By Airman 1st Class Haley N. Blevins | 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Gen. Jay Raymond, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations and U.S. Space Command commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, USSF Senior Enlisted Advisor and USSPACECOM senior enlisted leader, visited Buckley June 17, 2020, for the first time ever as USSF senior leaders, to publicly recognize outstanding performers across the installation.
“I’m proud to recognize the achievements of Team Buckley for both their response and operational efforts during this global pandemic,” said Raymond. “It is because of the contributions from these teams that we stand ready to protect and defend our national interests during this crisis.”
Raymond and Towberman recognized outstanding performers from the 460th Operations Group, 460th Medical Group, 460th Space Wing, 460th Mission Support Group and the 140th Wing for their outstanding performance during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raymond selected and coined seven individuals from the installation for their vital roles in safeguarding the health of more than 98,000 Joint, Total Force, coalition personnel, retirees, dependents, and their families.
Lt. Col. Kerry Hirzel, 460th Operational Readiness Squadron public health officer, and Maj. Greg Trifilo, 460th Operational Readiness Squadron chief of Aerospace Medicine and public health emergency officer, were singled out for their contributions to Buckley’s response efforts. Hirzel and Trifilo led the 460th Space Wing’s medical and public health response to COVID-19, and advised base senior leaders on the Health Protection Condition and public health emergency actions. They also created the installation’s COVID-19 screening protocols and testing plan for mission essential space operators and developed and directed a public health team to isolate and investigate potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases at Buckley.
“Lt. Col. Hirzel and Maj. Trifilo have been an invaluable part of the response efforts during this global pandemic,” said Col. Shannon Phares, 460th Medical Group commander. “It’s people like them and their teams that have helped ensure the safety of Team Buckley and I couldn’t be more proud of everything that they and all of the medical group personnel have done during these uncertain times.”
Trifilo and Hirzel weren’t the only members singled out by Raymond, he also individually recognized 1st Lt Iulia DeMarco, 11th Space Warning Squadron Space-Based Infrared Radar Systems satellite engineer, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Stalter, 460th Cyberspace Squadron radio frequency transmission systems supervisor, Ms. Cinnamon S. Cisney, 460th Space Wing Command and Control chief, Staff Sgt. Craig Vonholtum and Airman 1st Class Mercy Olaka, both 140th Force Support Squadron services craftsmen.
“Lieutenant DeMarco led the wing’s herculean effort to ensure the readiness and uninterrupted operation of the nation’s strategic missile warning mission during the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus,” said Maj. Scott Wright, 11th Space Warning Squadron director of operations. “Her execution of more than 336 mission hours postured the wing to fight through a wartime or emergency situation and ensured constant global missile warning coverage.”
Additionally, she oversaw the delivery of more than 3,200 meals for members working on the operations floor, organized morale events and developed a 60-day stress management plan for crew members.
“Her response to this rapidly evolving virus helped in mitigating infections that could have impacted the strategic mission and operations of Buckley,” said Wright.
Stalter oversaw the completion of over 265 periodic maintenance inspections, troubleshooted a GSC-52 Satellite Communications Terminal and supervised and mentored his team during COVID-19 outbreak. His efforts resulted in error free communications for Team Buckley’s critical missions.
Cisney was coined by Raymond for her role in managing 15 controllers. Her team managed Air Force level programs that relayed critical personnel readiness information and provided visibility to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. She also identified requirements and provided recommendations to the Air Force Crisis Action Team for the COVID-19 Situational Readiness Report. Additionally, she’s credited in establishing the wing’s Standard Operating Procedures for collecting, preparing and submitting the operational readiness status of Team Buckley. Her role in advising the wing commander on how to sustain the mission in response to this global pandemic, were instrumental in continued successful mission operations.
Vonholtum and Olaka were the last members of Team Buckley to be recognized and coined by Raymond. They both expertly responded to short notice tasking to serve over 2,000 weekly meals for mission critical personnel. They also performed safety screenings of the dining facility, food handling and customers to minimize COVID-19 exposure.
After Raymond recognized some of Team Buckley’s outstanding performers, Towberman got the opportunity to do the same.
Towberman individually recognized Sara Bragg, 460th Force Support Squadron A-Basin Child Development Center assistant director, Denise Fergus, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron Chief, Housing Management, and Airman First Class Andrew Garavito for their outstanding performance.
“So excited we got to visit these total force Airmen,” said Towberman. “These quiet professionals of Team Buckley ensured the sustained superior performance and unwavering excellence of our space operations during the current global crisis.”
“I’m incredibly proud of these individuals and all of Team Buckley for what they’ve accomplished during this pandemic,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 460th Space Wing commander. “Their outstanding performance during these unprecedented times helped to protect base personnel and minimize the overall transmission of COVID-19 on this installation.”
During the visit, Raymond spontaneously administered the oath of office to Capt. Tasia Reed, a member of the 2nd Space Warning Squadron, who promoted to captain the day of the visit.
On behalf of the 52nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, Raymond presented an American flag to the 2 SWS missile warning crew who provided early warning of the Iranian ballistic missile attack that impacted Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. This early warning saved these members’ lives during their deployment earlier this year.
While recognizing the outstanding performance of 2nd Lt. William Gomez, 460th Space Wing public affairs officer, Raymond called Gomez’s wife, Veronica to thank her for the support she provided to the wing during the COVID-19 pandemic as a Wing Staff Agency key spouse. She made and delivered masks for members of Team Buckley to wear to help safeguard the community against the global pandemic.
Additionally, Congressman Jason Crow, representing Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, encompassing Aurora and parts of Adams and Douglas Counties, joined General Raymond and CMSgt Towberman on the visit to Team Buckley. During this time, Crow took this opportunity to meet and greet his constituents who work and live on the installation.
“Bottomline, this visit went very, very well,” said Pepper. “It has been a couple of years since Gen. Raymond has been to Buckley, and you all certainly made it a very memorable visit for the USSF leadership team. Thank you to everyone!”