AUGUSTA, Maine — The Outstanding Airman of the Year for Maine serves with the MAINEiacs — the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor — and is in the running for accolades at the national level and as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
Senior Airman Travis R. Stewart, who is part of the 101st security forces squadron, was named the 2011 State of Maine Outstanding Airman of the Year on Sunday at a ceremony held at the National Guard Armory.
“Senior Airman Stewart relentlessly seeks out challenges and meets them head on,” Capt. Devin Robinson, spokesman for the Maine Air National Guard, said in a statement. “His exemplary performance and professionalism contributed to his selection for high-profile security details involving senior military officials, civilian executives as well as presidential security.”
Stewart, who is training at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada for an upcoming overseas deployment was not at the ceremony, so Lt. Col. Joel Nadeau accepted the honor for him.
Established by the secretary of the Air Force in 1968 and first awarded in 1970, the Outstanding Airman of the Year program recognizes the top enlisted airmen in three categories: airman, noncommissioned officer and senior noncommissioned officer.
“It is the highest personal ribbon an airman can earn,” Robinson said.
Stewart was honored as the state’s top airman and the overall Outstanding Airman of the Year for the entire state, the captain said.
He was not the only member of the 101st honored. Master Sgt. Chad E. Smith, part of the 101st maintenance group, was named the Outstanding Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.
Smith said Sunday that he was honored by the award, but added, “I work with a great bunch of people who are equally deserving.”
Smith, who lives in Orono, joined the military after graduating high school in 1989.
“All through high school I wanted to join the Air Force, like my father,” he said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
His dad, Clint Smith, is a veteran who earned the rank of Staff Sergeant.
In addition to the 101st airmen, others from the 243rd Engineering and Installation Squadron and the 265th Combat Communications Squadron, both of South Portland, were honored.
Staff Sgt. Joel T. Crowley, from the 265th, was named the state’s Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year and Master Sgt. Howard H. Gooldrup III, of the 243rd, is Maine’s First Sergeant of the Year.
Maine Honor Guard member, Staff Sgt. Erin Ryan, also was honored after earning national accolades as the 2010 Honor Guard Member of the Year.
Gov. Paul LePage was the first sitting Maine governor to attend the annual Outstanding Airman of the Year ceremony and he originally was to be joined by Maj. Gen. John “Bill” Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, who was unable to attend, Robinson said.
Libby will retire from state service this month after a 44-year military career.
LePage thanked all of the men and woman in uniform at the ceremony “for their honorable and courageous service to our state and nation” and gave extra thanks to those honored on Sunday.
“All the award recipients today have shown exemplary character, loyalty, and dedicated service and they all deserve our thanks and praise for the sacrifices they make on our behalf,” the governor said.