111th ATKW Airman receives academic accolades, NCO award for 2021

  • Published
  • By Jon Dahms
  • 111th Attack Wing

A 111th Attack Wing Air National Guardsman here was recently recognized for his academic achievement at an Air Force school while also being selected as Non-Commissioned Officer-of-the-Year for 2021 in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.  

Tech. Sgt. Michael D. is an Instructor/Sensor Operator with the 103rd Attack Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 111th ATKW, received an academic award and earned the “distinguished honor graduate” designation for graduating number one in his class on December 15, 2021 at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School Advanced Instructor Course held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.  He attended the course from July through Dec. 2021.

Tech. Sgt. Michael D. was also recognized in December of 2021 by the 111th ATKW as Non-Commissioned Officer-of-the-Year and went on to compete at Joint Force Headquarters at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.  He was selected as Pennsylvania Air National Guard Non-Commissioned Officer-of-the-Year Jan. 13, 2022.

“I’m deeply honored to have to been chosen by my leadership as NCO of the year and my instructors at Weapons School for distinguished graduate,” Michael D. said.  “I was completely surprised by both awards because I work with such a great group of Airmen who do amazing things every day.  I use everyone’s dedication and hard work as motivation to keep pushing myself to improve each day as well.”

The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment. During the course, students receive an average of 400 hours of graduate-level academics and participate in demanding combat training missions.

“The first part of the course teaches you to be an expert on your platform in all of its mission sets which for me is the MQ-9 Reaper,” Michael D. said. “The second part builds your leadership role.  As a graduate, the expectation is we become the experts at solving the “tactical” problems, and being able to work and integrate additional assets like fighter aircraft or working with other services and Special Forces.”

Tech. Sgt. Michael D. joins other 111th ATKW Weapons School graduates including Maj. Gordon K., Maj. Hugh M., Master Sgt. Timothy A. and Tech. Sgt. Michael P.

“My favorite part was the Integration Phase where we plan and execute large missions with other flying assets as ‘one team’ in preparation for future conflicts,” Michael D. said.  “It takes a lot of strategic planning and knowing what every aircraft is capable of doing to be able to be most effective against adversaries.”  

The Weapons School hosts two six-month courses per calendar year.  The ANG only began sending sensor operators to weapons instructor course in 2017.  

“Tech. Sgt. Michael D. was hand-selected to represent our organization at the USAF Weapons School,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher L., Senior Enlisted Leader for the 103rd ATKS.  “We had complete confidence that he would excel both at the weapons school and subsequently in his role as the Squadron Weapons Noncommissioned-officer-in-charge.” 

Tech. Sgt. Michael D.’s recent recognition for academic performance and exemplary service are a testament to his commitment to serve his nation.  With four years of active duty service in the Air Force, and seven years with the ANG, he knows who truly has his back.

“I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish these great things without the support of my wife,” Michael D. said.  “Even though she wasn’t thrilled about me leaving her and the kids for six months, she understood how much the course meant to me, and encouraged me to pursue it even when I had doubts.”

Tech. Sgt. Michael D. is quick to cite the support of his teammates and others when he talks about his accomplishments, but his leaders see the big picture and a bright future.

“Tech. Sgt. Michael D. is everything leadership expects in a future senior NCO, subject matter expert, ‘patch wearer’ and sensor instructor,” said Lt. Col. Pete, Commander of the 103rd Attack Squadron.   “Mike is humble, he’s approachable, and he is the future of MQ-9 combat operations and a driving force within the 111th Operations Group.”