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Four Wisconsin Air National Guard members have been recognized as Wisconsin’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2017.

The four Airmen, who will compete against their peers across the country for the chance to be named the 2017 Air National Guard Outstanding Airman of the Year, include: Senior Airman Samantha Valentine of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Airman of the Year; Tech. Sgt. Ashlynn Bathey of the 115th Fighter Wing, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Senior Master Sgt. Richard Breister of the 115th Fighter Wing, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; and Master Sgt. Jeffrey Vanderbeek of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, First Sergeant of the Year.

smBathey.jpg“The Wisconsin Airmen of the Year are the best of the best in every capacity, and identifying the Airmen of the Year is a complex process,” said Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Safer, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted advisor and state command chief.

A panel of five chief master sergeants reviewed dozens of Outstanding Airman nomination packets and selected the winners based on their 2016 achievements — primary job accomplishments, self-improvement, community service and physical fitness — as well as a records review and a written essay on being a professional in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

“They excel in the areas of job performance and leadership, self-improvement and community service,” Safer said. “These Airmen are all outstanding, and the competition is extremely tight — determining the winner is not an easy task.”

smBreister.jpgValentine said she was not expecting her selection as the Airman of the Year.

“I interpreted my behaviors as simply doing my job,” she said. “At the same time, it’s exciting to be acknowledged by my leadership.”

Bathey also appreciated being recognized by her leaders as NCO of the Year.

“It is hard work,” she said of the selection process. But for both her military job and her volunteer work, Bathey said she seeks opportunities that interest her or that she is passionate about.

“It makes it so much easier to be devoted,” she said.

smVanderbeek.jpgBreister described his selection as an unexpected honor that recognizes his dedication to duty as well as to taking care of those who complete the mission.

“People are the most important asset we have,” Breister said. “It is my duty to ensure mission accomplishment by providing the necessary resources such as training, equipment and support at the leadership level.”

Breister also recommended mentoring others to find solutions.

“When confronted with problems, turn them into opportunities to succeed,” he said. “People notice.”

Vanderbeek urged his peers to strive for excellence, lead as they would like to be led, and not to shy away from trying something new.

“As an Airman, I never really thought about becoming a first sergeant,” he said, nonetheless calling his decision to apply for the position one he’ll never regret. “Every day is an interview and an opportunity to positively contribute to a mission so much greater than ourselves.”

Vanderbeek called his selection as First Sergeant of the Year “humbling.”

“This recognition motivates me to work even harder to improve the [maintenance] group and serve my leadership well,” he said.

Safer expressed his pride in the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s Airmen of the Year.

“Having Airmen of this caliber in our rank is why the Wisconsin Air National Guard has a reputation of excellence,” he said.