Indiana’s Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year MSgt Anthony Johnston with his wife Marilyn, and three children Kaitlin, Alexandria and Jack.
Indiana’s Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year MSgt Anthony Johnston with his wife Marilyn, and three children Kaitlin, Alexandria and Jack.
122nd Fighter Wing airmen filed in and packed the Wing Building’s Maxwell Hall at the Fort Wayne Air National Guard base on Sunday, April 18th at 1100 to pay tribute to a few selected and honored Airmen. LtCol David Lombard, 122nd Fighter Wing Executive Officer, opened the ceremony with a welcome to members, distinguished visitors, and families.

Brigadier General J. Stewart Goodwin and Command Chief Master Sergeant Darrell Newman presented the 2009 State Outstanding Airman of the Year awards.

“We are here today to recognize some of the highest levels of leadership in the state of Indiana. This is one of the “fun” things we get to do—recognizing at a state level,” said base commander Colonel Jeff Soldner. “And Indiana Hoosiers have the greatest men and women ever trained- right here in Fort Wayne. I am happy and proud to present these awards.”

“Master Sergeant Anthony E. Johnston is recognized today as Indiana’s Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year for several reasons. He is an amazing MXG [maintenance group] leader with a non-stop work ethic-driven to complete each and every mission. He helped convert the Performance Feedback Process from neglected to effective-now 100% compliant. Helped develop and implement MXG’s first-ever squadron-level Family Readiness Program for deployment support. Outstanding results with 100% compliance for all 1st Sgt items on ACC (Air Combat Command) UCI (Unit Compliance Inspection-ability and preparedness to fight) making the Wing’s 1st UCI in over 10 years.

“Johnston’s leadership is recognized and respected across the 122nd Fighter Wing.

“He is renowned for identifying and leading fundraising efforts for military members tackling unfortunate situations. Routinely he coordinated and organized soup cook-offs, breakfasts, and other events providing vital aid and support. Johnston is a natural at setting an example, mentoring, and developing Airman and NCOs,” reported Lombard.

Before the ceremony I asked 1st Sgt Johnston a few questions:

Why did you join the Air Force?

I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the Marines fighting in Korea when he was 17. I went to a funeral of a young man from our church who was killed in Vietnam when I was 7. I knew I wanted to serve. I believed at the time (and still do) that the men and women that fought in Vietnam were fighting for our Country. I wanted to be part of that. I had 8 uncles who served in the armed forces.

Where did you get your training?

I enlisted August 31, 1984. Did my basic training in Lackland, TX, then on to Lowery AFB in Denver, CO for 7 months of technical school, and back to Fort Wayne Baer Field for 90 days of on-the-job training, and then I was hired.

I know that you have been on several deployments, what was your position on your last tour?

I’ve been all over the United States for deployments. I’ve also been on every overseas deployment that the 122nd Fighter Wing has been involved in since I enlisted. Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Panama, Kuwait, Singapore, Saudi Arabia (twice), Qatar, and three trips to Iraq.

I deployed as an Avionics Technician working on the F-16 on my last tour.

What was the highlight of your service?

I would have to say that my work in the hospital in Iraq was some of the most difficult, disturbing and rewarding of my career, really of my whole life. I still have trouble talking about it, and many of the things that happened there stay with me to this day.

Within the Air Force do you have a mentor?

I’d really hate to try to pick anyone out, because I wouldn’t want to miss anyone, I’ve had several people over the years that have had an impact on my career-and my life. MSgt Doug Rood (retired) was the one that inspired me to be a First Sergeant. He was the epitome of a Shirt, he lived the Air Force motto, “Integrity First, Service before Self, Excellence In All We Do.” Ed Merz is one of the many people that have helped me along in life-he is an Army veteran I met when we started going to St. Joseph’s Hessen Cassel. He listens well and gives good advice. Doctor Don Giant has had a large impact on my life as well. We disagree on a lot of things politically, but he’s taught me about acceptance of other ideas, and standing up for what I believe in. He’s an inspiring father figure to me.

And of course, my dad, set a pretty high standard for me. We are different, but a lot alike. My mother has also had a very large impact on my life. She supports me and keeps me moving in the right direction, even today. I’ve lived a very full and rewarding life. I continually strive to become a better person, yet I have setbacks. There are a lot of people who have helped me along the way.

And finally, I wouldn’t be where I am without the love and support of my wife Marilyn, and my children, Kaitlin, Alexandria and Jack. The past several years of recovery from a traumatic brain injury I sustained in Iraq have been very difficult for all of us. My family has really helped me through, even when there have been times when I’ve thought about just driving away. If it wasn’t for my family, I could have easily given up. I’ve often said that going to Iraq was harder on my family than it was on me. Even with all the modern communications (which we didn’t have back when I started here) it still is hard to keep everyone updated.

When asked about his accomplishments MSgt Johnston humbly said, “… my award, much like everything else we do here, is a “team” effort. For every hour I spent doing something that helped get me recognized (especially in cases where I was doing my first sergeant job when I was on duty for my other, full-time job) someone else was in my shop picking up my slack. In my line of work, especially when we are deployed in a combat zone, you have to count on others to watch your back, and you do the same. No one keeps score. It’s just that in this instance, a lot of people contributed to this effort and award, it just so happens I was the one that received it.”

As I was escorted off the 122nd Fighter Wing Air Base on Ferguson Road, MSGT Darin Hubble said, “Johnston is a perfect blend of toughness, compassion and mission dedication. He truly deserves this honor.”

The Waynedale News Staff
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