403rd Wing holds commander’s call; recognizes award winners

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

The 403rd Wing held a commander’s call Saturday during its March Unit Training Assembly at the Roberts Maintenance Facility auditorium here.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the call was largely attended via video call with leadership, speakers, and award recipients attending in-person. 

Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander, opened the call up with remarks about the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s worldwide pandemic declaration and the fact that 2020’s March UTA marked the last time the wing held an entirely in-person commander’s call.

He did express an optimistic outlook and hope that for the next commander’s call, the wing would be able to be all together in person once again.

Following the commander’s opening remarks, he presented awards for the third and fourth quarters as well as the annual award winners for 2020.

The fourth quarter and annual award winners are as follows:

Fourth Quarter:

Airman: Senior Airman Connor Mason, 403rd Maintenance Squadron

Non-Commissioned Officer: Tech Sgt. Christopher Keeton, 815th Airlift Squadron

Senior NCO: Master Sgt. James Baggott, 403rd Logistics Readiness Squadron

Company grade officer: Capt. Lauren Broeking, 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron

Field grade officer: Lt. Col. Dominic Barberi, 815th AS

Civilian Category I: Heather Bittenbender, 403rd Maintenance Group

Civilian Category II: Dona White, 403rd ASTS



Airman: Senior Airman Mark Johnson, 403rd MXS

NCO: Tech. Sgt. Sheena Tugwell, 12th Operational Weather Flight

SNCO: Master Sgt. Jay Hommerbocker, 403rd AMXS

First Sergeant: Master Sgt. Karen Moore, 403rd LRS

CGO: Capt. Alyssa Sandquist, 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron

FGO: Lt. Col. Lauren DeFrates, 403rd ASTS

Civilian Category I: Crystal Irving, 403rd LRS

Civilian Category II: Amy Lee, 403 Mission Support Group

In addition to her NCO of the year award, it was announced Tugwell, now a master sergeant, has been selected as NCO of the year at the 22nd Air Force level and is in contention for the award Air Force-wide.

Other Airmen recognized were those who recently received a Community College of the Air Force degree and those who scored a 90 and above on their career development course exams.

Various representatives from throughout the wing took the stage—and screen—to brief a number of topics.

Equal Opportunity Director Maj. Terry Thomas addressed the Reserve Citizen Airmen on various issues including personal responsibility and the commander’s zero tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination. He also highlighted Women’s History Month and recognized the contribution women of the 403rd Wing make.

Senior Master Sgt. Mark Albright, 403rd Wing occupational safety manager, briefed the importance of boat safety and informed the wing on the local laws regarding operating a boat. In regards to the latest changes to hair standards for women, he also stated the importance of following the OSHA and Air Force Manual guidelines for women in maintenance along with other career fields to ensure safest practices.

Maj. Brittany Olivier, the 403rd Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response representative provided information regarding reporting procedures and classifications. For more information or to report an incident, contact SAPR at 228-377-7278 or the Chaplain at 228-377-0400.

Tech. Sgt. Alex Chung from the 81st Medical Group’s Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program spoke to the wing about resources available to reservists facing adverse effects of alcohol and/or drug use.

To conclude the call, wing leadership spoke including Vice Commander Col. Leslie Hadley who reminded the wing about the Air Force’s switch from Advanced Distributed Learning Service to myLearning and the importance of archiving training records, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Amanda J. Stift who provided information about the mandatory family care plans for members with dependents.

The wing commander expressed his optimism that, as long as the downward trend of COVID-19 cases continues and vaccination numbers rise, beginning in April, UTAs will be at full participation status once again. He also touched on upcoming UTAs including May’s mandatory status due to a Department of Defense-wide mandated stand down on extremism and a diversity and inclusion training event scheduled for the June UTA. To wrap things up, he spoke on the unprecedented year that was 2020.

“The year 2020 was a year that will live in history for many reasons for sure, but specifically for our wing, what an incredible year,” said Van Dootingh. “Even without the global pandemic what we accomplished was monumental. We started off with an exercise then began to get the 815th (AS) ready for their deployment. We knew early in the spring that there was the prediction of a busier than average hurricane season, and at least this time the weather people were right. We evacuated four times while supporting missions in the busiest season on record.”

Van Dootingh shared with the wing a letter of recognition from Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, AFRC commander, highlighting the job done by the 53rd WRS, maintainers and support personnel during the historic hurricane season.

“We also had our 36th AES be some of the first Airmen in the entire Air Force to be mobilized and put in the fight against COVID,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what this wing accomplished in 2020, and to do it all during a pandemic is nothing short of miraculous.”

The call concluded with a farewell to Stift, who is leaving for the Pentagon to work as an executive assistant to the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Van Dootingh presented her with the meritorious service medal.

“First off, you need to know that my accomplishments are your accomplishments,” Stift said, referring to the litany of accomplishments mentioned during the reading of her medaling ceremony. “It’s been a pleasure and I wouldn’t be a good chief if I didn’t teach you a little something before I walked off this stage: advancement is an opportunity, continue to grow Airmen, make it worthwhile, and keep developing. Thank you, Wing of Choice.”