SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --
Each year, the Airlift/Tanker Association recognizes airmanship excellence in aircrew members with the Gen. Robert “Dutch” Huyser Award. Air Mobility Command is among the nine commands eligible to nominate one exceptional Airman, and a Scott Air Force Base flight attendant was selected as their 2016 nominee.
Master Sgt. Shawn Hartel, 54th Airlift Squadron flight attendant, was singled out by his leadership as the strongest candidate. In 2016, Hartel’s initiatives, both in and out of uniform, proved to be mission-essential and life-saving.
Lt. Col. Ian Laughrey, 54th Airlift Squadron commander until last June, describes Hartel as a “renaissance man.”
“He can sing, play instruments, build anything, and he amazes me with his motivation, intellect, and drive,” said Laughrey. “Hartel is simply one of the best flight attendants I have ever seen execute our complicated, no-fail, worldwide mission.”
Outside of work, Hartel’s quick thinking led to two of his most impressive accomplishments: extinguishing a shop fire and saving his neighbor’s family from toxic gas. When telling the story of the toxic gas situation, Hartel humbly describes himself as “a dummy in the heat of the moment.”
One Saturday morning, he ran over to his neighbor’s to borrow a mop after his broke. When his neighbor, Carla, answered the door, he could immediately tell that something was wrong by the house’s harsh fume smell.
“I ask her (Carla), ‘Who else is in the house?’” said Hartel. “She tells me her kids are, so I tell her to get them out immediately because there’s fumes in the house. It’s obvious she’s kind of out of it. I get everyone out on the lawn and have her call the fire department.”
Hartel then grabbed a fume respirator and went back for their dog. In the same year, Hartel was visiting a colleague in a maintenance shop when a fire started on a nearby machine.
“I just seem to have a habit of being in the wrong place at the right time,” Hartel said, recalling the fire. “This wasn’t my shop, so I had no clue where the fire extinguishers were. So I pulled my flight suit cuff over my hand and beat out the fire by hand, which, in retrospect, is ridiculous.”
When asked about his proudest accomplishments, however, Hartel looks to the work he’s done as a flight attendant.
During a real world situation when portions of U.S. Transportation Command and the 618th Air Operations Center needed to relocate, Hartel prepped for two emergency flights with just a few hours’ notice.
“This isn’t something that is normally possible without a crew standing alert already,” said Hartel. “I have never heard of it being done in the senior leader airlift world, but we helped ensure their missions continued without interruption.”
Hartel also worked to ensure a seamless transition between presidential administrations. He was the only flight attendant outside of the 89th Airlift Wing’s Presidential Airlift Group to be entrusted with developing new guidance for transporting the first lady.
Hartel set up teleconference meetings between the four squadrons that support the first lady’s flights.
“It was exciting!” said Hartel. “To be the agent of change and to be the driving force of operational policy for the transportation of the first lady was pretty cool.”
Hartel has recently been assigned to the 1st Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md., where he now executes missions for the first lady, vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“When we lose one of our best to another executive airlift unit, it hurts,” said Laughrey, “But Hartel was ready for his next challenge. I look forward to seeing Hartel excel and lead in the 1st Airlift Squadron.”
Hartel said though change is hard, he’s beginning to settle into his new norm at Andrews.
“I absolutely loved my time at Scott, so initially it’s difficult to turn the page and begin a new chapter,” said Hartel. “But I am excited for the opportunities that are ahead of me.”