LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
Senior Airman Elijah LaMastus, Master Sgt. Ryan Penne and Master Sgt. Jason Newby have been selected as the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022.
They will be honored during a banquet to be held March 25 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
“Competition for the 2022 Outstanding Airman of Year awards was fierce for every category,” said Chief Master Sgt. Steven Best, 123rd Airlift Wing command chief. “The members that were selected exceeded the standard and represent the best of the best amongst the 123rd.
“These great Airmen were able to take advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them as they went above and beyond the call of duty. Their commitment, initiative and leadership has made a difference within the state of Kentucky and globally.”
LaMastus, winner in the Airman category, is a medical support non-commissioned officer for the 123rd Medical Group, Detachment 1. His responsibilities include collecting, generating, managing and implementing readiness training requirements and certifications for medical detachment personnel. He also works with leadership to coordinate long-term training plans to maximize training opportunities for unit members.
During the award period, LaMastus volunteered for a State Partnership Program mission in Ecuador to train 33 personnel over five days. He assisted in the instruction of more than 50 hours of hospital training, amplifying shared knowledge of best practices for mass casualty responses while supporting an enduring partnership between the United States and a key foreign partner.
LaMastus also volunteered to deploy following floods that ravaged Knott County, Kentucky, in 2022. Over the course of three days, he helped cover more than 36 miles of terrain, assisting Kentuckians by conducting health and welfare visits and distributing food and water to 100 homes. He also provided emergency medical treatment to victims of the tornado that devastated Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2021. Consistently maintaining a level head under pressure, LeMastus assisted in the extraction of five fatalities and seven injured civilians, expediting the survivors’ transport to higher-level care. For his devotion to the preservation of human life, LaMastus was awarded a coin of excellence from the director of the Air National Guard.
“Senior Airman LaMastus is always positive and looking for new and innovative ways to get the mission done,” said 2nd Lt. Benjamin Sewell, Lamastus’ supervisor. “He is constantly helping his teammates in accomplishing the mission. His determination and dedication set him apart from his peers. With his ‘no quit’ attitude, he consistently demonstrates the Air Force core values of service before self and excellence in all we do.”
Penne, winner in the non-commissioned officer category, is a pararescue element team leader in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. In this role, Penne is responsible for being a subject matter expert in pararescue medicine, technical rescue, tactical ground operations and civilian search and rescue. He is expected to maintain advanced qualifications as a military free-fall jump master, static line jump master, senior mountaineer and dive supervisor. Penne successfully maintains these qualifications while simultaneously balancing his civilian life and career.
During his time in the Kentucky Air Guard, Penne assisted in the resuscitation of a drowning infant at a local pool. On a recent deployment, he was one of the first responders to a parachute mishap involving a parachutist collision in which three individuals were critically injured.
“Penne was submitted for the NCO of the year because he is the most selfless member on our team and in our squadron,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Zena, Penne’s supervisor. “Penne lives up to our career field motto, ‘That others may live’. He regularly volunteers to be a part of squadron operations, no matter the task. Additionally, he is always preparing and sharpening his skills for the next mission and consistently exceeding the expectations placed upon him.”
Newby, the winner in the senior non-commissioned officer category, currently serves as the stock control manager for the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. In this role, Newby is responsible for managing serviceable and unserviceable assets, overseeing and controlling in-transit shipments, transferring them to other operating bases and verifying any overages, shortages and damaged material.
Newby has deployed in support of numerous training exercises, domestic operations and contingencies, including Operation Spartan Shield where he expertly led 48 Total Force members and oversaw 10 warehouses valued at $489 million. Using his expertise, he established the base’s first-ever customer support liaison in the transportation section, rectifying discrepancy reports and 230 lost shipments for 42 organizations, resulting in the recovery of $9 million for the Air Force Working Capital Fund.
Additionally, while serving in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Newby teamed with the National Security Agency to successfully safeguard assets valued at more than $8 million while ensuring 100 percent accountability of 633 critical assets.
Newby also supported Ukrainian defense efforts by driving an initiative to conduct a mass re-inventory of an overflow supply warehouse containing war reserve assets, accounting for 22,000 items valued at $13 million and fulfilling the redistribution of 455 tactical vests critical to a $2 billion aid package from the United States.
“Master Sgt. Newby has an exceptional quality for maximizing productivity and being organized,” said Senior Master Sgt. Cutty Parker, Newby’s supervisor. “He is flexible and stands on his core values, which provides him a strong purpose. His consistency and ability to problem-solve sets him apart from his peers.”