Scott Airman recognized with Air Force-level award

(Courtesy photo)

Fuentes is pictured with her mother at the 12 OAY banquet Despite her achievements in Turkey and back home, Fuentes said her biggest accomplishment was honoring her mother at the banquet. (Courtesy photo)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Senior Airman Brittany Fuentes, Air Mobility Command collections requirements manager, poses for a portrait, Nov. 29, 2017, at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Fuentes was selected for one of the 2017 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --

Each year since 1956, the Air Force Association has recognized the branch’s top enlisted personnel with the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year awards.

Nominees are judged on leadership ability, job performance, community involvement, and self-improvement efforts. This year, a Scott Airman was among the 12 chosen.

Senior Airman Brittany Fuentes, Air Mobility Command collections requirements manager, said it felt surreal to find out she had won one of the 2017 12 OAY awards.

“I was actually on leave when my commander had given me the phone call,” Fuentes said. “And initially they made it sound like I was in trouble, of course.”

Eventually, Fuentes found herself on the phone with the Deputy Commander of Air Mobility Command, Maj. Gen. Thomas Sharpy.

“He was the one to tell me ‘Hey, just wanted to congratulate you. You made one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen, and you should be proud,’” said Fuentes. “I was just in shock.”

Perhaps Fuentes’ greatest accomplishment that led to that moment was her service in Turkey in 2016.

When a faction of the Turkish Armed Forces attempted a coup against President Erdogan, the Incirlik Air Base endured an eight-day airfield siege. Fuentes was the lead analyst for the first 48 hours of the siege. The 23 reports she crafted during that time were crucial to the evacuation of 708 dependents and civilians.

However, when recalling the coup, Fuentes does not focus on her individual accomplishment; she talks of the teamwork she saw among Airmen.

“When the coup in Turkey transpired, the base lost power,” she said. “For about a week, Airmen were enthusiastic to accommodate the mission in any way they could. There were no complaints about no air conditioning or hot water. Airmen just adjusted to the situation and remained flexible.”

Fuentes’ coworker, Ricardo Salas, cites this humility as one of the keys to her success as an Airman.

“She has confidence but is not overconfident,” he said. “Her actions come down to humility. Her character, reliability, and communication skills make her an Airman’s Airman.”

Fuentes said she’s driven by her own self-critiques.

“I’ve always been my toughest critic, constantly thinking, ‘You’re OK at this, but you could be doing better,’” she said. “I’m always thinking of ways to improve.”

With this mindset, Fuentes has pushed herself to become a leader in her own office. As a senior airman, she is the NCO in charge of the Collections Requirements Management team.

Fuentes also credits her fellow Airmen with shaping her into the leader that she is today.

“There are great Airmen who show me how to carry myself every day, who remind me that we represent a proud heritage,” she said.

Along with her achievements in Turkey and back home, Fuentes said her biggest accomplishment was honoring her mother at the 12 OAY banquet, held in the District of Columbia.

For Fuentes it was a way to repay her mother, whom she describes as “the definition of a tough lady.”

“I am most proud of being able to tell my mom, ‘Pack your bags. We’re going to D.C.,’” she said.

“My mom has made an incredible amount of sacrifices for my brothers and I. For any single parent, it’s a lot of effort to raise three kids. If she was feeling sick, she couldn’t miss a workday, right? Because that’s a smaller paycheck. She would always tough it out.”

Fuentes said that, along with her training and spirituality, she is guided most by her upbringing, so it is only fitting that her mother share her spotlight.