By Capt. Dale Greer, Wing Public Affairs Officer
/ Published June 11, 2008
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD, LOUISVILLE, KY. -- Staff Sgt. Matthew Meuser, Tech. Sgt. John Hoagland and Master Sgt. James Tenney have been selected as the Kentucky National Guard's Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2007, besting a field of 39 other troops who were nominated by their supervisors for exceptional performance.
"We always have a strong group of Airmen for this competition, but every candidate was truly outstanding this year," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Grant, state command chief master sergeant, who helped evaluate the contenders along with other enlisted leaders from the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard.
"Their accomplishments, including deployments for the war, volunteerism, community service and self-improvement, were just amazing," he said. "I'm very impressed with all of them."
The three winners -- representing Airman, NCO and senior NCO categories -- will be honored tonight during an awards banquet at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky National Guard's 2007 Outstanding Soldiers of the Year also will be recognized.
The recently promoted Sergeant Meuser is a an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician in the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron, a highly demanding career field by any measure. Currently deployed to Afghanistan, where he defeats improvised explosive devices on a daily basis, Sergeant Meuser made a name for himself in Louisville by establishing a "pattern of overall excellence," said his supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. Lou Corner.
In 2007, those accomplishments included a flawless performance as an EOD member assigned to the 133rd Kentucky Derby, where he helped ensure the safety of the Queen of England and 150,000 other racegoers. Sergeant Meuser also was recognized by the U.S. Secret Service for excellent work providing hazardous-device countermeasures during a Louisville visit by President Bush.
Back at the EOD shop, Sergeant Meuser disassembled and repaired a damaged EOD robot, restoring $150,000 worth of equipment to service; and fabricated a tie-down system so EOD robots could be transported off base on an improvised trailer.
He also completed numerous training seminars throughout 2007 on such varied topics as radiological hazards and combat first-aid while still finding time for community service, volunteering 100 hours at a local domestic abuse council and helping raise funds for the Shriner's Hospital.
"Staff Sgt. Meuser is outgoing, intelligent and motivated," Sergeant Corner said. "He is capable of thinking outside the box and finding solutions to complex problems, which is an important characteristic in this career field.
"It's not a single act that makes him an Outstanding Airman, but rather a compilation of minor acts -- coupled with a positive attitude. Examples include things like identifying that the EOD flight did not have the proper safety equipment to transport explosives. He acquired the needed equipment and set up the EOD vehicle to comply with Air Force safety instructions. Staff Sgt. Meuser also attended training conducted by local law enforcement, and during that training he was able to teach law enforcement personnel some EOD robot manipulation techniques that they do not currently practice. Again, these are not major accomplishments as stand-alone items, but they're still part of a pattern of overall excellence. He's accomplished a lot of things in the last year, all of which have contributed to the success of the Kentucky Air Guard's EOD team.
"Right now, he is living in a tent on a forward operating base in the mountains of Afghanistan with a pack full of explosives and a rifle in sub-freezing temperatures. His team is working with U.S. and coalition forces, defeating IEDs and killing terrorists, so that the average person at home can argue over the Wildcats and Cardinals and not worry about a jet crashing into the stadium."
Tech. Sgt. Hoagland, this year's winner in the NCO category, uses x-ray equipment to analyze C-130 parts as a non-destructive tester in the 123rd Maintenance Squadron.
His supervisor, Chief Master Sgt. Tim Atwell, described him as a "great troop who volunteers for everything."
Sergeant Hoagland performed more than 200 equipment inspections in 2007, attaining a 100 percent pass rate on all quality assurance evaluations and providing coverage for 1,311 sorties with no missions delayed or canceled due to mechanical failure.
He also directed the purchase of equipment designed to monitor radiological exposure during testing, resulting in a safer work environment for KyANG personnel; and volunteered for an overseas deployment as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sergeant Hoagland played a key roll in training other Airmen for that deployment, directly contributing to the successful completion of 580 combat sorties that delivered 5,489 passengers and 3,226 tons of critical cargo to austere locations throughout the Central Command AOR. Kentucky aircraft achieved an impressive fully mission-capable rate of 88.33 percent during the deployment and lost no missions due to maintenance issues, Chief Atwell said.
In the meantime, Sergeant Hoagland received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical science and an associate's degree in non-destructive inspection techniques. He also is pursuing a master's degree in aviation business administration.
His community involvement is equally noteworthy. Sergeant Hoagland coached youth soccer and softball teams in 2007, volunteered for local environmental associations and honored fallen servicemembers by helping place more than 2,000 flags on graves at Cave Hill Cemetery.
He also coordinated charity fund-raising efforts for the Kentucky Air Guard's 2007 Combined Federal Campaign, collecting $35,000 and surpassing the previous year's effort by 27 percent.
"Sergeant Hoagland never says no anything," Chief Atwell said. "No matter what the job is, he just jumps right on it, does excellent work and gets it done."
The final KyANG honoree, Master Sgt. James Tenney, was unit training manager for the 123rd Security Forces Squadron throughout 2007.
During that time, unit personnel logged no failures on any 5- or 7-level upgrade training courses -- an achievement that his supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. Dan Radke, called "outstanding."
He also completely revised the base anti-terrorism plan and provided exceptional security support during visits by the governor, the president and the Queen of England.
Overseas, Sergeant Tenney received praise as a member of an antiterrorism/force- protection cell assigned to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. While deployed, he assisted in the investigation of a missing officer; coordinated security plans that have been identified as benchmarks for the AOR; and conducted readiness exercises that surpassed CENTAF standards by 300 percent.
His performance led to Sergeant Tenney's selection for the Mission Hacker Award, which goes to the top 10 percent of NCOs during each AEF rotation.
Back in Louisville, Sergeant Tenney helped organize homecoming ceremonies for returning Army troops and served as a reserve deputy for the Clark County, Ind., Sheriff's Office, where he was promoted to sergeant.
"Sergeant Tenney is such an outstanding troop and an excellent role model for everyone in the unit," Sergeant Radke said. "He does everything right the first time."