By Senior Airman Shannon Bowman, 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 25, 2021
Master Sgt. Michael Fulton, 50th Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, poses for a photo in front of a KC-135 Stratotanker Oct. 6, 2021, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Fulton was recognized as Air Mobility Command’s 2021 Gen. Robert “Dutch” Huyser Outstanding Aircrew Member Award, Boom Operator category for sustained excellence in airmanship. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Hastings)
Airmen from the 50th Air Refueling Squadron pose for a photograph under the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The 50th ARS recently won the 2020 Senior Master Sgt. Albert Evans Award recognizing them as the best air refueling section in the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)
Col. Brian Backman, 379th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, awards Master Sgt. Michael Fulton, 50th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron chief boom operator, the Air Force Commendation Medal in recognition of heroism, Oct. 21, 2020, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. On Aug. 17, 2020, Fulton was working out at the base gym when he witnessed an individual collapse. Using skills from his prior training as an emergency medical technician, Fulton provided medical care and stabilized the member until first responders could arrive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Battles)
Each year, Air Mobility Command recognizes Airmen who have made outstanding contributions to the Air Force’s global mobility mission.
Master Sgt. Michael Fulton, 50th Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, was recognized as AMC’s 2021 General Robert “Dutch” Huyser Outstanding Aircrew Member Award, Boom Operator category, for sustained excellence in airmanship.
The award is named after Gen. Robert "Dutch" Huyser, a former aircraft commander who served in the Vietnam War and flew more than 9,000 hours in multiple aircraft during his military career.
“The fact that I received this award still has me in awe,” Fulton said. “I am blessed to work with the men and women of the 50th (ARW) who truly set the standard, so for me to not identify this as a group award would be completely foolish.”
For Fulton, the best part of his job as the squadron’s superintendent is leading and supporting the 128 Airmen assigned to his squadron.
“As a young Airman, I was instructed to develop my own replacement,” he said. “My goal is to empower our enlisted force to lead at all levels and to prepare Airmen for the next level of leadership.”
According to Fulton’s former supervisor, Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Harwood, 92nd Operations Group superintendent, Fulton displayed leadership qualities early on as a boom operator, and as such, was offered several opportunities to teach and guide other Airmen.
“Master Sgt. Fulton is such a charismatic person with natural leadership abilities that just can’t be taught,” Harwood said. “He spends the time to get to know each one of his people so that he can provide guidance, mentorship and maintain discipline within the unit.”
Fulton credits his personal experiences, his squadron and the leaders who have set a good example for him for his own personal success.
“I overcame some struggles early on in my career, by changing my environment and emulating good leaders,” Fulton said. “It took so many people from the 50th ARS and the 6th Operations Group for me to receive this award and I’m truly thankful.”
Harwood explained that the Airmen in the 50th ARS respect Fulton, and that his dedication to the unit’s mission and Airmen permeates throughout.
“Master Sgt. Fulton is such a well-rounded person and is exactly the type of leader that the Air Force needs in my opinion,” Harwood said. “He is truly one of the best people that I’ve had the chance to work with and I consider myself lucky to call him my friend.”
Fulton offered some helpful advice to the new boom operators in his squadron.
“Take a moment to listen, keep a notepad and take notes,” Fulton said. “Get uncomfortable, challenge yourself to take on new roles that you are unfamiliar with. Be prepared to fail, learn from the mistakes. And always put your unit before yourself. Be creditable and if you don’t know the answer, say it, and then go seek the answer.”
Fulton’s former squadron commander, Lt. Col. Menola Guthrie, 6th Operations Group deputy commander, explained that his authenticity and his ability to motivate Airmen were key to solidifying Fulton’s outstanding aircrew member award.
“Mike truly cares for each Airmen and pushes them to reach their full potential,” Guthrie said. “He goes out of his way to recognize Airman’s achievements which has helped with sky-rocketing morale, with our readiness exercises and our first squadron deployment despite COVID peaking.”
Among the achievements that led to Fulton’s award were: a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where he served as the 50th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron’s first sergeant; provided guidance on emergency and tactical procedures directly impacting operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom Sentinel; being awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for actions that resulted in saving the life of a member of Al Udeid AB; and his unit being recognized as the 2020 Senior Master Sgt. Albert Evans Outstanding Air Refueling Section Award.
A native of Chicago, Fulton became a boom operator in 2015 after serving 10 years as an aerospace medical technician. During his time as a boom operator, he excelled through several job taskings including a training administration noncommissioned officer, flight chief, operations superintendent, acting first sergeant and now squadron superintendent.