Being nominated to be the 2019 Iowa Air National Guard Airman of the Year came as a surprise to Airman 1st Class Hannah Christensen. She said even her supervisors don’t know who nominated her.
“This whole thing kind of happened without me knowing,” Christensen said. “All of the sudden my supervisor was like, ‘hey, just letting you know you have to go and get your picture taken.”
Though she doesn’t know how she was nominated, Christensen seems pretty sure she knows why she won. She credits the combination of her performance at work and training, but also community service activities.
“It’s a mixture of doing your job and being outstanding at it, as well as helping the people around you, working hard and doing things in your community also,” Christensen said. “There’s a lot of different components to it.”
Christensen is a KC-135 crew chief assigned to the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa. Despite having served only around two years, she’s checked a lot of boxes.
She started by taking a year off from Iowa State University where she studies industrial engineering to attend basic training, then technical school at Shepherd Air Force Base, Texas. While in tech school she served as an Airman Leader, helping military training leaders ensure a good work environment for her fellow airmen.
“When I got back, I went straight into working for the Air Mobility Command Tanker Airlift Control Center,” she said. “I kind of just dove right in to doing whatever I could and volunteering where I could”.
She has also worked on “volunteer deployments” to England and Spain.
When she’s not performing her National Guard duties or attending classes, Christensen spends considerable time on community service.
She’s volunteered with the Society of Women Engineers at elementary schools where she helped children build catapults form popsicle sticks. She works with her local 4-H Club to help young people learn how to show projects at fairs. She’s also helped decorate cookies at nursing homes.
Christensen said her interest in community service was instilled in her by her family, who also have been at least part of what inspired her to join the Air National Guard. She is one of five siblings. All have served in the Iowa Air National Guard.
“It’s been a really great experience because it’s something we can all relate to,” Christensen said. “It was also a great stress reliever for our parents because they didn’t have to pay for college for five kids.”
Christensen grew up on a farm five miles outside the town of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. It was there, she says, that her upbringing taught her work ethic and a community service-oriented attitude.
She spent eight years in her local 4-H Club, where she raised rabbits for six years and showed goats and dogs for two years. Her family also hosts visitors to their farm, showing them animals and demonstrating chores.
As busy as she stays, Christensen said people don’t need to match her energy levels to match her accomplishments. They just need to put in the work.
“I would say you need the drive to learn your job as well as you can, as well as being there to support the people around you,” Christensen said. “And just working really hard was a big thing for me. In my shop you have to put in the work to learn your job and seek mentorship from the people around you.”
Part of being named airman of the year includes a parking space and a certificate. She would also have received recognition at a statewide National Guard conference, but the event was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Despite not being able to attend the event, she said she is honored to be airman of the year.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to represent my fellow airmen in Iowa,” she said. “I’m not only representing myself, I’m representing the other airmen who are just like me all across the state.”Read comments