Burba, Woods, Nethery named top troops
By Capt. John Stamm, Deputy Wing Public Affairs Officer
/ Published May 16, 2009
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Master Sgt. Larry D. Burba, Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Woods and Staff Sgt. Patrick E. Nethery have been selected as the Kentucky Air National Guard's 2008 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
The winners were chosen from 26 nominees, competing in three categories, for exceptional performance in leadership and primary duty performance, significant self-improvement and base and community involvement.
The senior non-commissioned officer of the year honoree, Sergeant Burba, is the production superintendent for the 123rd Contingency Response Group.
According to his commanders, he demonstrated exceptional performance by developing and implementing the aircraft maintenance training program for the 123rd CRG and by leading the first contingency response element from the wing to McChord Air Force Base, Wash.
Capt. Ash Groves, director of operations for the 123rd Global Mobility Squadron, said Burba is "driven to excellence" and called him a "highly productive" mentor who has facilitated more than 4,600 joint-training hours with active-duty counterparts. He also implemented a wellness program that improved the unit's fitness-test success rate by 30 percent.
"Master Sergeant Burba is relatively young for a senior NCO, but he has a maturity well beyond his years," said Captain Groves. "He is an obstacle destroyer. Whenever he encounters a roadblock that he can't work around, he works through it."
Sergeant Burba is pursuing a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics while completing an associate's degree in aircraft systems maintenance from the Community College of the Air Force. He volunteers at the Nelson County School System, where he supports academic programs and serves on the parent-teacher organization.
Sergeant Woods, the non-commissioned officer of the year, is an explosive ordinance disposal journeyman for the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron. He recently deployed to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southeast Asia, where he saved lives and improved safety for deployed personnel by disposing of unexploded ordinance. While there, he also was credited for saving the life of a heart-attack victim by providing critical first aid and medical evacuation.
"He is a motivated self-starter and requires almost no supervision," said Sergeant Woods' flight chief, Senior Master Sgt. Lou Corner. "He has performed peacetime duties, deployed duties and combat duties in a manner that exceeded my expectations. He has been exposed to multiple unusual situations where he had to react, and he always made the right decisions."
A native of Ashland, Ky., Sergeant Woods now resides in Louisville and is an active member of his church. He also volunteers time to help those in need, assisting with relief efforts to repair homes after the remnants of Hurricane Ike caused extensive damage locally in 2008.
Sergeant Woods is the recipient of numerous honors during the past year. He was named Civil Engineer Craftsman of the Month, was recognized by his deployed unit as a member of the team of the month and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal.
Sergeant Nethery is being recognized as Kentucky's top troop from the Airman ranks. An aircraft mechanic for the 123rd Maintenance Squadron, he recently graduated Airman Leadership School at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., where he received the John Levitow Award for Leadership and Academic Performance.
"What stands out the most for me is Sergeant Nethery's work ethic," said Maj. Chris Bishop, commander of the 123rd MXS. "In December 2007, we deployed to Germany in support of Operation Joint Enterprise. An aircraft returned from a mission with an intermittent bus tie problem. The electrician on duty was working a discrepancy on another aircraft and wouldn't be able to get to it, so Airman Nethery voluntarily reported during his time off to repair the aircraft. He ran into some challenges while troubleshooting, but he dug into the books, found the problem, and we were able to return the aircraft to full mission-capable status."
A constant student, Sergeant Nethery earned his bachelor's degree in business administration at the University of Louisville and has completed the requirements for an associate's degree in aviation maintenance technology from the CCAF.
He is a youth pastor at Southeast Christian Church and a youth leader Henry's Ark Private Zoo, teaching teamwork and leadership to young people. Teaming with the University of Louisville, he assists with the care of homeless veterans in the area.
All three honorees, along with the Kentucky Army National Guard Soldier, NCO and First Sergeant of the year, will be honored at the Soldier and Airmen of the Year Banquet, to be held at Churchill Downs on Aug. 15.
The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., and dinner will be served at 7. Military attire is mess dress or semi-formal (enlisted only). Tickets are $20 and may be purchased from any chief master sergeant.