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Sergeants get STEP up

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When Staff Sgt. Brad Barber, 45th Space Wing, and Staff Sgt. Ericka Gayle, Air Force Technical Applications Center, arrived at work on separate days in December and January, little did they know they were in store for nice surprises -- new stripes.

Sergeant Gayle had planned Dec. 6 to finish updating a continuity folder, train a co-worker on creating forms, create a Web page, and do a little computer work as a client support administrator. Some days, though, don't go as planned.
An e-mail message from the Logistics and Systems Directorate superintendent took her from her desk - away from her plan for the day - and to the Outback for a "mandatory safety briefing." While the briefing was a ruse, Sergeant Gayle was unaware, even when AFTAC Commander Col. Mark Westergren called her forward.

"I was wondering why," said Sergeant Gayle.

The answer was quickly apparent as the commander announced her promotion to technical sergeant through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers (STEP) program.

Sergeant Barber, a Delta II Booster Mechanical Maintenance Engineering technician with the 1st Space Launch Squadron, received a similar visit from Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, 45th Space Wing commander, Jan. 3.

General Helms selected Sergeant Barber, as her first STEP promotion and the wing's only STEP promotion for fiscal year 2007.

Only 1.25 percent of promotion eligible Airmen will be STEP promoted this year, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

"As a top performer in the space and missile arena, Staff Sgt. Barber is actively involved in all facets of the space launch business," said Col. Scott Henderson, 45th Launch Group Commander, in nominating Sergeant Barber.

"His phenomenal technical expertise and strong leadership directly contributed to the successful launch of 19 Delta II space launch vehicles at CCAFS from 2002 to 2006, including the first-ever launch of a Delta II Heavy rocket."

"Sergeant Barber is one of our hard-charging Airmen, one of our finest here at the 1st Space Launch Squadron," said Master Sgt. Jake Pillow. "This is well-deserved."

"Technical Sergeant Gayle effortlessly epitomizes excellence in all we do," said Senior Master Sgt. Chip Carter, Logistics and Systems Directorate's deputy for Enterprise Information Management and AFTAC Information Management functional manager. "She makes it easy for supervisors to nominate her for prestigious honors like this. Her accolades show that genuine hard work, motivation and service before self will reap rewards. She is well deserving of her STEP promotion."

Sergeant Gayle's career is marked by exceptional performance. She was promoted to senior airman below the zone at Lackland Air Force Base's Cryptologic Systems Group. She won an Airman Communications and Information Professionalism Award in 2001 and again in 2003.

At AFTAC, Sergeant Gayle was the center's Junior Military-Mission Support Award winner in 2005 and a Sensor Olympics bronze medalist in the information management category.

Her management of the publications and forms programs, which included saving the center more than $29,000, was recognized by the 2005 higher headquarters staff assistance visit team. The 2006 unit compliance inspection team noted zero deficiencies in her programs.

Although visibly moved by the announcement of her STEP promotion, she remained composed while her co-workers showered her with applause. Several hours later, the new technical sergeant was back at her desk - shiny new stripes in place - helping a customer create a Web page.

With only a slight deviation, she was back to working her plan.