Story by SSgt Morgan Lipinski on 08/16/2019The Air National Guard recognized the four Outstanding Airmen of the Year (OAY) during the 2019 Focus on the Force Week Aug. 11-16 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Focus on the Force Week is an annual, week-long event hosted by Command Chief Master Sgt. Ronald C. Anderson, the command chief of the ANG. The week's primary objective is to enhance enlisted corps development through the collaboration of ANG leadership and the four OAY honorees.
"Focus on the Force Week is meant to remind Airmen why we do what we do," said Anderson. "These OAY Airmen are the top performing enlisted members in the Air National Guard. They are our motivation because they represent the best in all of us. Their successes are a celebration of our own efforts too."
The OAY honorees invited to attend the 2019 Focus on the Force Week were: Airman 1st Class Kaleigh M. Bevan, a cyberwarfare operator assigned to the 184th Intelligence Wing, Kansas Air National Guard; Tech. Sgt. Andrew C. Merrylees, a radio frequency transmission system specialist assigned to the 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard; Master Sgt. Mark J. Jurakovich, an explosive ordnance disposal technician formerly assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard; 1st Sgt. Rachel L. Landegent, the wing staff and operations group first sergeant assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Arizona Air National Guard.
The OAY honorees attended several exclusive tours during Focus on the Force Week to include the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, the offices of the Air Force chief of staff, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
"The entire week was an inspiring experience," said Jurakovich. "Being able to share once in a lifetime experiences, such as touring the House of Representatives, with my fellow Airmen of the Year and their families was something that I will never forget."
This year's Focus on the Force Week also involved OAY honorees in key leadership discussions. At these events, the honorees listened to leadership and shared their own ideas for improving enlisted Airmen's experience in the ANG.
"Airmen from the 90 wings typically don't get to come to the Air National Guard Readiness Center," said Landegent. "The take-aways from this Focus on the Force Week include learning about the Air National Guard's bigger picture and our leadership's priorities. Now we get to take that information back to our home units and share what we've learned."
Other professional development opportunities for the OAY honorees included a meet and greet with three former ANG command chiefs, involvement on a discussion panel hosted by the Enlisted Field Advisory Council and a class of newly promoted ANG chief master sergeants, as well as several other networking events with leadership.
The 2019 Focus on the Force Week also featured an award ceremony hosted by Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the director of the ANG. The ceremony highlighted the honorees' distinctive achievements that led to their esteemed recognition.
During the ceremony, Anderson turned to the four OAY Airmen and addressed them directly.
"On behalf of General Rice and I, thank you for everything that you've done," said Anderson. "You are truly the best of the best and I'm proud to know that you are a part of our Air National Guard."