JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
*Editor's note: for security reasons, some personnel are referred to by their first names* Four members of the 12th Flying Training Wing were recently honored at The Daughters of the American Revolution's Instructor Pilot/Aviators of the Year Awards ceremony, here.
Capt. Jay Park, 435th Fighter Training Squadron, and Staff Sgt. Judd, 558th Flying Training Squadron, both of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas; Capt. Brian Thalhofer, 455th Flying Training Squadron, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.; and Tech. Sgt. William C. Howell, 98th Flying Training Squadron, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. were all recipients of this year's awards.
Since 1957, the Texas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution has honored the 12th Flying Training Wing's Instructor Pilot of the Year.
The D.A.R. is a society composed of women who are descendants of any ancestor who "with unfailing loyalty, rendered material aid to the cause of independence as a recognized patriot, as soldier or sailor, or as a civil officer in one of the several colonies or states."
"Much has transpired in the past year for our military, but one thing that remains constant is the DAR's loyal and faithful support to our nation and military," said Col. Gerald Goodfellow, commander of the 12th Flying Training Wing. "You have supported Randolph and the 12th Flying Training Wing for 56 years--that is overwhelming. How can we ever thank you enough?"
The Instructor Navigator/Combat Systems Officer of the Year Award was presented to Park. A native of Moore, Okla., Park earned a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Oklahoma.
He has accrued more than 300 combat hours by flying the T-6, T-1, T-38 and F-15E and has deployed to Afghanistan and Djibouti.
"As one of only three instructor combat system officers, I find that my biggest challenge, but reward, is teaching and mentoring the combat system officers to become the weapons system officers the Strike Eagle community needs," said Park. "I'm proud to have been associated with people like the DAR in this small way and [I] thank my leadership during these times in supporting this award," said Park.
The Instructor Pilot of the Year Award was presented to Thalhofer. Hailing from Portland, Ore., Thalhofer attended Washington State University where he received a degree in criminal justice.
After college, Thalhofer joined the military following the lead of three generations of the Thalhofer family who had respective careers in the Army, Marines and Air Force.
"My job is busy, but endlessly rewarding whenever a student finally has that moment where the light bulb turns on," said Thalhofer. "You can literally see that instant where they finally truly understand something they have been struggling with. The other instructor pilots and I live for those moments."
For Thalhofer, winning the award was a surprise. "It was humbling to sit at the ceremony, talk to the other instructor pilots, and hear their stories and accomplishments. Truly, though I won, all of the other nominees were equally worthy of the award. It was also wonderful to meet all of the DAR representatives and thank them for their unceasing support of the Air Force and our country," said Thalhofer.
Receiving the Non-Powered Flight Instructor of the Year Award was Howell, a native of Fayette, Ala.
Wanting to share his passion and give back to the skydiving community, he became a jump instructor for the Air Force Academy's Airmanship program. Howell said "being a part of the cadets' growth from their first jump to winning medals at the U.S. Skydiving Nationals [competition] is extremely rewarding, but the best part is helping shape their character and leadership as they work toward becoming officers in the Air Force."
The final award, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Instructor of the Year, was awarded to Judd. He holds three associate degrees from the Community College of the Air Force; Associates in applied science in intelligence studies, air and space operations technology and an instructor of technology in military science.
He has followed in his grandfather's footsteps as he too served in the Air Force.
Judd has flown the MQ-18 and the MQ-9A totaling more than 1,880 hours.
"Keeping up with a constantly evolving technology to make sure our students are trained with the latest information and techniques are a challenge. RPA aviation changes at such a rapid pace, that ensuring students have the most up-to-date information is a constant challenge," said Judd.
"I am incredibly happy to see that RPA aviation now has a category, giving a new breed of aviators a chance at recognition. We are only going to grow and evolve over time and I applaud the DAR for recognizing the importance of this new era in flight. Being the first enlisted member to be recognized in this way is a monumental honor and I hope to maintain the standard of excellence associated with this award," said Judd.