FAST Leadership Leads to Air Force Level Award

  • Published
  • By David R. Hopper
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The dust boils in the slipstream of a C-130 Hercules at an undisclosed location as vital supplies are being delivered where the enemy shadows the innocent.


The war in Afghanistan may be over but Airmen are still there, sacrificing time with family and sometimes their very life to help protect the Afghan people.


In the process of service before self, some Airmen rise to the top and their leadership and dedication cannot be ignored. One such Airman, Master Sgt. Nicholas Whitney, 55th Security Forces Squadron, led a Fly Away Security Team (FAST) in Afghanistan from late 2015 to early 2016 that earned him the Air Force Outstanding Security Forces Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year Award.


According to Whitney, there are three teams that helped him receive this honor.


“As part of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, I was the squad leader of a 13-member team at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan,” said Whitney. “We were providing security on C-130’s that was moving personnel and delivering resources throughout Afghanistan in a combat environment.”


Before Whitney and his team arrived in Afghanistan, they found out that a couple of Airmen had just been killed in the squad they were going to replace.


“We were attacked almost daily but this 13-man team performed beyond anything I could ever have imagined or have been more proud of,” Whitney said.  “During the deployment my counterpart and friend, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm, was killed but the teams continued to move forward to bring the fight to the enemy.”


Whitney wears a bracelet to remember his friend, Joseph Lemm, originally from Nebraska, who was killed on Dec. 21, 2015.


“The second team is the men and women of the 55th Security Forces Squadron,” Whitney said. “I was the flight chief for Alpha Flight, in charge of 75 men and women from Navy, Air Force and [DoD] civilians. What they do every day for Offutt [AFB], to show up to work with some of the shift schedules we work, and the conditions we work, cops are always there.”


To show up to work and pick up their weapon, knowing it is -20 degrees and go stand out at the gate and never complain and have a good attitude, speaks volumes, he added.


The last team that Whitney refers to gets personal.


“My wife has pushed me harder than any supervisor ever could, constantly convincing me that I am capable of accomplishing more and doing this all while taking care of our 3-year-old, giving birth to our son while I was deployed to Afghanistan,” Whitney said.


“Those are the three teams that I was fortunate to be a part of, they mean a lot to me,” he added.


Whitney smiled brightly as he recounted the names of his team members


“They are really the ones who deserve the recognition,” Whitney said.  They are all so dedicated and worked so hard that it was impossible for me not to do the same.”


When Lt. Col. Ian Dinesen, 55th SFS commander, was asked about Whitney his words were straight to the point.


“Master Sgt. Whitney is simply a phenomenal senior NCO, exceptional leader and an all-around great human being,” Dinesen said. “We are no doubt privileged to have him on our team and we are all better through is shining example.”


“Make no mistake, he continues to have a positive daily impact on every member of the 55th Security Forces Squadron.  I am proud to know him and even more proud to serve with him,” he added.