ACC Outstanding Airmen (2017) Announced

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle commander of Air Combat Command announced the ACC Outstanding Airmen of the Year (OAY), First Sergeant of the Year (FSOY) Annual award Winners today.

"Each year, we select one Airman from each category to represent the amazing Airmen of Air Combat Command.  My thanks to each of you for taking the time to nominate all of the individuals submitted. The caliber of those nominated was impressive to say the least.  It was an extremely close competition....all should be very proud," said Gen. Carlisle.

This year, the following personnel have been selected as our winners and will represent the Command at the Air Force level. 

Outstanding Airmen of the Year:

Airman Category:

Senior Airman Liae Hess, 355th Fighter Wing air traffic controller, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is ACC’s OAY in the Airman category. Efforts that contributed to her selection include the considerable effort, initiative and attention to detail she puts into her job day-in and day-out, according to her supervisor, Staff Sgt. Alex Donovan.

“I couldn’t ask for a better troop to have,” Donavan said. “A lot of times, the career field breeds air traffic controllers first and Airmen second. I really feel like Airman Hess has done a good job balancing both of those things.”

Hess enjoys getting involved and constantly keeping busy, she said, and especially loves the team concept that is intertwined in the daily aspects of her career.

“It was really humbling for me to be put up for this award and be recognized,” Hess said. “Seeing the impact I’ve had on other people is really what motivated me. I am really grateful for my leadership and for everybody that has helped push me this far.”

NCO Category:

Tech. Sgt. Jose Cruz-Richardson, 15th Air Support Operations Squadron chief of weapons and tactics, is ACC’s OAY in the noncommissioned officer category.

“I think it’s a privilege to be given such a great opportunity to represent my career field, my community and weapons school,” Cruz-Richardson said.

Cruz-Richardson has a natural tendency to help others rise  and to help Airmen in the unit improve to reach their full potential, according to Capt. Derek Hopkins, 15th ASOS acting director of operations.

“I had the opportunity to meet Cruz-Richardson before he went to weapons school and even then he was always the go-to JTAC (joint terminal air-traffic controller),” Hopkins said. “When he got back, he was still all about helping the unit and helping to build a better JTAC corps. for the Air Force.”

Cruz-Richardson tackles every task with tenacity, passion and sacrifice, said his wife, Stephanie.

“Other Airmen see his work ethic and it also goes down to the younger Airman who also see him as a role model,” she said.

Senior Noncommissioned Officer Category:

Master Sgt. Josh Malyemezian, 55th Contracting Station assistant chief of the contingency support flight, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, is ACC’s OAY in the senior noncommissioned officer category.

The leadership role he took in his squadron’s contingency support flight was highlighted as one among multiple items that led up to his award.

“We stood up a contingency contracting officer five-day bare base exercise,” Malyemezian said. “This has been an unbelievable experience so far, and I’m honored to be ACC’s nominee for the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year program.”

Malyemezian and his team also prepared nine contracting officers from the ranks of Airman to first lieutenant to go downrange.

As a principle author behind his unit’s $90 million multiple-award construction contract, he’s saved the Air Force $11 million through the work he’s done throughout the year, according to Lt. Col. Hayes J. Weydman, 55th CS commander.

“But his performance in the contracting squadron has been much more than just contracts,” Weydman said. “He’s also been a leader in the squadron and across the wing.”

The new Airmen that arrive into the 55th Contracting Squadron not only buy into the Air Force heritage and culture, but they also become active in the wing.

“They do that because they have an outstanding example to follow in Master Sgt. Malyemezian,” Weydman said. “He is (also) an outstanding example to all of Offutt Air Force Base’s Airmen.”

First Sergeant Category: 

Master Sgt. Mark Curtis, 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, is the ACC’s OAY in the first sergeant category.

His leadership contributed to the wing providing maintenance in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom Sentinel.

“As a three-time squadron commander, I can honestly say that Master Sgt. Mark Curtis is the best first sergeant I’ve ever worked with,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Pope, 379th EAMXS. “His care of 3,000 total force Airmen has enabled a generation of 13,000 combat missions.”

Curtis supported the first Air Force Central Command deployment of the B-52 in almost 26 years. He’s helped turn aircraft for 441 missions that consisted of 5,570 flight hours and the release of 3,284 munitions on targets in Iraq and Syria.

“Master Sgt. Curtis is a straight shooter. He cares about his Airman and he is ahead of the curve all of the time,” Pope said. “He always knows what’s going on with them and he does his best to take care of them each and every day.”

Curtis also epitomizes what it means to be a wingman, according to Brig. Gen. Darren James, commander of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.

“He’s constantly focused on ensuring we’re loyal to our Airmen and we’re dedicated to their well-being, ensuring they have the tools to conduct the mission each and every day,” James said.

Curtis credits all of his success to the support of his family.

“My wife’s support in being there for our four children (allows) me to go off and focus on our Airmen and the mission,” Curtis said. “My wife puts me at ease. Through our texting and phone calls, I know she is taking care of everything. She has supported me for the last 16 years and she is the foundation for what I am able to accomplish day in and day out.”

Congratulations to the ACC winners.