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Wing Honors Airmen of the Year

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Master Sgt. Brad Simms, Master Sgt. John Wardrip, Tech. Sgt. Edward McKenna and Senior Airman Aaron Lind have been selected as the Kentucky Air National Guards's 2010 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

According to the Kentucky Air National Guard state command chief master sergeant, Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, the honorees are outstanding representatives of the Commonwealth.

"We're talking about the best of the best. A lot of the things these Airmen have done and accompished over the year are things not everyone on base hears about," said Chief Smith. "We've taken into account their job performance in their primary duties as well as leadership, self improvement and community involvement. We're looking at the broad spectrum - the whole person."

According to Chief Smith, the panel looks for nominees who exceed standards in their career field and as miltary professionals.

Sergeant Simms, a loadmaster for the 123rd Operations Group, is the first enlisted flier to represent the Kentucky Air National Guard as the senior non-commissioned officer of the year. The Nicholasville native is a veteran of Operations Enduring Freedom, Joint Forge and Joint Enterprise. He supported relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, supported operations in Kosovo and is active in the Fraternal Order of Police and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"I've always strived, no matter what my assignment was, to do the best that I can. I don't wait to be told what to do. Everything I do reflects on this unit, so I want to be the best that I can be," said Sergeant Simms. "This is a great honor. A lot of great people have come before me and to be named the top (senior NCO) is a tremendous honor."

Sergeant Wardrip, 123rd Maintenance Squadron, was named the first sergeant of the year for the Commonwealth. "In my 30-pulus years of experience, he's the best first sergeant I've ever seen," said Chief Master Sgt. Bill Davis, component maintenance flight superintendent.

On a deployment to Afghanistan as the Operations Group first sergeant, Chief Davis said Sergeant Wardrip's selflessness mande him stand out.

"For the first thiree or four days, he didn't even sleep. He was making sure everyone else was bedded down, had a room, and had the right equipment. I can't say enought about him. He's a poster child for the Air Force core values."

Sergeant McKenna, pararescueman, 123rd Spercial Tactics Squadron, was selected as the NCO of the year. During the year, Sergeant McKenna served a combat tour in Afghanistan where he provided combat search and rescue cpabilities to his deployed commander.

"Ed has an outstanding dedication to duty and service. He goes the extra mile in everything he does. He's the first on the block to vounteer for deployments. He just took on a deployment to Israel to learn from and assist our counterparts over there," said Chief Master Sgt. Pat Malone, chief enlisted manager for pararescue.

At home, Sergeant McKenna serves as the pararescue equipment non-commissioned officer in charge, maintaining rescue alert equipment for homeland defense, civil disaster and what Chief Malone calls "go-to-war" equipment.

He's a military thered tandem bundle (MTTB) master, one of the few in his field qualified to take military equipment and non-jump qualified jumps into emoergency situations.

"He's a professional guy and a good family man. He's a well rounded guy who keeps a good balance and prioritizes his needs," Chief Malone said.

Airman Lind, a fire team member for the 123rd Contingency Response Group, was selected Kentucky's Airman of the year. It's a new accolade for the young Aimran who has earned a series of honors and the respect of his peers and senior members.

"He's one of our best troops. He's wearing three stripes but he should be wearing five. He's a leader and a mentor; someone you can count on to do the job and do it well," said Chief Master Sgt. Ray Dawson, 123rd CRG superintendent.

On a recent deployment to the Kyrgyz Republic, he was named Airman of the Quarter and served as vice president of the First Four Council. Airman Lind served as the Defense Biometric Identification System Registrar - a postioin responsible for monitoring third country nationals on the base that is normally reserved for non-commissioned officers.

"I'm overwhelmed," Airman Lind said of receiving the award. "There's a lot of great people around. I had a busy year and I devoted the year to be with the Guard and I'm sure that had something to do with it."

The Airman studies computer information systems at the University of Louisville and manages a downtown bar. He hopes one day to earn a commission. "I'm on track to finish my degree. At that  point, I'll look at what I can do to be a bigger influence."

According to Chief Smith, himself a past honoree, the Airmen who participated in the nomination process benefit from the recognition and the entire Kentucky Air National Guard benefits from identifying individuals with potential for future leadership roles.

"You go down the hallway and look back at winners from the past and you see that their futures are boundless. They are hard-chargers; the ones who are self-motivated and strive for excellence."