By Master Sgt. Diane Stinnett, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 12, 2012
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Senior Airman Braden Sikkema, Tech. Sgt. Karen Fulton and Master Sgt. Clint Stinnett have been selected as the top enlisted members of the Kentucky Air National Guard for 2012, claiming the title of Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
The trio of exemplary Airmen edged out a competitive field of 21 other nominees in the areas of leadership, job performance, personal improvement and community service, according to Chief Master Sgt. Jim Smith, the Air Guard's state command chief master sergeant.
"The evaluation process was truly challenging," said Smith, who chaired the selection committee comprised of Air Guard chief master sergeants and the Kentucky Army Guard's state sergeant major. "We had an excellent pool of nominees this year. All were model Airmen who go above and beyond, both on duty and off."
Sikkema, the winner in the Airman category, is an intelligence analyst with the 123rd Operations Group.
"He is phenomenal for how far along in his military career he is," said Maj. Kevin Kraus, who supervises the young Airman. "He has a lot of drive, a lot of passion for what he does. He's been on two deployments already, and for a Senior Airman that is fairly unusual in the intelligence career field."
In addition to the deployments, Sikkema was selected for several special assignments here in the commonwealth. He participated in a homeland-response exercise, demonstrating the ability to collect imagery from the back of a C-130 aircraft for use in evaluating disaster damage. He also was chosen to brief the adjutant general on the nature and scope of airlift and agricultural-development operations in Afghanistan.
"It's a pretty big honor being selected to brief the TAG," Kraus noted.
Sikkema excels in the area of community involvement, too. He is active in his church, where he assists with special-needs children, and was invited by the Puerto Rico Air National Guard to attend their ROTC career day, providing the enlisted perspective to a new generation of cadets.
Fulton, the winner in the Non-Commissioned Officer category, is an orderly room clerk assigned to the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. Her supervisor, Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Moore, calls her the squadron's "go-to" person.
"She is pretty much the whole backbone of our squadron," Moore said. "She took this squadron and built it up to where I would put our organization against anyone's on the administration side."
Fulton, who manages her unit's security program, received an excellent rating during a 2011 OPSEC inspection. She also developed and implemented master file plans for 12 separate flights within the squadron and flawlessly processed more than 300 orders through the new Defense Travel System. To date, she is the only person Air Force-wide to have logged a perfect score in both the Knowledge Operations Management Course and the Information Fundamentals Basic Technical Training School, Moore said.
"She is the sharpest troop I have ever had working for me in my 30 years of service," he added.
Fulton is also active in her community, shaping the next generation by mentoring at-risk students as a member of the Jefferson County Traditional Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association, and by coordinating youth activities at her church.
Stinnett, the senior NCO of the year, is a loadmaster with the 165th Airlift Squadron who was nominated because of his dedication and professionalism.
"He is so meticulous about everything," said his supervisor, Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Brown. "When he's given a task -- and a lot of times, he doesn't even have to be asked to do it -- he's on top of it and it's perfect. He doesn't complain about anything, he just gets it done. You can always count on him."
In 2011, Stinnett voluntarily deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Brown said. While deployed, he flew troop-transport and cargo-supply sorties, including 27 combat missions and five airdrop missions. During one of these flights, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos singled him out for superior professionalism. Stinnett also deployed twice last year in support of Operation Cornet Oak, supporting airlift operations in Central and South America.
At his home unit, Stinnett overhauled the training program for the flight simulator and altitude chamber. His new streamlined process resulted in a higher percentage of aircrew being trained at a lower cost, Brown noted. He also developed information packages for those attending the training, detailing all the necessary information. As a result of his dedication, Stinnett was upgraded to evaluator loadmaster, joining only four other evaluators in his section. During a training flight, he was applauded by the Standards and Evaluation loadmaster from Air Mobility Command for his knowledge of airdrop procedures. Additionally, the operations group commander handpicked him to establish a new tactics loadmaster position, leading to more effective training for combat operations.
Stinnett takes his commitment to the military home with him, too. He is a lifetime member of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States and Kentucky and an active member of the American Legion.
All three 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 May 19 at the Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center.