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Public Affairs wins AF award

By James Coburn | 37th Training Wing | Nov. 16, 2006

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — Lackland's media relations program and its chief, who "do the right thing when no one's looking," are being recognized at the Air Force level. 

The 37th Training Wing Public Affairs media relations program and wing PA Chief of News Oscar Balladares recently were named recipients of 2005 Air Force Public Affairs Achievement Awards. 

In the band category, one of the PA triad along with broadcasting, another winner from Lackland is Master Sgt. Richard Beshears, director of operations for the Air Force Band of the West. 

"Awesome news to all of you," Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, 37th TRW commander, said of the PA media relations award, and also congratulated Mr. Balladares and Sergeant Beshears on the individual awards at the Air Force level. "That's fantastic!" 

Lt. Col. Toni Kemper, 37th TRW PA director, noting that efforts of the entire office won the media relations award, said: "It's gratifying to see the efforts of the staff recognized at the Air Force level. And for this staff to earn two Air Force-level awards is, I would venture to say, unprecedented and definitely well deserved, based on the initiatives of the past year." 

Colonel Kemper said the PA office successfully managed big media events such as the expansion of Air Force Basic Military Training and the Basic Combat Convoy Course, as well as responding to the needs of media covering the unprecedented evacuations to Lackland of victims from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But she believed it is the diversity of the media relations program that was recognized, including such things as hosting international media visiting from Korea and the Czech Republic; operating ongoing programs, like the quarterly squadron commander media training program that is probably unique in the Air Force, and the hometown news program of trainees graduating from BMT, along with letters signed by General Hertog sent to parents and spouses; and the weekly advisory, which has generated an average of three positive Lackland news stories a week. 

"Crisis response always makes an overall package strong," Colonel Kemper said. "However, my personal opinion is, what really makes a program is your daily management. Just about any group can rise to the occasion in a crisis, an emergency; but it's the 'doing the right thing when no one's looking' type of actions that really make a program strong. I would say the media relations program is the complete package."
Regarding Mr. Balladares being named the Outstanding Intermediate Grade Civilian (GS 9 to 11) of a Wing, Colonel Kemper said, "I'm extremely happy that Oscar's efforts and accomplishments are recognized at the Air Force level. It's quite an accomplishment," she said, noting he was competing against chief PAs in other wings. "His leadership and dedication were justly rewarded." 

Mr. Balladares said he was "delightfully surprised," but began by saying, "I think it's a great reflection on the people in the office, because as everybody well knows, you don't win awards by yourself; it's a team effort." 

An Air Force civilian for 23 years, the past five handling media at Lackland and before that, at Kelly AFB, he said it's his first Air Force-level award. "I am very appreciative, first of all of even having been considered, and having actually won at the top level - it's a great honor." 

He thought the recognition was the product of a set of circumstances that included high-profile media events that happened throughout the year, such as expansion of BMT and BC3, along with "unfortunate circumstances" of two hurricanes. Also, he said, national notice was received with the television series on the pararescue training pipeline that begins at Lackland. 

"Our goal in the media division is to keep pushing our programs and bring much-needed publicity to some very deserving programs," Mr. Balladares said of "bringing them to the limelight of the American public." It's an everyday thing, he said. "Things change in the Air Force quite rapidly, and it's just a matter of keeping the American public abreast of that, and that's through the media." 

Sergeant Beshears, named the Outstanding Band Senior Noncommissioned Officer, said, "I was pretty amazed by it, actually. It's just a huge recognition."
The sergeant believed he was recognized because "I worked very, very hard" to schedule 350 performances and tour plans as director of operations for the Air Force Band of the West while at the same time being a very busy instrumentalist for several band ensembles. 

What makes being director of operations especially challenging, he said, "is the instrument I play. I'm a bass player (bass guitar, string bass). Bass players tend to play an awful lot at different ensembles," which he said include the concert band, jazz band, a popular group called the Warhawk and in protocol events for senior officers. "So between all of those, I have a pretty heavy performance schedule."