Excellent Airmen of the 12 months: Tech. Sgt. Michelle Fernandez

The Air Pressure’s 12 Excellent Airmen of the 12 months for 2023 can be formally acknowledged at AFA’s Air, House & Cyber Convention from Sept. 11-13 in Nationwide Harbor, Md. Air & House Forces Journal is highlighting one every weekday from now till the convention begins. In the present day, we honor Tech. Sgt. Michelle Fernandez, the Noncommissioned Officer in Cost (NCOIC) of the Marine Patrol Unit with the sixth Safety Forces Squadron at MacDill Air Pressure Base, Fla.

Again in 2018, when she was a employees sergeant in her eighth yr of service, Fernandez headed to Primary Navy Coaching to change into a Grasp Navy Coaching Teacher. She referred to as her time and experiences at BMT probably the most difficult of her Air Pressure profession, but in addition probably the most formative.

Management comes naturally to her—even whereas she was the one being instructed at BMT, she was holding clinics to coach different MTIs, NCOs, and senior NCOs throughout eight squadrons. After changing into a Blue Rope and receiving her grasp teacher badge, she spent 4 years at BMT “coaching the trainers” because the NCOIC for the 331st Coaching Squadron.

“All of these abilities all through my 4 years there [led] me to have the ability to put extra into my administration and management abilities,” Fernandez stated. 

Fernandez returned to safety operations in 2022 when she moved to MacDill Air Pressure Base, instantly filling the position of Safety Forces Flight Sergeant. Managing a group of 27 Airmen, she led U.S. Strategic Command’s (STRATCOM) annual Nuclear Operational Readiness Train, incomes 12 accolades for the sixth Air Refueling Wing.

“I received into the regulation and recognized sure discrepancies that weren’t going down throughout that point, and I made these corrections on the spot,” she stated. “It undoubtedly was a step up from the earlier yr.”

She was later chosen to steer the Air Pressure’s sole 24/7 marine patrol unit, which not solely oversees regulation enforcement all through MacDill’s 7.2-mile-long coastal restricted space, but in addition performs search-and-rescue missions. The unit responds to every thing from distressed vessel indicators to hurricane emergencies and shark sightings. Because the unit’s NCOIC, Fernandez led her group by 5 drug- and immigration-related vessel seizures in 2022, leading to 27 criminals arrested and two lives saved.

U.S. Air Pressure Tech. Sgt. Michelle Fernandez, sixth Safety Forces Squadron marine patrol lead, middle, stands for a photograph together with her marine patrol part at MacDill Air Pressure Base, Florida, June 30, 2023. U.S. Air Pressure picture by Senior Airman Joshua Hastings

She additionally orchestrated MacDill’s first-ever Operation Neptune Storm, a multi-jurisdictional present of pressure made up of 17 vessels from the Coast Guard, the Tampa police division, and different maritime regulation enforcement companies. The fleet she assembled confirmed off the rapid-response and assault capabilities inside Florida’s Western Peninsula.

Whereas Fernandez has certainly made a reputation for herself in holding others protected and safe, she credit her mates, household, and wingmen for being the system that frequently helps her all through her personal challenges.

“All people in life goes by struggles,” she stated, referring to the troublesome experiences she confronted throughout BMT. “It was the help of my household [that got me through]. It was the help of my mentors. And it was help of the wingmen, my teammates that labored round me, that actually didn’t let me crumble, didn’t enable [that] problem [to] defeat me.”

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Fernandez

Fernandez referred to as 2022 probably the most superb yr of her profession, all due to the folks round her and the religion they’ve in her as a frontrunner. And since that tremendous yr led to her recognition as one of many Air Pressure’s Excellent Airmen of 2023, she desires others to know that success can’t be achieved alone.

“By no means surrender,” Fernandez stated. “If you’re confronted with any challenges, have your second. [Then] the subsequent day, develop a plan on how you’ll bounce again. Use the folks in your life—whether or not it’s household, mates, or folks at work—to carry you accountable and just be sure you’re bouncing again the best way you wish to.”

Meet the opposite Excellent Airmen of the 12 months for 2023 under: