HomeNewsFeatures

Feature Search

182nd Airlift Wing announces 2019 Airmen of the Year

Photo illustration of 182nd Airlift Wing’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2019.

Pictured are the 182nd Airlift Wing’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2019: From left, Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year Master Sgt. Brad Wheeler, a first sergeant with the 182nd Airlift Wing; Outstanding Airman of the Year Staff Sgt. Randle Taborn, a fire protection specialist with the 182nd Civil Engineer Squadron; Outstanding Senior NCO of the Year Senior Master Sgt. Melissa Grice, a base contracting specialist with the 182nd Mission Support Group; and Outstanding NCO of the Year Tech. Sgt. Hugh McCorkle, a security forces specialist with the 182nd Security Forces Squadron. The annual Outstanding Airman of the Year awards program seeks to recognize Airmen based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer) (This image is a composite of multiple photos using several blending effects.)

A security forces specialist is pictured on patrol.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Hugh McCorkle, a security forces specialist with the 182nd Security Forces Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, is pictured on patrol at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., Jan. 13, 2019. McCorkle was the wing’s 2019 Outstanding NCO of the Year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Grabiec)

A fire protection specialist places an axe in a fire truck.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Randle Taborn, a fire protection specialist with the 182nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, places an axe in a fire truck at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., Jan. 12, 2019. Taborn was the 2019 Outstanding Airman of the Year for the wing and the Illinois Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Grabiec)

A first sergeant with a wing member during an office visit.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Bradley Wheeler, a first sergeant with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, visits with a wing member during an office visit at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., Jan. 13, 2019. Wheeler was the wing’s 2019 Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Grabiec)

A base contracting officer poses with a copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Melissa Grice, a base contracting officer with the 182nd Mission Support Group, Illinois Air National Guard, poses with a copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulation in her office at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., Jan. 12, 2019. Grice was the 2018 Senior NCO of the Year at both the wing and state levels. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Grabiec)

PEORIA, Ill. -- Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do: The Air Force core values provide a guide for all Airmen to follow, and these values are represented best by those honored as the annual Outstanding Airmen of the Year for the 182nd Airlift Wing.

The 182nd Airlift Wing’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2019 are: 

Staff Sgt. Randle Taborn, Outstanding Airman of the Year

Tech. Sgt. Hugh McCorkle, Outstanding NCO of the Year

Senior Master Sgt. Melissa Grice, Outstanding Senior NCO of the Year

Master Sgt. Brad Wheeler, Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year


Senior Master Sgt. Melissa Grice, a base contracting officer with the 182nd Mission Support Group, also won at the state level and said both distinctions were great honors.

“Contracting officers are important because we supply our air fighters with anything they need to support and complete their mission,” she said. “This job is very interesting and exciting, because you don’t always know what somebody is going to request, and [to] figure out how to go and get that item for the person can be a challenge.”

Grice’s role in contracting meant assisting in plans for a new firehouse for the wing, and directly impacted by that was Staff Sgt. Randle Taborn, a fire protection specialist with the 182nd Civil Engineer Squadron, whom also won at both the wing and Illinois Air National Guard levels.

“I originally wanted to be a firefighter because my uncle was and I’ve always looked up to him, and I just think they’re cool,” he said. “I really like helping people, so it fits my personality.”

Having recently joined the NCO ranks, Taborn shared advice for those incoming Guardsmen who want to find the same kind of success.

“For Airmen coming back from tech school, I think they should listen to everything their supervisor says and try to find that person to mimic that you can look up to, who is doing their job the right way,” he said. “Always try to be the best in what you do by setting goals to give yourself something to reach for and aspire to.”

The NCO-tier recipient, a security forces specialist with the 182nd Security Forces Squadron, said he finds his position to be a rewarding challenge.

“In this role as an NCO, it’s very important that you can be a leader and a follower at certain times,” Tech. Sgt. Hugh McCorkle said. “I think you need to lead by example. If I’m going to tell my Airmen to do something, then I need to be able to meet those expectations — not just for my troops, but for myself. As far as being a follower, I try to learn as much as I can from senior NCOs or other NCOs around me through observation.”

The recipient of the first sergeant tier, the 182nd Airlift Wing’s Master Sgt. Bradley Wheeler, said it’s important for Airmen to remember the first sergeant isn’t just there to discipline them when they get in trouble.

“The first sergeant is really there to help you get through your issues so that your house is in order when it’s time to go,” he said. “Don’t hesitate to reach out to your first sergeant if you have a problem, because a lot of times bigger problems can be avoided if you go and talk to your first sergeant first.”

The annual Outstanding Airman of the Year awards program seeks to recognize Airmen based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements. Award recipients are selected by a board, awarded at the unit and wing levels before wing-level winners are submitted to compete statewide at the Illinois Air National Guard headquarters.