ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The 97th Operations Group and four Airmen from Altus Air Force Base took home awards at the Air Education and Training Command Flying Training Awards ceremony, Oct. 26, 2018.
This annual event recognizes the exceptional personnel dedicated to training aircrew across the 19th Air Force, the organization responsible for flying training. Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, created the awards program in 2017 to show the aircrew and instructors of AETC they are respected and appreciated.
“Keeping the flying training machine running requires everyone – the instructors, staff and our maintainers – to be ready to execute the mission every single day,” said Doherty. “We are so grateful for and proud of the work our team does to ensure we continue to produce the combat aviators of tomorrow.”
The 97th OG, commanded by Col. William Mickley was awarded the Top Ops “Gray Tail Division” organizational award. Mickley said the accomplishment is due to the incredible teamwork of the group.
“Each and every member of the 97th Operations Group, all 536 of them, deserve this recognition,” said Mickley. “They have done tremendous work over the past year managing our diverse training environment, caring for and teaching over 2,000 students how to employ the KC-135 [Stratotanker] and C-17 [Globemaster III] and preparing for the arrival of the KC-46 [Pegasus]. Every Airman in the Operations Group played a part in garnering this award and I am incredibly humbled and proud to serve with them.”
At the event, each flying training wing had their individual award winners announced, or “High Flyers.” In the KC-135 group, Capt. Myles Berthold and Staff Sgt. Greg Albers from the 54th Air Refueling squadron were announced winners. In the C-17 category, Maj. Rachael Deroche and Staff Sgt. Kenneth Common, both from the 58th Airlift Squadron took home the awards.
“It feels good to be recognized for all of the flying that I have done throughout the year,” said Common. “I think it shows the amount of hard work, teaching and flying that goes on within this Ops Group every day.”
The flying mission of the Air Force cannot be accomplished without Aircrew instructors. This is a fact not lost on leaders in the service.
“These ‘High Flyers’ have demonstrated they really love the mission, love to fly and love to instruct,” said Doherty. “These awards really are meant to show these instructors how much we value what they do—we can’t accomplish our mission without them!”
This is not the first time Common has been recognized for his pursuit of excellence. He received the same award in 2017 as a top C-17 performer. He said this just pushes him to further excel in a career he already loves.
“I feel like it sets the bar pretty high,” said Common. “It’s tough to fly enough to keep up with others; there’s easily 10 others that could have had the hours as well. Plus anyone that enjoys flying would rather fly than spend the day in the office.”
It is not simply a matter of one person or one unit that completes the mission. According to Mickley, it is the entire wing working together that ultimately gets the job done.
“This accomplishment does not belong to the Operations Group alone,” said Mickley. “The mission of training Aircrew is not possible without the herculean efforts of our teammates in the Maintenance, Mission Support and Medical Groups. So, while this is an OG award in name, in spirit, it's truly a Team Altus Award."