News Search

USO recognizes 193rd Airman for 'acts of heroism'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Julia Sorber
  • 193rd SOW
Staff Sgt. Nicole Gentzel, an airborne mission systems specialist with the 193rd Special Operations Group, recently received the 2015 Liberty USO Service Member of the Year award at the 74th Anniversary Liberty USO Gala in Philadelphia.

The USO sponsors this award annually, recognizing specific acts of heroism by enlisted members from each branch of the military.

Although Gentzel's "acts of heroism" don't fit the typical mold of battlefield victories or daring physical rescues, she is considered an everyday hero by her leaders and peers. Her awards package highlighted such accomplishments as: "more than 100 combat flying hours ... processed hundreds of mission flying currencies ... led aircrew in troubleshooting systems malfunctions," etc.

"She has an incredible amount of energy, a vast amount of potential, and is the first person we select to represent the group, the wing, and the PA Air National Guard for any function or activity," said Chief Master Sgt. William Lengner, 193rd Special Operations Group superintendent.

Gentzel takes pride in continuously seeking to improve herself, including volunteer work off the clock. 
"I recently graduated from Penn State with a B.S. in Criminal Justice," said Gentzel. "I was a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society, Chi Gamma Lota and the Student Government Association, through which I was able to spend a lot of time assisting with school activities or planning volunteer events."

Gentzel said that years of training contribute to the ultimate goal of her job, to support the mission. She says one of her greatest accomplishments that she takes the most pride in is her two tours overseas, where she not only worked alongside many deployed personnel, but also learned from their many years of experience overseas.

"Her job performance exceeds the standards," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Kovach, former 193rd Special Operations Group superintendent. "She is extremely proficient in her aircrew duties, is on the fast track for advancement, and has deployed as both an aircrew member and as a liaison."

"This has truly been one of the greatest awards I have had the pleasure of accepting," said Gentzel. "To me, winning this award gives me an ultimate sense of accomplishment and reassurance that I have chosen the right path in life and that hard work does pay off. "

Gentzel's performance recently led to her approval as a candidate for officer training school. She's pursuing a commission as a combat systems officer with the wing.