131st Airmen earn John Levitow Award during Airman Leadership School

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kelly Ferguson
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Two 131st Bomb Wing Airmen recently earned the John Levitow Award during their Airman Leadership School courses.

Senior Airman Calista D. Gasek, 131st Mission Support Group command support staff, and Senior Airman Whitney A. Erhart, 131st public affairs specialist, attained the honor of the John Levitow Award by being dedicated to their Air Force education and through their aptitude as rising leaders.

“The Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing have a long history of academic achievement which is no surprise based on the pool of talent we pull from to fill our ranks,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason R. Henke, 131st command chief master sergeant. “Airman Leadership School is the first step of many for our folks to learn how to be effective supervisors, and more importantly to create an environment where subordinates can perform at their highest level.”

The John Levitow Award is the highest honor presented to a graduate of Air Force Enlisted professional military education, including ALS, Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy, and the Senior NCO Academy. Eligibility for the award is reserved for those graduates who rank in the top 1% of their class. It is named in honor of John Lee Levitow who was the first enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force to receive the Medal of Honor. He remained the sole enlisted Medal of Honor recipient unto his death in 2000.

ALS maintains a series of instruction revolving around Air Force rules and regulations. This instruction builds the foundation for courses on military professionalism, combat leadership, supervision, group dynamics and verbal and written communication. The course hones leadership skills senor airmen need in order to grow as the next generation of supervisors and reporting advisers for the Air Force.

The John Levitow Award does not only depend upon the personal performance of those who receive it. It is also distinctive in that it is awarded based on an individual’s classmates’ votes.

While attending Sam E. Parrish ALS at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Erhart quickly became part of a close-knit class of students and would spend time with her classmates both in and out of class. This enabled her to support and learn from her peers as well as encourage them to maintain a good sense of camaraderie. She stated that she believes good leaders also need to be good followers and be capable of working as a team.

“I have never experienced more support in my potential as I have through my family and the military,” said Erhart. “It is truly an honor to have received the John Levitow Award. It is an accomplishment that would not have been possible without my classmates, instructors, leadership, family and friends.”

Gasek attended her ALS at I.G. Brown Training and Education Center located at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee. Though one of the younger members of her class, she still managed to be chosen for the John Levitow Award.

“The biggest thing I took away from ALS was truly understanding that in the military we are a team,” said Gasek. “We are all working towards one goal and we all bring in different skill sets to do it. Before ALS I’d never really looked at it that way.”

Erhart and Gasek were both selected as their classes John Levitow award winners despite the relatively few seats made available to Air Guardsmen for the ALS course.

Henke commented that it is always amazing to see the level of professionalism the young Airmen of the 131st display as they learn to execute state and federal missions.

“I’m extremely proud of Senior Airman Erhart and Senior Airman Gasek for their academic achievements,” said Henke. “I look forward to seeing them operate as newly-pinned noncommissioned officers in the coming months.”