By Senior Airman Rhonda Smith
/ Published May 18, 2021
The Honorable John Roth, acting secretary of the Air Force, center left, and Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University commander and president, center right, stand with recipients of the 2021 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Awards, May 11, 2021, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The award is presented annually to Air University faculty, staff and students who have displayed exemplary leadership, character and ethical behavior that distinguished them from their peers. Award recipients pictured are (left-right): Master Sgt. Charles Simper, Cadet Wing Commander Kierenne Eadie, U.S. Space Force Maj. Kyle Keith, Maj. Tamara Merritt, Jason Womack and Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keeling. Master Sgt. Jaime Matekaitis was not available to receive the award in person. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Birchfield)
Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth presented seven Air University Airmen with the 2021 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Awards during a ceremony May 11, 2021, at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
The award recognizes AU students, cadets, faculty and staff who exhibit exemplary leadership, character and ethical behavior in the educational environment. This award represents AU Airmen who are the “best of the best” in their respective category.
“Winning this award is such an honor, not only winning but also being nominated,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keeling, lead instructor of the Mathies Non-Commissioned Officer Academy at Keesler AFB, Mississippi. “I’m honored to even be among such distinguished leaders, and I really hope I do this award justice.” He received the award in the Faculty/Staff Noncommissioned Officer category.
Each year, AU command teams evaluate their respective organizations to identify members who best exemplify exceptional academic and leadership qualities. Nominees then compete through a board process at the university level. Once selected, winners are presented the award by the secretary of the Air Force.
“I did not win this award alone, it was the people around me who saw my potential and believed in me,” said Cadet Wing Commander Kierenne Eadie, of Air Force ROTC Detachment 105, University of Colorado Boulder. “I have so much gratitude to the people that really encouraged me and helped me get to this point.” She won the award in the AU Student-Cadet category.
This award represents AU’s mission to enhance the fighting force through education and creating a more diverse and inclusive environment while producing professionally developed and intellectual leaders.
“An important topic I’m learning here right now is how to change the culture of our work centers and foster a positive environment,” said Keeling. “I want to go back to (my former career field and work center) and make it a place where everyone gets excited about going to work and proud of where they work.”
Below are the other recipients of the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award and their respective categories: U.S. Space Force Maj. Kyle Keith, Faculty/Staff Field Grade Officer category, Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education
Capt. Tamara Merritt, Faculty/Staff Company Grade Officer category, Air University International Officer School
Master Sgt. Jaime Matekaitis, Faculty/Staff Senior NCO category, Airey NCO Academy, Tyndall AFB, Florida
Jason Womack, Civilian category, Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development
Master Sgt. Charles Simper, Student-Senior NCO category, Air Force Senior NCO Academy