Airman stands among the elite as Outstanding Airman of the Year

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Timothy Moore
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
With more than 400,000 enlisted active duty, Reserve and Guard Airmen, few get to tout the distinction of being honored as an Outstanding Airman of the Year.

Senior Airman Shabree Heasell, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, accomplished that honor this year while stationed here as an imagery analyst with the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center. Though, before she was put up for the award, she had not even heard of it.

"It's really exciting, but I guess it hasn't hit me yet," Heasell said. "Everyone keeps telling me how big of an accomplishment it is. My supervisor says it probably won't hit me until I go to the ceremony in September and see the big picture of what it is. Right now, I'm just trying to stay humble and do my job every day."

The OAY program was established at the Air Force Association's Tenth Annual National Convention in New Orleans in 1956. Outstanding enlisted members representing each major Air Force command and operating agency were invited to the convention as a means to highlight an Air Force military manpower crisis. Initially meant to be a one-time event, the program was so well received that it has continued as a way to recognize top performers.

The award recognizes Airmen for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.

Some of Heasell's highlights include developing secret service primary and alternate routes, which secured the visits of not only President Obama but also 223 other personnel; resolving 82 errors after being requested by her group commander to scrutinize more than 1,000 civilian timecards; co-authoring a new career field education and training plan, which aided in standardizing two Air Force specialty codes among other things.

"I love imagery more than anything I've ever done before," Heasell said. "I think I'm just really fortunate that I have a job that I love, which makes it really easy for me to do."

Heasell's enthusiasm is not just limited to her job. She also spends quite a bit of time volunteering.

"I think it's important to do stuff you are passionate about," Heasell said. "It's not about going to get a couple of hours, but to go do something you really want to do."

One of the things Heasell is passionate about is victim advocacy. Her passion has led her to spend more than 280 hours on-call and personally advised three victims as an advocate, but her energy isn't limited only to her passions.

"Whenever my supervisors or my chain of command would tell me about an opportunity and ask me if I was interested, I would never say no," she said. "If there was something that was important to them, I would always try to do it."

Behaving as such, Heasell volunteered 250 hours at 41 events with 12 organizations in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

She counts taking over as the co-chair for the Ramstein Officer's Spouse Club Bazaar committee among one of her greatest. According to Heasell, the previous chair asked her to take over as he had seen leadership qualities in her during previous volunteer events. She rallied more than 200 volunteers to raise $6,500 for the Air Force Ball, for which she also served as a chairman.

Heasell's accomplishments didn't end there. She finished a Community College of the Air Force degree in Intelligence Studies well ahead of the nine-year staff sergeant average rate of completion. She also completed two classes toward a master degree, having come into the Air Force with her bachelor's degree already. Additionally, Heasell completed and was certified on the Collateral Damage Estimate course, a qualification only eight percent of the Air Force intelligence community holds.

"I really have to give the credit to my leadership," Heasell said. "If I had to give someone advice on how to do this, it would be, 'Listen to your senior NCOs.' I was constantly asking my supervisors what was expected of me, how I am supposed to act, what would make you happy and what about my job do I really need to be good at. They just mentored me like crazy, and I would try to incorporate their experiences in my life.

"I'm always trying to be the best version of myself," Heasell continued. "I compete with myself the most, but it is the dedication of my leadership and the people around me that have helped me get to where I am today. You don't get awards or recognition by yourself."