148th Fighter Wing Honored in Special Ceremony in Duluth

By KBJR News 1

December 2, 2012 Updated Dec 3, 2012 at 12:01 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNC NOW) - Fly, fight and win – just part of the Airman's creed; a creed lived up to by 306 members of the 148th Air National Guard Fighter Wing recently.

Former KBJR reporter Chris Axelson was one of those people sent to Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan: "When we first got there it was pretty hot. It was on the flatland between 110 and 115; dusty, absolutely smelly and miserable."

The Northlanders worked hard while on duty and struggled to fight loneliness when off duty.

"We passed the time by playing cards, telling stories and watching DVD's," said Axelson.

This call to duty called Staff Sergeant Axelson away from his bride: "I just got married a month and a half before I left and I was gone longer than the time I was married so it was good to get back home and see my wife and start our new life together."

Axelson and his comrades were honored for their service on Sunday at the DECC in Duluth.

"Ceremonies like this are definitely good for morale of the unit. We're going to recognize our deploying members, some very special Airmen who did special things and we're going to honor the 42 people who are retiring from the 148th Fighter Wing," said Maj. Audra Flanagan, with the 148th.

One of the people recognized was former KBJR sports anchor Jodi Kiminski. She was named company grade officer of the year for public affairs work around the nation.

"For the wing to look at that and say we want to reward you for what you have done is just such an honor and I'm so grateful that I can receive this award," said Lt. Kiminski.

These airmen were pleased to be recognized by their commanders at the DECC ceremony. Many have served overseas more than once like Staff Sergeant Axelson.

Though deployments take him away from loved ones, he'll go a third time if the country calls.

"Whenever our unit goes, I'll probably be one of the first to raise my hand and say I'll go with them," said Axelson.

• 2012 Air Force Association Outstanding Air National Guard Flying Unit Award given to the overall most outstanding Air National Guard flying unit
• 2012 National Guard Bureau Winston P. Wilson Trophy given to the best Air National Guard unit with fighter or reconnaissance aircraft
• 2011 Air National Guard Ground Safety Office of the Year given to the Air National Guard unit who demonstrates the best mishap prevention efforts
• 2011 Air National Guard Nathan Altschuler Outstanding Education and Training Program Award
• 2011 Adjutant General’s Outstanding Safety Office of the Year Award given to the overall best safety program within the Minnesota National Guard
• 2012 Outstanding New Air National Guard Journalist – Tech. Sergeant Scott Herrington

The following personnel were selected the best Airmen in the particular rank based on their leadership and job knowledge, significant self improvement and community or base involvement:

• Airman of the Year – Staff. Sgt Dustin Bartlett (recently promoted to Staff Sgt.)
• Non-commissioned Officer of the Year – Staff Sgt. Amy Ewald
• Senior Non-commission Officer of the Year – Sr. Master Sgt. Steve Samuelson
• First Sergeant of the Year – Master Sgt. Jeremy Hill
• Company Grade Officer of the Year – 1st Lt. Jodi Kiminski
• Pilot of the Year – 1st Lt. Scott Tanski