Outstanding ISR Airmen given chance to shine with Larson Awards

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman and Susan A. Romano
  • 25th Air Force

One thing the silent warfighters of American Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance seldom see is recognition for their hard work and dedication to the global ISR mission. That is why the Larson Awards are vital to 25th Air Force, National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the Airmen they recognize through the program.

The Larson Awards are about appreciating ISR Airmen.

“This is one of those unique things the 25th does,” said Maj. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, commander, 25th Air Force, during his remarks at the 2016 Larson Awards ceremony.

“Eighty percent of our NAF [Numbered Air Force] is enlisted,” he said, adding that the winners of the annual Larson Awards award are the best and brightest of those Airmen.

Recipients of a Larson Award are recognized as a part of 25th Air Force’s history.

“The winners of this award are our very best, and I want our Airmen to be excited at the chance to represent our heritage of exceptional technicians,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman. “Winning this award is a significant accomplishment which underscores the importance of our enlisted force in the ISR business. It's kinda a big deal."

Being a recipient of a Larson Award is much more than receiving a medal at a ceremony.

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Hoffman, laboratory measurements flight chief and 2016 bronze medalist for the Air Force Technical Applications Center, humorously pondered how he was selected as a Larson Award winner.

“Earning this award matters to me for one of two reasons: either it shows me that my technical growth over my career has proven to be one of the best in our career field or that I’m an exceptional guesser on tests. I can take pride in either truth! All kidding aside, it feels good,” Hoffman said.

In addition to the recognition, Hoffman appreciated the opportunity to visit 25th Air Force Headquarters for the award presentation.

“The best part was the time we spent at Lackland Air Force Base,” he said. “As part of the experience, Maj. Gen. Shwedo tasked us with a problem-solving mission, and when we presented our solution, it was an honor to truly be heard by him and his wing commanders.”

Hoffman encourages other Airmen to test for the Larson Awards.

“Don’t let me win two years in a row,” he said.

One of the 2016 gold medal recipients said it felt good to be recognized as a technician, and the week in San Antonio was a bonus.

“It was a great experience and opportunity to be able to come here and work on continuous process improvement this week,” said Staff Sgt. Alex, 531st Intelligence Squadron.

Being with people from other career fields and coming up with solutions to problems was a highlight of the week for Tech. Sgt. Heather, 450 IS. She was a bronze medal recipient, and said she realized the award is a long-term honor.

“I think for all of us, this is a significant milestone in our careers, being selected as the best of the best,” Heather said.

Staff Sgt. David Pettinelli, noncommissioned officer-in-charge at AFTAC’s Ciambrone Radiochemistry Lab, was surprised at his selection for the award.

“I am very honored to be named one of the winners for 2016,” said Pettinelli, a repeat Larson Award competitor and winner. “Our career field is highly competitive in entry requirements, and diverse working knowledge is essential to the many realms in which we function.

“Occasionally, repeat winners have a chance to three-peat,” Pettinelli said, and while it would be an outstanding accomplishment, it automatically retires Airmen from further competition.

Any Airmen who would like to compete for the 2017 Larson Awards should contact their supervisor as soon as possible. This year’s first round of testing will occur between May 30 and June 30. The second round of testing, for those who move forward from the first round, will take place between July 31 and Sept. 1.