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38th Annual Awards Banquet

Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- More than 250 people attended the 38th Annual Awards Banquet for the 104th Fighter Wing, held on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Sheraton Hotel in Springfield, Mass., which recognized some of the unit's superior performers for 2011.

Members were honored at the squadron, group and wing level. Throughout the year, all unit members can nominate one another for awards. Each squadron selects quarterly award winners, who are then eligible for the yearly awards. Once the yearly awards are decided in October by squadron specific committees, those winners are then moved up to the group and wing level selection process.

"It is the persistent pursuit of perfection that results in excellence," said Col. Robert Brooks, 104th FW Commander, during his opening comments for the event. "For the award winners, thank you for your commitment to excellence. You all are part of the force that makes things happen in the wing and you should be extremely proud of your accomplishments."

Along with comments from the commander and the command chief, the banquet began with the posting of the colors by members of the 104th Honor Guard and the National Anthem was sung by Airman 1st Class Amanda Russell.

Following dinner and a year in review video, the award ceremony commenced, first acknowledging the Community College of the Air Force graduates, followed by the squadron, group and wing award winners.

The script for the entire night was written by 1st Lt.'s Lee Rice, Jason Hickox, Doug Marchesseault, and Joseph Wynn, who were also the masters of ceremonies.
Many special guests attended the banquet, including Col. Pete Green from Joint Force Headquarters and the Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, who both took part in presenting the state awards.

The final wing award winners are as follows:
  • Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Brian Whitman
  • NCO of the Year: Master Sgt. Kristin Martin
  • Senior NCO of the Year: Master Sgt. Kevin Leahy
  • AGR/Technician of the Year: Master Sgt. Jose Rijos-Ortiz
  • Civilian of the Year: Mr. Christopher Gouin
  • Company Grade Officer of the Year: Capt. Glenn Milliken
This successful event to honor these outstanding members was made possible by the banquet committee including Master Sgt. Dominique Chapman, Staff Sgt. Matthew Chapman, and Staff Sgt. Dacia Lucas.

The committee spent approximately four months planning the event, holding meetings every other week, and then twice a week once the event date got closer. They made several visits to the venue and helped coordinate the placement tables, decorations, stages, video, DJ, and first sergeants handing out awards. Everything that took place at the banquet was done for the 104th family, to help celebrate everyone's accomplishments and unwind after a long year, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Chapman.

"We received donations for advertisements in the back of our program from companies which enabled us to offset the pricing of the ticket sales to our Airmen," said Staff Sgt. Dacia Lucas.

Several companies including Trifecta Wines, Marcus Printing, AAA, Noble Hospital, Big Y, Pratt and Whitney, and the Sheraton Springfield made donations.

Another great aspect of the planning for this event was the e-invite, created by Staff Sgt. Matt Chapman and Col. EJ Gunning. It worked out very well for us, as we were able to reach all of our base members. The option to pay online with credit cards also made it fast and easy, Lucas added.

"We felt (banquet committee) that the Sheraton did a great job and look forward to working with them in the future," Staff Sgt. Chapman said. "This is an awesome event and hopefully builds esprit de corps with the members of the 104th Fighter Wing."