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Ellsworth Airman triumphs, earns Vaught Award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – An honor guard flight sergeant assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron was recently awarded the General Vaught Award for her exceptional commitment to the Air Force.

Months after putting in for this award, Staff Sgt. Michelle Hoyal, the flight sergeant for the Ellsworth Air Force Base Honor Guard, was shocked when she heard the results.

“I was very surprised when the results came out,” Hoyal said. “I completed my package in June 2016 and knew that it was competitive but I was unsure of how I would compete at the Air Force Global Strike Command level.”

Unlike Hoyal herself, her coworkers, such as Staff Sgt. Bobby Pantfoeder, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Ellsworth Honor Guard, were not surprised she had earned the award.

“I would say she received this award not only because of her willingness to help others but also because of her ‘never give up’ attitude,” Pantfoeder said.

The General Vaught Awards were created in honor of Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, a remarkable female general in the U.S. Air Force, for her outstanding service and dedication to the Air Force and nation both during her career and after her retirement.

The award is presented to officers, enlisted personnel and civilians from any career field or occupational series who exhibits those attributes of character - innovation, commitment and a selfless spirit of service to others - that Vaught demonstrated and inspired in others, and whose personal, innovative efforts have inspired others and significantly improved the integration and opportunities for women in the Air Force.

During her career as an Honor Guardsman, Hoyal has presented Colors for 20 details to ensure the proper display of the National flag for 28th Bomb Wing ceremonies. She has been handpicked for retirement ceremonies because of her dedication and skill in the field. In addition, she also crafted a display case and painted a 500 square ft. wall at Memorial Hall.

“She is always volunteering her own time to work with outside agencies that are heavily involved in the community,” Pantfoeder said. “She is a Legion Member and a Legion Rider, both not only represent past and present military members, but are big into community involvement.”

Hoyal dedicated 20 hours to assist in constructing homes for those in need with Habitat for Humanity. She also supported female Vietnam era veterans, organized a banquet and distributed clothing and hygiene products to benefit 30 local heroes.

Though everyone does not possess the confidence Hoyal does to step into the unknown, she believes everyone has the potential to surpass any challenges they face.

“Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone,” Hoyal said. “There are always challenges that you need to face in the Air Force to include time management, professional military education, changing stations, and deployments – the number one thing that has helped me overcome obstacles in my career is dependable leadership and wingmen.”

According to Pantfoeder, Hoyal is able to adapt to any changes thrown her way.

“She definitely portrays the Core Values to a T,” He said. “Airmen need look no further to see a prime example.”

Pantfoeder mentioned Hoyal is very motivated and a self-starter – always putting in 100 percent in every task she takes on. With her upbeat personality she is always ready to start the day, (as long as she has her coffee).

“I feel honored that my service in the Air Force was recognized at such a high level,” Hoyal said. “I believe that winning this award shows how Ellsworth is more than capable of training and preparing Airmen to better the Air Force and ensure mission success in our daily routines.”

Hoyal added the best part of being an Airman is having the opportunity such as these so they can showcase their skills and experiences throughout the Air Force.