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123rd's Woods named top ANG troop

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Air National Guard named a member of the 123rd Airlift Wing as one of its six Outstanding Airmen of the Year, beginning a weeklong celebration June 6 as the honorees arrived here to receive their awards.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Woods, an explosive ordnance disposal technician in the wing's 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron, won top honors in the non-commissioned officer category from among scores of nominees across the nation.

The five other winners for 2009 were:

-- Master Sgt. Tyrone Bingham (senior noncommissioned officer category), 170th Operational Support Squadron; Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

-- Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sawmiller (Airman category), 124th Civil Engineering Squadron; Boise, Idaho.

-- Master Sgt. Lorene D. Kitzmiller (first sergeant category), 118th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron; Berry Field Air Guard Base; Nashville, Tenn.

-- Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Onesto (honor guard program manager), 121st Services Flight; Rickenbacker Air Guard Base; Columbus, Ohio.

-- Staff Sgt. Terrence Mananes (honor guard member); 163rd Reconnaissance Wing; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.

"They are the best of the best," Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air Guard, said during the award ceremony at the Air Guard Readiness Center on Andrews Air Force Base. "But I am sure they will tell you that they would not be here today were it not for (their families)."

The six Airmen later met with the Guard's other top military leaders, including Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, command chief of the Air Guard.

"They are the cream-of-the-crop of the Air Guard's 93,000-plus enlisted Airmen," Chief Muncy said.

All six outstanding Airmen have participated in multiple overseas deployments.

Woods' skill in explosives disposal earned him a place as an NCO-in-charge of those operations in Kuwait and then as a team member in Afghanistan.

Chief Muncy said their combined work overseas potentially saved many lives.