By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze, 128th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published March 03, 2012
MILWAUKEE -- Public Affairs usually shines the light of recognition on the men and women beyond its office, but last month, the National Guard Bureau recognized, among other winners of the 2011 Media Contest, two Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing.
Tech. Sgt. Tom Sobczyk and Tech. Sgt. James Michaels were awarded by the NGB for their accomplishments in graphic design and broadcasting, respectively, on February 24, 2012.
Sobczyk, 39, has been with the 128th Air Refueling Wing for 13 years, and he served with the active duty Army at Fort Irwin, Calif., from 1991 to 1994. He earned third place in the graphic design category of the National Guard's 2011 Media Contest for creating a poster for Red Ribbon Week as part of his full-time career with the National Guard's Counter Drug Program.
The poster took Sobczyk a few days, but he said there isn't a consistent measure of time for the projects he designs.
"Every project is different," Sobczyk said. "There are a lot of variables in there. Some people know what they want when they approach me with an idea, and others don't know the details."
He went on to say that the award is a motivating factor for the creative process that is central to his counter-drug and public affairs jobs.
"I think being recognized is good in the sense that people do things off the radar, but it is the pat on the back that gives you incentive to do it again," he said. Earlier in his career, Sobczyk said he was also recognized when he designed the Air National Guard's current logo.
"In this career field, passion is key," Sobczyk said. "This work and this job requires personal pride. It is based on creativity. In all aspects, this work is a part of personal growth."
Michaels, 31, was recognized as the Outstanding New Broadcaster for the Air National Guard during the 2011 National Guard Media Contest where he submitted a suite of videos, including a video of Capt. Jason Park, a KC-135R Stratotanker pilot and reserve-roster member of the Milwaukee Wave soccer team. Michaels is currently serving in his 13th year with the Air National Guard, and he joined the 128th Air Refueling Wing as a broadcaster in August 2010. Prior to his career with the Milwaukee-based public affairs office, Michaels served as a security forces team member with the 128th Air Control Squadron at Volk Field, Wis.
Videography has always been a passion of his.
"My sister and I would do fake news broadcasts in the attic," Michaels said. "My interest in video goes back to the single-digit ages."
After graduating from Western Technical College, La Crosse, Wis., Michaels said he started his own freelance video company. He went on to study film at UW-Milwaukee.
"That is where I found my current track of documentary film making," Michaels said.
As a freelance video producer and shooter, Michaels said he has worked on over 50 productions.
Michaels first heard of his award and selection when a friend, Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, formerly a broadcaster with TEC-TV, Knoxville, Tenn., notified him through a message on Facebook.
"I was kind of overwhelmed," Michaels said. "I've only been a broadcaster for a year and a half. This [Outstanding New Broadcaster award] is an overall motivator. It's a great recognition for myself and the 128th. It shows me where I've come from in my Guard career."
2nd Lt. Nathan Wallin, the public affairs officer of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, reflected upon the accomplishments.
"I was very pleased," Wallin said. "Recognition of your skill and ability is always nice. We don't come to work for a pat on the back, but when we do get a pat, it's a good feeling. I'm very proud [of Michaels' and Sobczyk's accomplishments], but I am not at all surprised; there's a lot of talent in this [office]."
Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Rohloff, the manager of the 128th Air Refueling Wing public affairs office, also saw the strength of recognition that these awards brought to the shop.
"We all do what our job is, but sometimes we don't get the recognition because we're just doing our job," Rohloff said. "When you're recognized on a national level, it gives you something to shoot for."
Looking at the work and accomplishments of the entire public affairs office, Rohloff's final comment added an inclusive perspective.
"This was a total team effort," he said. "It takes the work of everyone to do our job."