Laughlin public affairs Airman takes MAJCOM-level honors

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Senior Airman Olufemi Owolabi, 47th Flying Training Wing public affairs, is the Air Education and Training Command's Public Affairs Airman of the Year for 2006.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Austin M. May)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Senior Airman Olufemi Owolabi, 47th Flying Training Wing public affairs, is the Air Education and Training Command's Public Affairs Airman of the Year for 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Austin M. May)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When Olufemi Owolabi walked into the military entrance processing station at Fort George G. Meade, Md., he had no idea he was destined for greatness within the ranks of Air Force Public Affairs.

Owolabi, who holds an associate's degree in mechanical engineering, figured he'd try for a job suited to his formal education.  The people working with him at the MEPS told him there were openings in engineering-related jobs, but they wouldn't be available for several months, and Owolabi wanted to cross into the blue, he said.

Following Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, he found himself back at Fort Meade, this time enrolled in the Defense Information School, or DINFOS. A two-year, college-level journalism program compacted into three intense months, the Basic Public Affairs Specialist-Writer course proved a worthy challenge for then Airman 1st Class Owolabi.

He made it through, and left Fort Meade for Laughlin in February 2004. Three years later, he would be named Air Education and Training Command's Public Affairs Airman of the Year for 2006.

Now a Senior Airman, the last editor of Laughlin's former print newspaper, the Border Eagle, found out he was the winner Feb. 12. Although Laughlin's PA office received 10 awards at major command level in both media and public affairs for 2006, Airman Owolabi was the only individual in the office to win an annual PA award.

Airman Owolabi is no stranger to annual award winnings. The 30-year-old Airman was the 47th Flying Training Wing's Airman of the Year for 2005, and the 47th FTW Wing Staff Agencies Airman of the year for both 2005 and 2006. Airman Owolabi's outstanding work ethic and dedication to his service also helped him earn a mid-tour Air Force Achievement Medal, a rare occurrence.

A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Airman Owolabi has only been a United States citizen since December 2005. He said he joined the military because he felt serving the country which gave him so many opportunities was a good way to give something back.

Airman Owolabi said winning the award gave him a solid feeling that he was part of a good team.

"I didn't even know they had put me in for an award," he said. "When I found out it really made me feel as if I was appreciated."

When the packages for the awards were being put together, Airman Owolabi was visiting his relatives in Nigeria for Christmas.

"They didn't even ask me for inputs, which tells me my supervisors are watching me and seeing what I do," he said. "That's a good feeling, when you know those above you are truly paying attention."

His supervisor is, indeed, watching him.

"Airman Owolabi is one of the absolute finest Airmen I've ever worked with," said Tech. Sgt. Joel Langton, Airman Owolabi's supervisor. "That doesn't just go for his regular duties, either. He embodies every aspect of the model Airman both on and off duty."

As the recipient of the AETC PA Airman of the Year award, Airman Owolabi's package will advance to Air Force level. Results are scheduled to be released in March.