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Nevada Guard recognizes top 2013 Airmen

Airman 1st Class Rita Middleton, third from left, receives her Airman of the Year award at the Nevada Air National Guard base in Reno on January 25. Officials presenting the award included, from left, Command Chief Master Sgt. Rick Scurry, Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard James Hotaling, and Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry.  (NV ANG photo by Senior Airman Ashif Halim/Released)

Airman 1st Class Rita Middleton, third from left, receives her Airman of the Year award at the Nevada Air National Guard base in Reno on January 25. Officials presenting the award included, from left, Command Chief Master Sgt. Rick Scurry, Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard James Hotaling, and Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry. (NV ANG photo by Senior Airman Ashif Halim/Released)

RENO -- The top performers in the Nevada Air National Guard in 2013 were recognized here Jan. 25 during the annual Airman of the Year Banquet. Dignitaries attending the annual event at the Nevada Air National Guard base included Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry, Brig. Gen. Michael Hanifan, Col. Jeffrey Burkett and Col. Dave Clark.

The Airman of the Year award went to Airman 1st Class Rita Middleton (192nd Airlift Squadron). Tech Sgt. Christopher Bernard (152nd Operations Support Squadron) won the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year title and the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year award went to Master Sgt. Yantzy Arnell (152nd Security Forces Squadron). Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Crawford (152nd Civil Engineer Squadron) won First Sergeant of the Year.

Honors for Company Grade Officer of the Year went to Capt. Dana Grigg (152nd Airlift Wing) and Senior Airman Torrey Eldridge was the Honor Guard Member of the Year.

"It was huge, but pleasant, surprise!," Arnell said. " I personally know two of the other three nominees (in my category) and they're both great, well-deserving individuals. I am excited to represent my unit in this way and look forward to continuing to represent Security Forces and the Nevada Air National Guard in the future."

The ceremony featured two special guests of honor. One was retired Sgt. 1st Class Ed Smith, a Korean War Army Veteran and former prisoner of war, and the other was the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Guard, Chief Master Sgt. James Hotaling.

Smith, who was a POW for more than 900 days, led the attendees through the Prisoner of War remembrance ceremony at the beginning of the banquet.

Hotaling spoke about each winner's achievements and congratulated them for their contributions to the Air Force.

The winners will go on and represent the Nevada Guard in national level Airmen of the Year competitions.