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NEWS | Aug. 25, 2023

Airmen of the Year Recognized During Focus on the Force Week

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker, Air National Guard

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. - Four National Guard Airmen were recognized as Outstanding Airmen of the Year at a ceremony Aug. 24 at the Air National Guard Readiness Center.

As part of the Air National Guard’s Focus on the Force Week, the Airmen were honored for their achievements by Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, Air National Guard director, and Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Williams, ANG command chief.

The OAY honorees are:

-Airman of the Year: Staff Sgt. Airman Dhruva Poluru, space systems operations with the 222nd Command and Control Squadron, New York National Guard, (recently promoted).

-Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Jessica Brazionis, information systems security manager, 217th Air Operations Group, Michigan National Guard.

-Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Tony Hall, tactical control party, 118th Air Support Operations Squadron, North Carolina National Guard.

-First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sgt. Joshua Johnson, 233rd Security Forces Squadron, Colorado National Guard.

The Airmen were recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to the Air National Guard by the ANG director.

“In the largest Air Force in the world, the United States Air Force, there are 516,000 members in uniform,” said Loh. “In our Air National Guard, there are 108,000 members spread out over 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia. We have 94,000 enlisted members. … These four are our Outstanding Airmen of the Year!

“We support them; they support all of us, and together we make the most powerful Air Force in the world.”

The Focus on the Force week of recognition gave the OAY winners opportunities for professional development and honored their achievements as the enlisted corps’ top performers.

“The main focus is celebrating their accomplishments and their awards to show we’re appreciative of them and give them a great experience,” said Williams. “They were able to learn about the Pentagon, visit Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony, and have the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill.”

He added that development opportunities like this help the ANG’s overall mission.

“They shared an experience with other Airmen that will help them continue to drive and reach their goals and accomplishments, which helps our National Guard grow,” said Williams.

The Airman of the Year, Poluru, shared his thoughts about the leadership symposium.

“We were able to network with a group of Airmen from all ranks from E-2 all the way up to command chiefs,” he said. “It was a nice informal professional development session, trying to get individual tips from all these leaders and taking in all the opinions from the younger Airmen as well.”

Poluru also appreciated attending the conference of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

“It was super awesome to see a shift in professional development and how it’s actually done between Army and Air combined,” he said. “It was cool to get that joint training and get a better understanding of the other branch.”

Poluru offered professional growth advice for the next generation of leaders.

“Taking up different opportunities that make you uncomfortable,” he said. “[Trying] new things to expand your thinking and relying on your leadership, coworkers, or even subordinates to be able to lean on them to guide you through this process.”



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