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61st loadmaster wins 2018 Outstanding Career Enlisted Aviator award

A woman in a flight suit sits on the end of a plane.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Courtney Wagner, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, was named the 2018 Staff Sgt. Henry E. "Red" Erwin Outstanding Career Enlisted Aviator of the Year at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 12, 2019. Wagner was selected for this honor based on her outstanding accomplishments, leadership and self-improvements in relation to aviation service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

A 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, was named the 2018 Staff Sgt. Henry E. "Red" Erwin Outstanding Career Enlisted Aviator of the Year.

U. S. Air Force Senior Airman Courtney Wagner was selected for this honor based on her outstanding accomplishments, leadership and self-improvements in relation to aviation service.

“It’s an honor to have even been nominated,” Wagner said. “It’s against all the enlisted flyers in the Air Force, so I’m going against boom operators, flight attendants – pretty much anyone that is an enlisted aviator.”

This award is given annually to a CEA for their outstanding support of enlisted aircrew operations.

“The ‘Red’ Erwin for a CEA is probably the biggest award that is out there,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jeramiah Yurick, 61st Airlift Squadron superintendent. “It’s a huge pool of people to start with, and it’s also awarded to Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve – it’s the pinnacle for enlisted aviators.”

Yurick said submitting Wagner for the award was an easy choice because of her outstanding work ethic.

“She’s the go-to for everything – from training, to loadmaster’s knowledge, she is one of our best and brightest,” Yurick said. “She did all the work, we just put the words on paper and it shined through as it went up, so it was an easy choice.”

During 2018 Wagner was able to fly and support airlift missions all over the world.

“I feel like we are actually contributing when we take supplies and people to where they need to be,” Wagner said. “The opportunities are endless – it’s never Groundhog Day. There is always something new.”

Along with taking supplies and personnel where they need to be to accomplish the mission, Wagner says one of the most rewarding parts of her job is enabling aeromedical evacuations.

“It’s very heart-wrenching and humbling any time you take in patients,” said Wagner. “It’s an eye-opener. You don’t know their story, but you know that something happened, and we are lucky enough to transport them. The sense of pride that you get when you take them where they need to go and get them the help they need definitely motivates you from within.”

Wagner, originally from Jeannette, Pennsylvania, obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science – pre law and was accepted into law school before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

“Originally when I enlisted I was just going to do four years, get some more schooling and be done,” Wagner said.

Wagner is now on track to graduate in December with her master’s degree in law and public policy and says she plans to retire from the military.

Wagner says she has thoughts of commissioning but isn’t ready to give up being a loadmaster just yet.

“I just extended another year because I want to do one more deployment as a flyer, and then I plan on taking my Air Force Officer Qualification Test to keep my options open,” Wagner said. “Commissioning is definitely an option, but I just love my job so much that it would be really hard, and I’m not ready to give it up. I’ve had a great year being a flyer.”

According to Wagner, she didn’t win this award on her own and thanks her friends, family and leadership for their constant support.

“Just like every big achievement in the Air Force, I don’t think anyone does it alone,” Wagner said. “My leadership played a big role in me getting the award, I have learned so much as a loadmaster from them. Growing up through the squadron I definitely got to where I am because of them.”

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