Illinois Airman earns Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year recognition

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Charles Helmholt
  • 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
There may not be one perfect Guardsman in the United States, but there is one Illinois Guardsman who was recognized as the best noncommissioned officer (NCO) in the country by the Air National Guard.

Illinois Air National Guardsman Tech. Sgt. Jacob Curtis of Fairview Heights, with the 126th Security Forces Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, was recently named one of the 2012 Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

Curtis discovered he won this award March 16, 2012, with a direct phone call from Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, who congratulated him on his nationally recognized award.

"It was so surreal at first," said Curtis. "It felt like my head was floating."

He won the highest national achievement the Air National Guard has to offer and now is in the running to be one of the Air Force's 2012 Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

Curtis won the NCO of the Quarter, third quarter 2011, Squadron NCO of the Year in 2008 and 2011, Mission Support Group NCO of the Year 2011, 126th Air Refueling Wing NCO of the Year 2011, and 2012 Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year in the NCO category.

"Technical Sgt. Jacob Curtis is a gifted and giving professional and is most deserving of this crowning achievement," said Col. Peter Nezamis of Belleville, commander of the 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott Air Force Base. "Technical Sgt. Curtis and his family have endured long and painful separations countless times in support of overseas operations. I couldn't be more pleased with the honor of having Tech. Sgt. Curtis and his family represent the 126th Air Refueling Wing as one of the Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year."

Curtis is the noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the plans section for the Illinois Air National Guard's 126th Security Forces Squadron. He is also the information security officer and client support administrator, all while performing his primary job as a security forces officer.

"He is a go-getter," said Tech. Sgt. Salvador Silva of Belleville, the 126th Security Forces' acting first sergeant. "He wants to be a part of everything and always wants more responsibility; this shows in his job here, and with his level of education."

Curtis grew up a military child. His father James retired as a lieutenant colonel at Scott AFB and has called southern Illinois home since he was 15. He attended high school in O'Fallon.

Staff Sgt. Steven J. Ask of Shiloh, NCOIC of combat arms for the 126th has known Curtis since high school, and now serves in the same unit with him.

"I've really gotten to know him since joining the unit," said Ask. "He is one of the first people I call if I need something here, and one of the few people I feel I can talk to about anything. His work ethic is above and beyond most other peoples. He completely looks after others, his troops, his friends, even if he didn't know the person he would look out for them."

Perhaps this quality might best be justified from an event that took place on Curtis' recent deployment to Afghanistan.

While serving as the battle NCO at the Joint Defense Operations Center at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, a nearby building was hit by indirect enemy rocket fire. The blast killed two local nationals and wounded three. In addition, two Airmen were also injured.

Noticing the closest Airmen to the blast had to retain security along the base's wall to guard against a follow up attack, Curtis sprang into action. He was among the first to reach the building and found one of the wounded Airman. The Airman had a broken leg that had lacerated his femoral artery.

Curtis administered aid by tying a tourniquet around the downed Airman's leg to help stop the bleeding, and waited to help carry him out until emergency medical technicians arrived. He was awarded a certificate of appreciation for his actions that day.

Curtis insists his entire unit should receive this award and that he just embodies his unit's commitment to excellence. And, although it may be true there are many great Airmen like Curtis, he has more than proven himself for this award to his peers, his friends and his superiors.

"We are all extremely proud of him," said Ask. "Having him here serves as an example of what a person in the Guard can achieve and he inspires us to strive for that level of achievement."

Curtis said he looks forward to his career and new challenges.

"I hope to continue on my career path and try to stay at this level of achievement. I'm at the top right now so it'll be a challenge, but a challenge I'm definitely looking forward to taking on," he said.