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News | April 8, 2024

Wisconsin Air Guard names Outstanding Airmen of Year

By Vaughn R. Larson

Airmen from New Lisbon, Milwaukee, Caledonia, Suring and Oostburg have been recognized as the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2023.

Staff Sgt. Boaz Rodriguez, a vehicle maintainer with the 128th Air Control Squadron, is the Airman of the Year. Tech Sgt. Charles Call, an air transportation craftsman with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, is the Noncommissioned Officer of the year. Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Nelson, an aircraft maintenance squadron flight chief with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, is the Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Master Sgt. Andrea Rhode of the 115th Fighter Wing is the First Sergeant of the Year. And 2nd Lt. Benjamin Doss, a maintenance operations officer with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, is the Officer of the Year.

Chief Master Sgt. Chad Workman, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted advisor, said the Airmen represent “the best of the best” from across Wisconsin.

“They exemplified our commanders’ priorities, focusing on improving our posture for great power competition, while meeting the intent of the National Defense Strategy,” Workman said. “Additionally, finding those Airmen who went above and beyond to help with our current recruitment crisis was imperative for our future success.”

Rodriguez grew up on an apple orchard in the Cashton, Wisconsin area, and joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard more than four years ago to serve while remaining close to home. A civilian diesel mechanic by trade, he said he was fortunate to land the vehicle maintainer position with the Air Control Squadron when it opened. He moved to New Lisbon when he was hired for the full-time Guard position.

“My job mainly consists of working on our tactical fleet of 5-ton trucks, Humvees, mobilizers and tactical trailers to support the 128th Air Control Squadron,” Rodriguez said. “Also, convoy planning and transport of equipment, and planning training for our drill-status Guardsmen for our annual training and regularly scheduled drills.”

Call, who has spent his entire 11-year military career with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, is responsible for organizing, inspecting, preparing, sequencing and loading cargo and passengers on and off Defense Department aircraft. The Milwaukee resident offered some advice for other Airmen who want to be nominated for Airman of the Year.

“Be involved in as many things as you can,” Call said. “If you have the opportunity to support the mission at your home station while also collaborating with state, National Guard, Department of Defense and allied organizations, you should pursue those opportunities.”

Call also urged Airmen to remember that their actions support the unit mission and vision statements, Air Force core missions and the national security strategy.

Nelson will mark his 20th anniversary in the Wisconsin Air National Guard this December. He serves on the leadership team which is responsible for 10 KC-135 refuelers and 54 crew chiefs. He said his role is to ensure both the aircraft and personnel maintain readiness, that Airmen are current in their training, and that they embrace rapidly evolving warfighting tactics.

Rhode has served for 14 years — 12 in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Much of her time was in public affairs, where she said she felt comfortable.

“Then came the first sergeant opportunity,” she said on social media after learning that she had been named the 115th Fighter Wing’s First Sergeant of the Year — a precursor to the state title. “I’m so glad my wing leadership was persistent and ensured I put my package in. What I didn’t know then was that taking a leap of faith and having the honor to work with our 115th Security Forces team was exactly what I needed.”

Doss, an Oostburg, Wisconsin resident, has served for 20 years. He said his nomination reflects innovations he is implementing to upgrade and improve the Refueling Wing’s KC -135 aircraft, as well as preparing the wing’s aircraft and members for the Air Force deployment model. He added that being recognized as Officer of the Year is not a one-man job.

“It takes a team,” Doss said. “I have many highly skilled men and women that help me achieve any one of my goals.”

Rodriguez agreed with that sentiment.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this job, and wouldn’t be here, without the support of not only my Air Force family but friends and family that have supported me throughout my career so far,” he said.

Call said unrelenting collaboration results in being named an Outstanding Airman.

“I cannot overstate the amount of support I received from my leadership, peers and subordinates throughout the year for which I was recognized,” he said. “I am grateful to them.”

Rhode said she could not have been named First Sergeant of the Year without guidance from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s first sergeant council, 115th Fighter Wing leadership, and her teammates.

“Thank you to my 115th Security Forces team for pushing me to reach goals I didn’t know were obtainable,” she said. “This one is for you.”

Workman said “we couldn’t be prouder” of the Outstanding Airmen of the Year.