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Iowa guardsman is ALS top graduate

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Senior Airman Brennan M. Gill, right, receives the John L. Levitow honor award for Airman Leadership School Class 12-6 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center from Timothy J. Cathcart, commander, July 19, 2012. The John L. Levitow award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

Senior Airman Brennan M. Gill, right, receives the John L. Levitow honor award for Airman Leadership School Class 12-6 at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center from Timothy J. Cathcart, commander, July 19, 2012. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- A member of the Iowa Air National Guard was presented the John L. Levitow award for her accomplishments at Airman Leadership School during the class graduation ceremony at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center here, July 19.

Senior Airman Brennan M. Gill, a services journeyman assigned to the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa was the top graduate of 30 airmen from around the Air National Guard who attended class 12-6.

Designed to prepare senior airmen for positions of greater responsibility, Airman Leadership School strengthens the ability to lead, follow, and manage by providing many of the leadership skills required of military supervisors.

The John L. Levitow Award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course. It is presented to the one student who not only demonstrates academic excellence, but also the outstanding attributes of leadership, enthusiasm, military bearing, and dedication to the spirit and mission of the total Air Force. It is based on objective testing, performance evaluations, demonstrated leadership, and student and instructor points.

"I'm totally surprised," said Gill, who was a member of B-Flight. "It means a lot that my peers thought I was a good leader."

"Senior Airman Gill is very deserving of this award," said Staff Sgt. Kristal Coleman, Gill's flight instructor. "Not only has she shown the behavior of wanting to excel academically and leadership wise, but she also has a unifying quality to her.

Gill said she enjoyed her experience at Airman Leadership School and learned a lot about herself and others.

"It's given me an open mind what a good leader is, how I personally want to use my leadership abilities and not take advantage of my leadership," Gill said.
Gill's constant energy and attitude made her an early contender for the award, Coleman said.

"She has an energy that doesn't quit," said Coleman. "She's consistently energetic. It brings natural energy to all those around her."

In her spare time, Gill enjoys exercising her artistic abilities. As a student at ALS those abilities contributed to her success as a leader.

After each days lesson, Gill and fellow students created storyboard visual aids to help classmates remember the day's important information.

Her artistic abilities helped create the visual reminders to assist not only herself but classmates as well.

"I believe that helped a lot of the students to be successful," Coleman said. "She would even help other students', it wasn't a single effort for her. She just led the way."

Gill plans to continue her education. She is currently a full-time student, pursuing a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

The John L. Levitow award is named in honor of Sgt. John L. Levitow, one of only two Air Force enlisted men to receive the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Levitow received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on Feb. 24, 1969. Serving as a loadmaster on an AC-47 gunship over Long Binh, South Vietnam, his aircraft was severely damaged by mortar fire. Suffering from over 40 shrapnel wounds to his back and legs, he saw a smoking magnesium flare amid a pile of spilled ammunition canisters. Despite loss of blood and partial loss of feeling in his right leg, he threw himself on the flare, hugged it close, dragged himself to an open cargo door and hurled the flare out. Almost immediately, the flare ignited harmlessly. Levitow's actions saved the aircraft and the lives of seven crewmembers.