Outstanding Airmen of the Year recognized in Missouri Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Halley Burgess
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The Missouri Air National Guard named its Outstanding Airmen of the Year awardees at the Missouri National Guard's headquarters at Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City.

The awardees were decided by a panel of chief master sergeants hand-picked from around the state, said Missouri State Command Chief Master Sgt. Laura Clark.

"All of our Missouri Airmen are sharp, hardworking, and involved in their bases and hometown communities," said Clark.  "When we are charged to select the best of the best from amongst all of our 2,500 Citizen Airmen, it's always a serious matter - and a significant challenge - due to the high-caliber talent that we recruit, develop, promote and retain in our organization."

This year, all state awardees hail from the 131st Bomb Wing.  They are:
· Staff Sgt. Brittany O'Neal, a production recruiter representing the 131st Bomb Wing, Wing Staff, was named Airman of the Year; she was recently promoted to the NCO ranks
· Tech. Sgt. Matthew Storm, a public health craftsman with the 131st Medical Group, earned Noncommissioned Officer of the Year honors;
· Master Sgt. Melissa Lakin, the recruiting supervisor from the 131st Bomb Wing, Wing Staff, garnered  Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year recognition; and
· Master Sgt. Kirsten Inwood, 131st MDG, was named First Sergeant of the Year.

With high recommendations, O'Neal was selected to become a production recruiter in 2013. She graduated as distinguished graduate at recruiting technical training school, and while continuing her recruiter education, graduated with the Academic Excellence Award for the IMPACT Selling Course.

In 2014, O'Neal completed her second Bachelor's Degree and her Master's Degree in Industrial Technology Engineering, with membership into the Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society for academic achievement.

O'Neal, who hails from Saint Louis, enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 2009 as an avionics specialist. She graduated from both the Electronic Principals Course and the Communication-Navigation Course as a distinguished graduate. Recognized for her professionalism and skill, O'Neal was placed in the research and engineering area of the B-2 Spirit's avionics section, where she excelled before she transitioned to recruiting.

The 131st MDG's Storm performs a number of vital roles beyond his Air Force Specialty Code; he also serves as the noncommissioned officer in charge and the functional duty training manager for public health; is the group's primary unit deployment monitor and resource advisor; and is also an additional duty first sergeant. He also serves as the wing' alternate Suicide Prevention Program manager.

In December 2012, Storm accepted a full-time position as a public health technician. Born and raised in St. Louis, Storm joined the Army in 1998. He served active duty as a Patriot missile system operator and maintainer for almost eight years. He joined the Missouri Air National Guard in 2007 and was assigned to the 131st MDG. Outside of duty, Storm and his family serve their local community as well as his Guard family: they volunteer to lead fundraising activities for a nearby animal rescue and other local charities, and they also volunteer at the local Veteran's home.

In the senior noncommissioned officer category, Lakin shined brightly all year.  She won the Air National Guard Director's Challenge and multiple Top Accession awards for the state of Missouri, and was awarded the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal in March 2014, to accompany the award of the Missouri Conspicuous Service Medal.

Lakin was born and raised in Kirkland, Illinois, and began her career at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, as a materials management specialist. A few years later at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, she cross-trained to become a personnel specialist and was hand-selected to work with the new C-17 maintenance group as the sole personnel specialist for the first C-17 aircraft in the Air Force inventory. After 12 years on active duty, she separated from the Air Force and became a realtor in St Louis. She re-joined the military in the reserve component as a member of the 131st Fighter Wing at St. Louis' Lambert Field in May 2006.  Lakin's talents and potential were quickly recognized, and Lakin was soon selected to become a production recruiter, setting her on her current - and highly successful - career path.

In the First Sergeant of the Year category, Inwood was deemed to be the epitome of Total Force Integration. She and one active duty counterpart were assigned to the 509th Munitions Squadron training office where she was responsible for coordinating the training of more than 200 active duty personnel as well as over 30 Air National Guard members. She single-handedly prepared the training for the Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercise in June 2009.

Inwood has been instrumental in transitioning members as they are operating at Whiteman Air Force Base every drill, as well as maintaining communication with the members drilling at Jefferson Barracks. She has worked tirelessly to ensure unit cohesion does not suffer with a geographically separated unit. Inwood was also the sole trainer for Self Aid Buddy Care from 2009 to 2010 for the 131st Bomb Wing and has performed as a physical training leader and as a unit fitness monitor.

In 1989, Inwood joined the United States Army as an air defense artillery Hawk missile crew member. In 1992 she successfully completed her enlistment and was honorably discharged. Missing the camaraderie and the mission of the military, she enlisted with the Missouri Air National Guard in 2003, to the benefit of the state and her units.

According to Clark, the winning Airmen's packages will go on to represent the Missouri Air National Guard at the national competition in early 2015.

"These four airmen represent the best of the best, and each has distinguished himself or herself in a substantial way to warrant this recognition," Clark said.  "I couldn't be more proud, and on behalf of the Missouri National Guard, congratulate them on their success and achievement."