JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington D.C. –
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Portia Short, 11th Operations Group United States Air Force Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman, was selected for one of the Air Force’s biggest honors. She earned recognition as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year (OAY) for 2020.
Every year an Air Force selection board considers nominees for the OAY award who demonstrate superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements. The Airman must earn the annual award at all subordinate unit tiers starting at the squadron level. If earned at the group, wing and major command levels, they then move on to compete at the Air Force level.
This isn’t the first time Sergeant Short has earned a high-level achievement during her career. Other accolades include the John L. Levitow Award during Airman Leadership School and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. The John L. Levitow Award is the highest award for enlisted Professional Military Education in the Air Force, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal recognizes Airmen who perform exceptional community service of a sustained, direct and consequential nature.
Though her previous accolades and recognition as one of the top Air Force Airmen are individual awards, Sergeant Short praised her team during an 11th Wing OAY recognition ceremony hosted by Col. Mike “Goose” Zuhlsdorf, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and 11th Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Christy Peterson, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and 11th Wing command chief.
“I feel that my team saw this vision for me before I could even imagine it. They put me in positions to grow as a leader and trusted me to lead even as I was growing and developing. They encouraged me and motivated me all the time,” Sergeant Short said. “Support was a big thing for me last year. They are more than just the people I work with; they are my family.”
Sergeant Short’s devotion to her job and the Air Force helped her earn the OAY award. Short committed her time to not only ensure exceptional attention to the Air Force Honor Guard mission, but she also managed to focus on areas of need within the community.
Her recent achievements include leading two Air Force Honor Guard technical school courses with a total of 56 Airmen and a graduation rate of 96 percent; training 35 base honor guard program managers affecting 38,000 missions worldwide; and managing to complete 10 courses toward her masters while maintaining a 3.6 GPA.
She also got involved with the local community and set up an education fair with 19 universities with a 1,000 member outreach. Eighty courses were registered at the event.
“I am very dedicated to my job and being an example for other Airmen,” said Sergeant Short. “I live by these principles, and I feel that I really just went the extra mile, even when it was not required. I do not feel that I did this alone, and it was definitely a team effort. When I say team, I mean not only my fellow instructors, but the entire honor guard.”
Her road to success didn’t come without difficulty.
“I feel a challenge that I faced was learning how to balance work from home life,” Sergeant Short said. “I am a single parent and making sure I am giving enough time and energy to my child is so very important to me. I never wanted to be so engulfed with work that I was too tired to engage with my toddler at home.”
Sergeant Short found out she was selected as one of the 12 OAY over the phone while she was attending technical school for a career in mental health.
“I have finished my technical school for mental health. I am just waiting to PCS to my next base and start my next steps in my career as a mental health technician,” said Sergeant Short. “I was really overwhelmed when I found out I was selected. I laughed, I cried happy tears, and laughed some more. It was a very surreal moment for me. I am still pinching myself today.”
Her supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Mark Zajac, 11th Operations Group United States Air Force Honor Guard NCO in charge of evaluations and certifications, has been in the same squadron with Sergeant Short for three years and has worked with her directly for two.
“Sergeant Short is an outstanding Airman, wingman, troop, supervisor, friend, mother, sister, and mentor all wrapped into one,” Sergeant Zajac said. “I think her influence as a ceremonial guardsman was humongous already, and this great honor was the cherry on top to a magnificent tour here for her. If I had the opportunity to mold and create a perfect Airman with the core values in mind, Sergeant Short would be that Airman.”
Each Airmen who earns OAY recognition also earns the Outstanding Airman ribbon with a bronze service star device and can wear the outstanding Airman badge for one year. Winners also serve as ambassadors for the enlisted force.