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12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year: Becoming tomorrow’s DAF ambassadors today

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen for 2023 were recognized and honored during the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 9-13.

The 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year (alphabetically listed, by rank and command of assignment when selected) are:

o Senior Master Sgt. Justin S. Cruz, Air Force Materiel Command – Airman supporting Space Force

o Tech. Sgt. Jennel L. Edwards, Air Force Global Strike Command

o Senior Master Sgt. Sedrick F. Evans, Pacific Air Forces

o Tech. Sgt. Michelle A. Fernandez, Air Mobility Command

o Master Sgt. Michael A. Galindo, Air Education and Training Command

o Senior Airman Ryan G. Hospelhorn, United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa

o Senior Airman Kostiantyn Khymchenko, Air Combat Command

o Tech. Sgt. Micaela R. Mahan, Air Force Materiel Command

o Tech. Sgt. Kimberly R. Mastrocola, Air Force Special Operations Command

o Staff Sgt. Dhruva S. Poluru, Air National Guard

o Tech. Sgt. Theodore M. Sebsibe, Air Force District of Washington

o Senior Airman Jacob T. Tawasha, Air Force Reserve Command


Selected for their exceptional leadership, job performance and personal achievement, the 12 Airmen will spend the next year, and the rest of their Air Force careers, being distinguished representatives for the department.


“Don’t change who you are,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “Who you are is what got you here. Looking forward, you are an ambassador to our Air Force. That comes with a lot of responsibility.”

These servant leaders embody Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall’s “One Team, One Fight.” Their character, leadership and experiences reflect the strength of the Air Force and will serve the 12 Airmen as they advocate for and work with Airmen across the force.

“I feel honored and humbled to be surrounded by Airmen at this level,” reflected Fernandez, 6th Security Forces Squadron Marine Patrol team lead at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. “They’re like-minded in the way they want the best for the Air Force and the best for themselves. Working with this team is always a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the work we will accomplish this year.”

Throughout their time at the conference, the honorees experienced Washington, D.C., with an immersion tour of the 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and met DAF senior leaders, gaining insight into their key focus areas and intent.

During a sit-down discussion with the 12 Airmen, Bass conveyed her expectations and answered questions relating to their year-long journey.

“There is nothing that is on the minds of our Airmen and their families that we aren’t focused on,” Bass said. “We’ve got to work together to create irreversible momentum to get after these things while reoptimizing our Air Force.”

The event culminated with a ceremony celebrating all the achievements of the Airmen.

From senior master sergeant to senior airman, each member demonstrated how to lead, inspire others, and accelerate change around them. Their time at the conference will play a key role in the team’s ability to attract, train, and maintain the highest caliber of Airmen and Guardians in the year ahead.

The 12 Outstanding Airmen’s first official role will take place at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they will help mentor and guide future officers of the Air Force and Space Force.