California Military Department recognizes its best at annual banquet in Anaheim

The best soldiers, sailors and airmen in the California Military Department crossed the stage, Feb. 9, during the department’s annual Service Member of the Year Banquet in Anaheim, California.

Award nominees represented California Army National Guard, California Air National Guard, and California State Military Reserve units from throughout the state as they walked in the spotlight along a red carpet to the sounds of cheers and cowbells from the crowd of about 900.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, Adjutant General of the California Military Department, who, along with U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Thomas James, the California National Guard’s Command Senior Enlisted Leader, was visiting troops overseas and could not attend the dinner, sent a message to the nominees and audience members.

“This evening we celebrate the privilege of duty and particularly those who drive themselves to perform at their peak,” he wrote. “Chief and I congratulate all of the finalists for their commitment to duty anywhere on or around this planet.”

Of the 37 nominees, eight crossed the stage a second time to be coined by the department’s senior leaders and receive a trophy adorned with a replica of artist Daniel Chester French’s statue, “The Minute Man.”

The California Army National Guard recognized two soldiers with statewide honors.

U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Burns, a paralegal specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, 40th Infantry Division, was named Soldier of the Year, and Staff Sgt. Kory Simmons, a training noncommissioned officer and assistant operations sergeant with the California National Guard’s 95th Civil Support Team, was named Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Burns and Simmons were selected based on their performance as overall winners of the component’s annual state-level Best Warrior Competition, which was held in January. The pair advance to represent California during a regional Best Warrior Competition this spring.

Four airmen received top honors as the California Air National Guard’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kimberly Self, a financial management specialist with the 144th Fighter Wing, Fresno Air National Guard Base, was named the California Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

Master Sgt. Ashley Davis, an all-source intelligence analyst with the 234th Intelligence Squadron, 195th Wing, Beale Air Force Base, was named the California Air National Guard Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Master Sgt. Eric Hurley, a quality assurance inspector and advanced avionics craftsman with the 163d Maintenance Group, 163d Attack Wing, March Air Reserve Base, was named the California Air National Guard Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Senior Master Sgt. Donald Hedge, also from the 163d ATKW, serves as the wing’s headquarters first sergeant and was named the California Air National Guard First Sgt. of the Year.

The airmen advance to the Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year competition, with a possibility of representing the Guard in the Air Force-wide competition in late spring.

The California State Military Reserve also honored its best enlisted members during the event.

California State Military Reserve Staff Sgt. Ruben Ortiz, a platoon sergeant at Discovery Challenge Academy in Lathrop, was named the California State Military Reserve Service Member of the Year.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Binh Ton-That, a communications petty officer for North Shore Detachment One, Maritime Support Command, was named the California State Military Reserve Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

The winners, who were selected based on criteria set forth by their parent service, exude excellence and represent the finest traditions of military service, Baldwin said.

“Excellence is all around us because you never give up and you always give back.”

The article above by Senior Airman Crystal Housman, California National Guard Public Affairs was released through the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.