After saving two lives and erasing a six-year training backlog, an Air Force reservist can now add Outstanding Airman of the Year to her resume.
Staff Sgt. Kristy Riley serves with the 924th Maintenance Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. She was recently invited to join a Zoom call with Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, commander of Air Force Reserve Command and Chief of the Air Force Reserve, and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White, AFRC’s command chief master sergeant and Scobee’s senior enlisted advisor. She thought it was to congratulate her on being named Air Force Reserve Airman of the Year. Instead, it was to inform her that she was part of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
“I was a little bit in shock and didn’t exactly know what that meant,” Riley said.
But after her wing command chief “explained the gravity,” Riley was surprised all over again. “My mom was with me at the time, and she started crying right away.”
A reservist for five years, the California native initially enlisted to help pay for the remainder of her nursing degree and serve her nation while continuing her higher education. She is now the combat plans training supervisor for the 924th MXS, a role that recently allowed her to facilitate crucial missile training for two dozen airmen. The act cleared a six-year-old training backlog.
“I like the ability to serve when needed, get help through school, and grow professionally and personally when it comes to people and experiences,” Riley said.
One unique reserve experience came when she saved the life of two drowning men at Lake Mead while TDY at Nellis Air Force Base. Riley, alongside others, was able to bring the men back to shore safely and assist their family members and paramedics with their care.
“It was a case of [being in the] right place at the right time, and I was glad it ended well for him and his family,” said Riley. The act earned her the Air Force Sergeants Association’s Pitsenbarger Award.
Beyond saving lives and bringing efficiency into the workplace, Riley also facilitated more than 100 virtual training periods, mitigating COVID-19 travel impacts, and erasing yet another multi-month backlog. Her versatility may stem from career experience working construction, earning her national EMT certification, and currently studying as a full-time nursing student at Grand Canyon University.
But before nursing school graduation comes, she will participate in a ceremony celebrating her Airman of the Year award during the Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Maryland this September. Riley’s prior supervisors told her they had never seen a maintainer win this award, let alone an ammo troop.
“I really feel honored. I didn’t join the military for recognition and honestly never thought anything like this would happen, so it is pretty amazing to say the least,” she said. “To join originally as a way to serve but also progress in my personal goals, and then to earn an award at the Air Force level, is almost unbelievable.”
After finishing her current enlistment next fall, Riley plans to become a military nurse. She is unsure which branch she will choose. But she is certain of one thing: she has gratitude to the Air Force Reserve for getting her this far.
“I have met some incredible people while serving in the United States Air Force who have all given so much of themselves for this country,” she said. “This recognition as Airman of the Year for the Air Force is a humbling experience, and I am honored to represent the 70,000 U.S. Air Force reservists who strive to defend our great nation.”Read comments