Oregon guardsman is top graduate at NCO Academy

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mavi Smith
  • The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center
A member of the Oregon Air National Guard was presented the John L. Levitow award for her accomplishments at the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy during the class graduation ceremony at The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, Nov. 19.

Tech. Sgt. Rebekah L. Birt, a personnelist with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron in Portland, Oregon was the top graduate of 87 NCOs from the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and Coast Guard who attended Class 10-1.

The John L. Levitow Award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course. It is named for Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow for his actions during the Vietnam War. 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.

"It means a lot to me to receive this award," said Birt, who was a member of E-Flight. "It was a really great feeling to know that my peers and instructors voted for me. The credit goes to them because without them I definitely wouldn't have been this successful."

"Tech. Sgt. Birt was a very positive influence on the class," said Tech. Sgt. A. Ramey Stokes, the E-Flight instructor. "She was a great team mate and academic and she went above and beyond throughout the course. She's a really valuable asset."

The NCO Academy is a six-week in-residence course. It prepares technical sergeants to be professional, war-fighting Airmen who can manage and lead their units in the employment of air, space and cyberspace power. Students learn and study curriculum in the areas of the profession of arms, leadership and communication to build the skills they need for their current rank and to prepare for future responsibilities.

"It's been an incredible experience," said Birt. "Coming here I just thought I would gain basic Air Force knowledge...improve my writing skills, improve my public speaking skills but really what I came away with was more of an identity of who I am as a Tech Sgt. and a renewed sense of what it means to be a leader In the Air Force."

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.