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12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year Visit the Academy

12 OAY FalconryCadets from the falconry club pose for a photo with members of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year at the U.S Air Force Academy Sept. 27. The falconry club participates in a wide variety of community events, sharing the academy story with local schools and civic groups, as well as at Academy sporting events such as Falcon football.

Story by Cadet 1st Class Trevor Holley, photos by Trevor Cokley

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Cadets got the unique experience of interacting with and learning from the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022 at the U.S. Air Force Academy Sept. 27-29. The National Character and Leadership Symposium sponsored the visit and three days of activities.

The 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year are the Air Force’s top enlisted members. They represent major commands, direct reporting units, field operating agencies and Headquarters Air Force. The Air Force selection board selected Airmen based on their superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements.

The Airmen came to the Academy to interact with cadets, provide mentorship, offer leadership advice and to expose cadets to enlisted personnel from various Air Force specialty codes. The visit serves as one of the National Character and Leadership Symposium events that occur throughout the year. At the upcoming NCLS, cadets and faculty will explore the theme of Leadership and Teamwork.

For three days the 12 Airmen engaged with many of the great aspects of the Academy. They met with senior leaders, went through the Outdoor Leadership Course, experienced the soaring and jump programs and jumped off the 10-meter high dive.

The most important part of their visit was when they were hosted by cadet squadrons. They spent an entire day, from first military duty to the last, shadowing cadets attending classes, training and after school activities.

The focus of the visit was a mutual sharing of experience and understanding. Cadet 2nd Class Vegas Rohaly said, “I was impressed with the humility and pride that came with everything Tech. Sgt. Brianne Kelleher did. She was so knowledgeable, experienced, and was able to show how things we do at the Academy translate into active duty.”

The experience was equally motivating and inspiring to the Airmen. Senior Airman Christopher Thao spent a day with Cadet Squadron 4.

“This event meant a lot for me.” He said. “I was able to see a whole new perspective of intensity, culture, training and education. I’m excited to see the cadets all flourish in their careers and as future leaders. I cannot wait to serve alongside them and guide them to become better leaders for me and all those around me.”

The 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year will return to the Academy when they present a panel at the 30th annual NCLS. Mark your calendar for Feb. 23-24, 2023. Registration opens Jan. 4, 2023.

12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year view a demonstration by the cadet falconry clubMembers of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year view a demonstration by the cadet falconry club.