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Patrick ‘shirt’ takes top honors at SNCO Academy

Master Sgt. Joseph Powell receives the Levitow Award July 23 from Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) John McCauslin at the Senior NCO Academy in Alabama (U.S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers)

Master Sgt. Joseph Powell receives the Levitow Award July 23 from Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) John McCauslin at the Senior NCO Academy in Alabama (U.S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When Master Sgt. Joseph Powell studied Character and Personality Traits at the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Alabama, he found his personality was an 'I' for Influence.

That meant he liked to talk and to get to know new people. That was helpful as Sergeant Powell recently graduated the Academy as the John L. Levitow Award winner out of 380 students, including 20 Army sergeant majors and seven international students from such countries as Singapore and Zambia.

"Shirt Powell is a true people person and always leads by example," said 45th Medical Group Commander Col. Florence Valley. "I am thrilled such a deserving individual was the recipient of this distinguished honor!"

As an active duty member for 16 years, Sergeant Powell has been a first sergeant for almost three years. Admission to the SNCO Academy is based on scores on promotion exams. Sergeant Powell found out in early 2007 that he had been selected to attend the Academy, but there wasn't a slot available until recently.

"The curriculum included instruction in communications, leadership and management and profession of arms, which included joint warfighting, drilling, facing movements, etcetera," said Sergeant Powell.

Coincidentally enough, First Sergeant Powell was chosen as first sergeant for his squadron during the course.

"I was responsible for sizing up the flight, performing drill movements to get us where we needed to be when we would do Reveille and Retreat. I had roughly 45 members in my squadron I was responsible for."

The members of the class faced many challenges there, with the physical fitness one being the most demanding, he said."Fit to Fight was a huge challenge; they definitely take it seriously, as they should for senior enlisted leaders...it was very intense." The class worked out three days a week and by the end of the course was running five miles in formation. Sergeant Powell volunteered to be fitness coordinator for his squadron. By the end of the course, Sergeant Powell had raised his fitness score by five points. "I ended up at the post-assessment with a 92 and I was very proud of that."

In addition to being the John L. Levitow Award winner, Sergeant Powell was also a Commandant's Award nominee. "That was awesome for me because the Commandant's Award is based on peer points," Sergeant Powell recalled. Thirteen members in his flight voted for the number one, two and three Senior NCOs and then submitted a package to the Commandant of the Academy, just like a quarterly or annual award package.

The Levitow Award was open to the top four Distinguished Graduates and nominees had to go before a board of three chief master sergeants. Sergeant Powell chalks up his earning the award to the points he received from the Commandant's Award, Instructor points, leadership points, and the amount of work he did outside the classroom. Besides being fitness coordinator and squadron first sergeant, he also did a lot of community service.

"We did what we call Partners in Education, we went out to one of the local schools. We painted and beautified the area for the students," he remembered. His class also worked at the local Humane Society.

The ingredients of success are hard work and dedication, according to Sergeant Powell. "We're going to go in and we're going to give our absolute best because that's who we are and what we're all about. In our class, we didn't just recite the Airman's Creed, we lived it every day." Sergeant Powell was even chosen to recite the Airman's Creed at the graduation ceremony in front of 1000 people. He was honored to do so, but "talk about nerves!" he laughed.

"I would do eight hours in the classroom, go straight to billeting and I would lock myself in that room and just buckle down and do my homework and projects. That's what it takes."

After such success though, Sergeant Powell is glad to be back at Patrick Air Force Base. "The support everyone's showing me and the hospitality, it's just been overwhelming," he said. "They decorated my office; I didn't expect that. I'm a humble kind of guy so I came back and I'm trying to lay low. Nobody's having any of that, though. It's pretty cool, pretty cool."