Florida honors Airmen of the Year for 2009

Written by  //  August 27, 2009  //  Feature Stories

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By Senior Airman BrieAnne Julian
Florida National Guard Public Affairs

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (August 27, 2009)– Six Airmen chosen as the best of the Florida Air National Guard were honored during a ceremony at the World Golf Village, Aug. 22. The Airmen – selected as the 2009 Outstanding Airmen of the Year – were presented awards for their dedication and achievement during the annual ceremony by Commander of the Florida Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Joseph Balskus.

The 2009 Airmen of the Year for the Florida Air National Guard (second from left) Master Sgt. Christopher Hogarth, Tech. Sgt. Mark Farmer, Staff Sgt. Michael Fillinger, Master Sgt. Melissa Merideth, Master Sgt. Michael Ramsey, and Tech. Sgt. Paul Still pose for a photo with Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles Wisniewski (far left) and the Commander of the Florida Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Joseph Balskus (far right) Aug. 22, 2009.Photo by Staff Sgt. Jaclyn Carver

The general called the Airmen the “best of the best” and asked them to continue to uphold the tenets of the Airmen’s Creed. 

“We want you to live and breathe the Creed,” he said to the Airmen, noting they had been recognized by their commanders for their expertise. “They gave you that recognition and tonight we honor you for that…We looked beyond the surface and we found something special. And that was the Airman’s heart.”

Brig. Gen. Balskus presented awards to Airmen from units throughout the state for the categories of Airman of the Year, Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, First Sergeant of the Year, Honor Guard Member of the Year, and Honor Guard Manager of the Year.

The six Airmen that were chosen for the prestigious awards were: Staff Sgt. Michael Fillanger, Tech. Sgt. Mark Farmer, Master Sgt. Melissa Merideth, Master Sgt. Michael Ramsey, Tech. Sgt. Paul Still, and Master Sgt. Christopher Hoggarth.

Each of the winners received the Florida Distinguished Service Medal, and will go on to compete nationally against Active Duty members at the U.S. Air Force level.

Airman of the Year Staff Sgt. Michael Fillanger is a Personnel Journeyman assigned to the Commander’s Support Staff for the 601st Air and Space Operations Center at Tyndall Air Force Base. Fillanger was born in Camp Springs, Mary., and graduated with honors from high school in 1999. In January 2002, Fillanger enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard serving as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic and Recovery Specialist, and Assistant Squad Leader. He also served as President of the Junior Enlisted Council. He enlisted in the Air Force Reserve in August 2006 where he served as a Personnel Apprentice. He enlisted in the Florida Air National Guard in March 2008 as a traditional Guardsman and began his current Active Guard and Reserve position in July 2008. In 2006 he earned a degree in accounting.

Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year Tech. Sgt. Mark Farmer is an Aerospace Control Officer at the 114th Range Operations Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base. Farmer graduated from Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, Tenn., in 1995, and joined the U.S. Air Force in January 1998 as a Space Systems Operator. After completing Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Farmer began his technical training as a Satellite Systems Operator at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Farmer then received a follow-on assignment to the 1st Range Operations Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Farmer joined the Florida Air National Guard’s 114th Range Operations Squadron in 2007 as an Aerospace Control Officer. Farmer holds Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degrees in both Space Operations Technology and Instructor of Military Science and Technology, as well as an Occupational Instructor Certification from CCAF.

Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year Master Sgt. Melissa Merideth is a Logistics Plans Technician assigned to the 114th Range Operations Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base. Merideth began her military career by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force shortly after her graduation from high school. After completing Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in early 1983 she attended the Material Management Specialist course at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. After completing her first two-year overseas assignment, she was transferred to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas. During her tour of duty at Bergstrom, she completed the Non-Commissioned Officer Preparatory Course in 1986 as a distinguished graduate. Merideth was assigned to the 741st Maintenance Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, and then enlisted in the Florida Air National Guard in 1994 as a Supply Technician with the 114th Combat Communication Squadron. Wanting to expand her knowledge and enhance her viability Merideth cross-trained to become a Logistics Planner, and was honor graduate of the Logistics Plans Apprentice Course in April 1996. Merideth completed the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy Correspondence Course in September 1996 and was promoted to the permanent rank of Master Sergeant in February 1997.

First Sergeant of the Year Master Sergeant Michael Ramsey is the First Sergeant of the 125th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla. Ramsey graduated from the North Jacksonville Academy in 1981 and enlisted into the U.S. Air Force in July 1981. After completing Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Ramsey began his technical training as a Corrosion Control Specialist at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Ramsey was then assigned to Spangdahlem, Germany. In January 1984, he accepted an assignment at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana where he was later named the lead technician for the Corrosion Control Shop during the Maintenance Standardization Evaluation Team (MSET) inspection. Ramsey enlisted into the Florida Air National Guard in August 1989 and transitioned to Aircraft Structural Repair under the Rivet Workforce Program in August 1990. In January 2006, Ramsey was selected as the First Sergeant for the 125th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant, and subsequently completed the First Sergeant Academy in June 2006.

Honor Guard Member of the Year Tech. Sgt. Paul Still is the Aircraft Pnuedraulics System Craftsman for the C-130 Hercules and Crew Chief for the 125th Fighter Wing, in Jacksonville, Fla. He graduated from Palos Verdes High School in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1976. He attended Seminole Community College and Florida Southern where he played football. Still joined the 125th Fighter Wing in March 1991. He attended multiple Aircraft Maintenance courses at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He then went to Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and graduated second in his class. Still has been employed as a full-time technician since 1995 at the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville. He joined the Base Honor Guard in 1999 and was the first in the Wing to complete the Air Force Honor Guard Basic Protocol, Honors and Ceremonies Course.

Honor Guard Manager of the Year Master Sgt. Christopher Hoggarth is an Airspace Manager for the 601st Air and Space Operations Center at Tyndall Air Force Base. He enlisted in the Air Force’s Delayed Enlistment Program in September 1994 and completed Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was sent to Aircrew Life Support Technical School at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Upon completion of technical training he was assigned to the 2nd Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base. Hoggarth also attended the U.S. Air Force Water Survival and Combat Land Survival course. In October 2001 he was selected to be the Non-Commissioned Officer-In-Charge of Life Support Training for the 325th Fighter Wing. In December 2003 Hoggarth joined the Florida Air National Guard after being selected as an Active Guard Reservist at the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base. After completion of Aerospace Warning and Control Systems Technical School he was qualified as a Tracking Technician and Identification Technician. He currently works in the Combat Plans Division as an Airspace Manager. In July 2005, he was hand picked to join the SEADS Color Guard team and in 2007 was selected as Honor Guard Member of the Year for the State of Florida. Later that year he assumed the position of Program Manager for the Color Guard Team.

Other nominees for the 2009 Outstanding Airman of the Year included: Senior Airman Kristy Glover from the 125th Fighter Wing; Senior Airman William Brown Jr. from the 114th Range Operations Squadron; Senior Airman Carlos Leal of the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron; Senior Airman Philip Spradley of the 290th Joint Support Communications Squadron. Also nominated for the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year were: Tech. Sgt. Natalie Cooper from the Florida National Guard Headquarters Detachment 1; Tech. Sgt. Randall Dobbs from the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Joseph Ezell from the 101st Air and Space Operations Group; Tech. Sgt. Carlos Garcia Jr. from the 125th Fighter Wing; Tech. Sgt. Thomas Mahan from the Weather Readiness Training Center; and Staff Sgt. Michael Parks from the 290th Joint Support Communications Squadron. Nominees for Senior Non-Commissioned Officer also included: Master Sgt. Cory Brown from the Weather Readiness Training Center; Master Sgt. Dawn Carrera of the 290th Joint Support Communications Squadron; Master Sgt. Terrance Harris from the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron; Master Sgt. Tiffiney Kellum from the 101st Air and Space Operations Group; and Master Sgt. John Smith from the 125th Fighter Wing. Other Honor Guard of the Year nominees included: Master Sgt. Jennifer Harris of the 114th Range Operations Squadron and Master Sgt. Jan McNally Jr. of the 101st Air and Space Operations Group.

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