Tennessee Airman of the Year is top graduate

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mavi Smith
  • The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center
A member of the Tennessee Air National Guard received the John L. Levitow award for her accomplishments at Airman Leadership School during the class graduation ceremony on the campus of The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, May 20.

Senior Airman Jessica N. Webb, a command post controller with the 118th Airlift Wing in Nashville, Tenn., and the recently selected 2009 Tennessee Air National Guard Airman of the Year, was the top graduate of 66 Airmen who attended Class 10-3.

"She is an amazing troop," said Senior Master Sgt. Doug Patterson, command post superintendent and Webb's supervisor, who traveled from Nashville to attend the ceremony. "She's shown excellence throughout her career so far and this is just one more step in her journey. She doesn't go halfway in anything and her actions and this award speaks for itself."

The John L. Levitow award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course. Named for Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow, it is presented to the one student who not only demonstrates academic excellence, but also the outstanding attributes of leadership, military bearing, and dedication to the mission and spirit of the total Air Force.

Webb said attending Airman Leadership School has been one of the best experiences of her military and civilian life.

The five-week course is the first level of professional military education for enlisted members. Lessons in communications, resource management, problem solving, teamwork and more prepare senior airmen for positions of greater responsibility.

When she is not serving her unit as a traditional guardsman, Webb teaches history to middle and high school students. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University, where she graduated summa cum laude, an academic distinction for "with highest honors".

"Her educational background and experience had her pre-loaded for success," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Grumbach, the Airman Leadership School superintendent and Webb's flight instructor. "From day one, she stood out."

Grumbach said he enjoyed watching her go into what he called teacher-mode, "I'd walk into class and she would have a study plan together focused on the people that were struggling. What she did great was she used her talents to help others. She was a tremendous asset to the class."

"I think each of us has something to give," said Webb of her contributions to the success of her flight. "What I love about the Air Force is they really want to take all those individual strengths and bring them out to improve the team."

"It's really important for me to contribute what I have," she added. "I'm not an athlete, I'm not the fastest runner, but I am a teacher and I love teaching, and that's something I can give...and somebody else can help me improve my run time."

Webb said that while she enjoyed learning the Airman Leadership School curriculum, "the most important thing I'll take away from this course is the relationships we developed with each other and the teams we formed."

"It was a humbling experience," said Webb of her win. "I didn't really expect it so I was honored to be selected."

Webb's John L. Levitow award follows her selection as the 2009 Tennessee Air National Guard Airman of the Year. She will go on to compete at the national level later this year.

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.