109th members selected as NYANG Airmen of the Year
By Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt, 109th AW Public Affairs
/ Published January 14, 2015
STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- Two Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing here were among six recently selected 2014 New York Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
Senior Airman James Comstock, who is the NYANG Airman of the Year, and Master Sgt. Michael Lazzari, the NYANG First Sergeant of the Year, were selected for the state-level award based on superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.
"Congratulations to our two state-level winners," said Col. Shawn Clouthier, 109th AW commander. "They were among 14 extremely strong candidates from our wing. All of whom embody superior performance and the strong leadership qualities to excel in the future. Also, congratulations to all of the selections from across the state and good luck as they compete at the national level."
Lazzari, a Schenectady native who has nearly 19 years of total military service including a five-year active duty tour, joined the 109th AW Fire Department in 2007. In 2012, he became the first sergeant for the 109th Mission Support Group. In the last year, Lazzari has supported both Operation Raven Dew in Greenland and Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica as the unit's deployed first sergeant.
Lazzari said the continued teamwork at the 109th AW has been one of the contributing factors to his success as first sergeant. He also said the sacrifices and support his family has made during his time way have been true motivators for him.
"Without them I wouldn't be able to do this at all," he said. "I can't thank them enough for all the support they offer. I love being at home with my wife, daughter and family and don't take my time away from them for granted. If I am not giving my best, their sacrifices and support are for nothing. I solely accept this award as a reflection of all the help and support I receive from my wife, family and friends."
Comstock, a Guilderland native, joined the wing in 2008. He is currently a customer support representative with the 109th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Comstock received the John L. Levitow award while attending Airman Leadership School this past year and is also the current president of the 109th First Six Council. The council represents the junior enlisted of the wing. With the council, he has participated in many community events throughout the year, and also coordinated the wing's first Adopt-A-Highway project.
"I attribute this award to the great opportunities the unit offers," Comstock said. "An award like this couldn't be accomplished without a unit that supports their people to strive past their potential."
Along with the unit, Comstock said his he couldn't have accomplished what he's achieved without the support of his wife and children.
"I was very excited to hear the news at each step of the process ... going from squadron, to wing to state," he said. "We have a lot of excellent Airmen in the New York Air National Guard, and to be thought of as one of them is a great thing."
"These two individuals embody the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do," said Chief Master Sgt. Amy Giaquinto, 109th AW command chief. "They are team players and always motivated to do what they can to lead and make a difference at this Wing and within their community. Their can-do attitudes are infectious! I am so proud of them, and I am glad that the state recognized who they are and what they represent."
Comstock and Lazzari will compete for the 2014 Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year.