NRSW San Clemente Island Community
Air Guardsman receives coveted Larson Award
Story by SrA Junhao Yu on 02/10/2019
Every year, the 25th Air Force recognizes the top technicians who are vital to the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
Out of more than 18,000 Air Force technicians that tested at the unit level, Tech. Sgt. Merkeb Hagos, 101st Intelligence Squadron imagery analyst, was among 36 finalists to receive the coveted 2018 Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Award.
Hagos was the only Air National Guardsman to place as a finalist this year, taking home the silver medal in the Geospatial Intelligence career field. Hagos also received the gold medal in 2017, making him a two-time awardee.
The Maj. Gen. Doyle Larson Awards program originated in 1979, the year the general assumed command of the United States Air Force Security Service, a predecessor organization of 25th Air Force. Coupling his vision and technical ability, General Larson improved the performance of the organization global cryptologic mission, setting the foundation for what the Air Force ISR community has become today.
“The award is a way to recognize enlisted Airmen who are dedicated to our career field,” said Hagos, “It also allows Airmen to improve their cryptologic skills through interaction with their peers.”
Several of this year’s winners were repeat participants from all across the country, representing a wide spectrum of talent from the Air Force.
“We got to spend a week at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and met with leadership,” said Hagos, “Thanks to the experience, we all have a clearer idea of how our individual units contribute to the greater strategy of national defense.”
The competition was broken into two phases. In the beginning, participants were separated based on their career fields, and only three Airmen out of each career field advanced to the second testing phase.
“The test is definitely difficult for those who are fresh out of school,” Hagos explained while he leaned back and took a deep breath, “It’s hard if you’ve not been exposed to real-world situations related to our job.”
While Hagos believes his experience helped him during the competition, Hagos’ colleague said it’s his character that led him to his success.
“Hagos has a thirst for knowledge,” said Chief Master Sgt. Shane McGuire, 101 IS superintendent, “In order to be successful in the Larson Award Competition, one needs to be an expert in geospatial intelligence, as well as all other facets of the job.”
McGuire said only Airmen who are highly proficient and knowledgeable in the intelligence career field stand a chance of winning the competition, which can lead to a very competitive race towards the end.
As Hagos recalled, the competition was so fierce during the second phase there was a tie that led to officials announcing a rematch to determine the winner.
The competition was meant to be challenging. It’s a chance for Airmen to become more aware of the total-force concept that makes this an expeditionary Air Force. Hagos thinks the Larson Award competition is a great learning opportunity for those in his career field, so he encourages everyone to participate if they can.