the competition was keen, and the winners of each category were selected by the slimmest of margins. Each nominee is amazing, both in their respective duties here at the Guard and within their communities."
Lafronza, the winner of the Airman category, is a C-130 crew chief for the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He was selected, in part, because of his exemplary knowledge of the Hercules aircraft, according to Senior Master Sgt. Tim Nash, Lafronza's supervisor and a flight chief in the 123rd AMS.
"When I first met him, he was coming to us from a different unit working on different aircraft," Nash said. "I thought he might have difficulty learning a different aircraft, but he didn't. He hit the ground running and hasn't stopped to look back."
A Quality Assurance Honor Roll recipient for logging zero defects on 100 percent of assessment inspections, Lafronza had no idea he had even been nominated for the award.
"I thought I was just coming in every day and doing my job," he said. "I just wanted to do the best I could, and someone took notice. I was very surprised and excited to be chosen."
Lafronza is currently a student at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a volunteer for the New York Cares organization, which provides assistance to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"I was checking on him during his leave after he returned home from a recent deployment," Nash said, "and there he was, at a clothing distribution center, handing out clothes to people affected by the hurricane. He has a big heart, always ready to learn something new and the first to volunteer to help."
Bobay, the winner in the Non-Commissioned Officer category, is a combat controller for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and a recipient of both the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Deployed for 175 days in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Bobay sacrificed personal safety to save the lives of coalition forces while under constant enemy small-arms and mortar fire, according to Chief Master Sgt. Tom DeSchane, chief enlisted manager for the 123rd STS. Bobay helped neutralize every insurgent attack in his area and protect a local village from Taliban insurgency.
Aside from his tactical duties, Bobay is a mentor to younger, less-experienced members of the squadron.
"He is constantly passing down his knowledge to the younger guys," DeSchane said. "He is always on the go, always training, always moving forward and looking for the next challenge. He is a hard worker who encourages those around him to work harder."
Along with his mission responsibilities, Bobay balances family life with community volunteering. He is a wrestling coach for a local elementary and middle school and a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project.
"I was very surprised when I was chosen for the award," Bobay said. "There are so many other people that I work with every day that do the same job as me, and do it better. It is very humbling to be chosen from among such a hardworking and dedicated group like these guys."
Foster, who was selected as senior NCO of the year, is the non-commissioned officer in charge of force management for the 123rd Force Support Squadron, a customer-based organization.
"I have always had the upmost trust and confidence in Sergeant Foster's ability to assist our customers," said Chief Master Sgt. Lori Zinsmeister, chief enlisted manager for the 123rd FSS. "She takes the time to counsel each of them to give them the best information that she can."
Some of Foster's responsibilities include ensuring retirement, promotion and re-enlistment packets are put together correctly and accurately.
"I know that when I give her an assignment, or if one of our patrons asks for her assistance, the job will get done," Zinsmeister said. "She is always doing work at a chief's level: accurately and timely. I can trust her to get the job done."
For Foster, who also won Airmen of the Year at the NCO level in 2005, the newest honor is confirmation of a continuing job well done.
"I was very surprised to have been nominated in the senior category," she said. "It was a great feeling to be recognized the first time, but to have been nominated and selected a second time at a higher level is even better. It lets me know that the job I am doing does make a difference."
The 2013 Outstanding Airmen of the Year will be honored, along with the Kentucky Army National Guard's Outstanding Soldiers of the Year, during a banquet to be held March 16 at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Tickets are for $25 per person and may be purchased from any chief master sergeant or sergeant major.