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Air Reserve technician named AETC civilian instructor of the year

| 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs | April 15, 2016

Maj. Brandon LaValley had a big surprise April 1 and it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day trick played by the gathering of fellow Airmen from the AETC, 340th Flying Training Group, 39th Flying Training Squadron, and 435th Fighter Training Squadron at the 435th’s hangar on Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

LaValley, an Air Reserve technician and assistant flight commander, won AETC Flying Training Civilian Instructor of the Year for 2015. 

Air Reserve technicians are full-time civilian employees who serve as Air Force Reserve members one weekend each month and two weeks annually. LaValley, whose Air Force Reserve unit is the 39th FTS and the 340th FTG, wears a flight suit full time. He is the only ART that flies with the 435th FTS.

The soft-spoken instructor pilot, originally from Pryor, Okla., was entrusted with high-visibility missions like training the Hungarian air force and a leadership role as a student flight commander in support of his active duty unit. 

“Major LaValley volunteered to be a student flight commander because he deeply cares about our mission. You can’t buy that kind of commitment,” said Lt. Col. Mark Schmidt, 435th FTS commander.

LaValley was entrusted with high visibility missions and a unique leadership role for Reservists throughout the year, and his response exceeded expectations.

His success rate for on-time graduations, as well as feedback from his students and peers, consistently placed LaValley at the top. LaValley was first among 54 instructor pilots in his own 39th FTS and he was selected as IP of the year. 

In 2015, he led a NATO training mission in Hungary that was credited for achieving the close air support capacity it needed to be a viable partner in NATO. He went on to teach 12 joint terminal attack controllers according to standards that allowed their operational support for forces in Afghanistan.

LaValley, a 2003 Air Force Academy graduate, applied his knowledge of adversary tactics to replicate enemy fighters. He led the development of a fighter training unit capability that tests F-22 pilots from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. 

He continuously shared his skill for resource management to improve the personal lives of his fellow Airmen. Likewise, he spent time optimizing the syllabus to improve training flow.

While his pilot and instructor accomplishments are inspiring, his 2015 professional development session with his wingmen and Bank of America executives was a keystone event for both Reserve and active duty Air Force, Schmidt said.

LaValley and his team of wingmen joined forces with Bank of America to help pack lunches at the San Antonio Food Bank.

“A lot of children rely on school lunches for their daily nutritional needs and when school is out, their needs are unfulfilled,” LaValley said.

Their effort broke the single-day food-packing record for the San Antonio Food Bank. More than 39,000 meals helped more than 3,000 families in San Antonio, LaValley said.

“It was our way of giving back, discreetly,” LaValley said.