35th Military Appreciation Event
As a community, the Black Hills is proud to be the home of Ellsworth Air Force Base and several South Dakota National Guard units. We’re grateful for the selfless commitment our military members and families give in the defense of our freedoms. 35 years ago a casual BBQ was held to recognize a handful of Airmen and Soldiers for their outstanding achievements and it’s evolved into a fun community event that hosts over 500 military families.
The 35th Annual Military Appreciation BBQ will be held from 4-8 PM on October 1st at the Central States Fairground. In the days leading up to the event, we’ll be paying tribute to all the 2021 honorees on our Facebook page! Be sure you’re following us to help us spread appreciation for these amazing service members! Meet the 2021 honorees below.
Soldiers & Airmen Honorees
South Dakota National Guard Honorees
Spc. Arjun Sawhney
Detachment 1, Company B, 1/112th Aviation Regiment
Specialist Arjun Sawhney serves as an aviation operations specialist assigned to Detachment 1, Company B, 1/112th Aviation Regiment in Rapid City. He is from Rapid City and has four years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.
Sawhney is responsible for records management of pilots and crew-members, equipment and publications management, monitors aircraft status and communication logs, and initiates ground emergency procedures.
Sawhney provided outstanding support while serving on state active duty supporting the state of South Dakota and the S.D. Department of Health with its COVID-19 Call Center from August 2020 until February 2021, where he provided contact tracing support – calling close contact individuals and informing them of health resources available and isolation requirements.
Sawhney received the S.D. Distinguished Service Ribbon, U.S. Armed Forces Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal for his contributions in support of this mission.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Epp
Detachment 1, Company B, 935th Aviation Support Battalion
Staff Sergeant Andrew Epp serves as a HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter technical inspector with Detachment 1, Company B, 935th Aviation Support Battalion in Rapid City. He is from Rapid City and has nine years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.
Epp provided outstanding support this past year supervising the maintenance and ensuring quality control for HH- and UH-60 model helicopters, and provided superb technical guidance on the safety procedures and maintenance of the Black Hawk helicopter.
Epp is also a combat veteran and served in Kuwait and Iraq in 2018 with the 935th Aviation Support Battalion, providing helicopter maintenance support for U.S. Army rotary aircraft operating throughout the Middle East.
Staff Sgt. Gabriella Sprague
82nd Civil Support Team
Staff Sergeant Gabriella Sprague serves as a medical NCO and laboratory operator with the 82nd Civil Support Team stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. She is from Rapid City and has nine years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.
Sprague provided outstanding support this past year ensuring the medical readiness of CST personnel and completing laboratory analysis of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive substances.
Her medical skills and experience contributed to the South Dakota National Guard’s COVID-19 response efforts – providing vaccinations to units throughout the state – where she received the Armed Forces Service Medal for her support.
Sprague is also a combat veteran and served in Afghanistan in 2013 with the 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion as a signal support systems specialist. Her technical expertise ensured unit communication systems were maintained and operational – earning her an Army Commendation Medal for her service.
1st Lt. Cole Huber
Company C, 1-189th Aviation Regiment
First Lieutenant Cole Huber serves as an aeromedical evacuation officer and HH-60 Black Hawk pilot with Company C, 1-189th Aviation Regiment in Rapid City. He is from Viborg and has 12 years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.
Huber provided outstanding support this past year as the officer in charge and aeromedical planner for the pilot section within a Forward Support Medical Platoon, providing technical and tactical expertise in order to provide aeromedical evacuation support in a combat environment.
Over his career, Huber served on a number of state active duty missions supporting the state of South Dakota, which include area security assistance during the 2011 Missouri River Flood, aerial hoist recovery for an injured hiker in the Black Hills in 2019, and in 2021 he served as the COVID-19 vaccine coordinator for the SD Army and Air National Guard and was the officer in charge for the Pine Ridge community vaccination events in April.
Huber is also a combat veteran and earned the Army Commendation Medal while deployed with the 235th Military Police Company in Afghanistan in 2013, providing security for the Afghan Detention Facility in the Parwan, Province.
Sgt. 1st Class Dallas Vallery
1st Battalion, 196th Regiment
Sergeant 1st Class Dallas Vallery recently served as a quality assurance NCO with the 1st Battalion, 196th Regiment’s Office Candidate School in Sturgis. He is from Summerset and has 29 years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.
While serving with the 1-196th, Vallery provided outstanding support ensuring officer candidate training was accomplished across nine states and the territory of Guam for the national accelerated OCS program at Fort Meade. He also ensured student, trainer, and instructor packets were completed in accordance with program requirements. He was awarded with the Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding service and leadership to the OCS program.
Vallery is also a combat veteran and served two tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan. He served in Iraq in 2004 with the 153rd Engineer Battalion as the personnel services sergeant; and served in Afghanistan in 2010 with the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade as an executive administrative assistant to the command team – earning him the Distinguished Meritorious Defense Service Medal for his service.
Soldiers & Airmen Honorees
Ellsworth Air Force Base
SrA Christopher Bucciarelli
28th Comptroller Squadron
Senior Airman Christopher Bucciarelli is the Wing Staff Resource Advisor assigned to the 28th Comptroller Squadron. He provides financial decision-making support for all of the Wing Staff Agencies at Ellsworth, executing over $1 million dollars’ worth of goods and services while facilitating in procuring key wing contracts such as the chaplain retreat contract, USDA contract for safety, and also facilitating training material to other bases in support of financial decisions and contracts.
Airman Bucciarelli is from Horseheads, New York, and has been in the Air Force for 3 years — the second generation in his family to serve in the military.
Airman Bucciarelli deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve where he served as the budget analyst for the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. He was responsible for facilitating purchases of goods and services, while providing financial support to all Wing Staff Agencies. He also was awarded the Air Force Commendation medal as well as Airman of the Year for 28th the Comptroller Squadron in 2019.
He’ll be joined at the event by many of his fellow teammates from the Bomb Wing Staff.
Staff Sgt. Trenton Goode
28th Force Support Squadron
Staff Sgt. Trenton Goode is an Enlisted Professional Military Education Instructor for the 28th Force Support Squadron. He instructs, mentors, and coaches Ellsworth Airmen through the Air Force and Space Force entry level leadership enhancement course to prepare Senior Airmen for positions of greater responsibility by strengthening their ability to lead, follow, and manage while also gaining a broader understanding of the military profession and their role within the Air and Space Forces.
Sergeant Goode is from Haughton, Louisiana, and has been in the military for 5 years – the fourth generation in his family to serve in the military.
In 2018, Sergeant Goode recently deployed as a Water and Fuels System Maintenance Journeyman with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the Resolute Support Mission. While personally exposed to significant risk of hostile action and involved in multiple indirect fire attacks, Goode was a crucial team member, constructing Afghanistan’s first theater distribution center which created storage for 59,000 wartime assets. He was recognized as the Air Expeditionary Wing’s Top Performer and was awarded the United States Army Achievement Medal and the United States Air Force Achievement Medal.
In 2019, he deployed as a Water and Fuels System Maintenance Journeyman with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates in support of Operations Inherent Resolve, Freedom’s Sentinel, and the Resolute Support Mission. Sergeant Goode was responsible for maintaining 782 facilities. He responded to 1,500 water and sewer repair requests extending the life span of $281 million of infrastructure assets. He was awarded the United States Air Force Achievement Medal.
He’ll be joined at the event by his wife, Autumn Goode.
Staff Sgt. Justin Gehl
28th Operations Support Squadron
Staff Sgt. Justin Gehl is the Noncommissioned Officer In Charge of Mission Integration assigned to the 28th Operations Support Squadron. He is responsible for providing B-1 aircrews with crucial weather information about the conditions they will experience during their flying missions—whether that mission is local or halfway around the globe.
Sergeant Gehl is from Springville, Iowa, and has been in the Air Force for 10 years – the first in his family to serve in the military.
He deployed to Kuwait in 2020, where his weather forecasts supported 40 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as over 1,000 flying hours that supplied troops and weapons to the region.
Sergeant Gehl recently achieved a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a 3.9 GPA, and is actively working on a second Master’s degree in Cyber Security. He hopes to become an Air Force officer someday soon.
He’ll be joined at the event by his fellow squadron members and many of the aviators he supports.
Staff Sgt. Kurt Hillberg
28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Staff Sgt. Kurt Hillberg is a Weapons Expediter assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He is responsible for prioritizing and directing B-1 weapons system loading and maintenance operations.
He is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has been in the military for almost 6 years – the second generation in his family to serve in the military.
Sergeant Hillberg comes from a family rich in military history. His father retired as the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the South Dakota Air National Guard. Additionally, his sister, SSgt Carolyn Hillberg, is a Russian Linguist currently serving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
He recently returned from a deployment to Andersen Air Base, Guam, to support U.S. Pacific Command objectives. He has also participated in both RED FLAG and GREEN FLAG Exercises at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Sergeant Hillberg is a two-time winner of the 28th Maintenance Group’s Load Crew of the Quarter competition, and was also handpicked to represent Ellsworth during the Air Force Global Strike Command’s Global Strike Challenge competition.
He’ll be joined at the event by his wife, Kristjana, his father, retired Chief Master Sgt. Dean Hillberg, and his sister, Staff Sgt. Carolyn Hillberg.
Capt. Danielle McSheffrey
28th Medical Group
Capt. Danielle McSheffrey is the sole Group Practice Manager assigned to the 28th Medical Group. She is responsible for advising executive leadership on clinic operations, and coordinating with a multidisciplinary team to provide 75,000 appointments annually for 10,300 patients, 26 medical providers, and 9 clinics, ultimately enabling a medically-ready force at all times.
Additionally, she oversaw the rapid procurement of COVID-19 testing supplies, enabling 45 medics to provide over 422 medical evaluations and helping to mitigate a public health emergency. Captain McSheffrey’s efforts have been critical to both the success of the 28th Bomb Wing’s deployed and expeditionary mission set, and for the home-station medical care provided to 17,000 beneficiaries in the local area.
Captain McSheffrey is from Hamden, Connecticut – the first in her family to serve in the military, but followed in her husband’s footsteps shortly after he enlisted. Her husband is Capt. Jake McSheffrey, and Air Force Logistics Readiness Officer.
Captain McSheffrey recently procured Ellsworth’s first Mobile Expeditionary Readiness Clinic that has been utilized to bring medical capabilities to across the base, and has been used in support of on-going COVID-19 operations. This capability was key to the testing of over 3,400 patients, and enabling the first of many Bomber Task Force deployments supporting the overall B-1 mission.
She’ll be joined at the event by her mother-in-law, Diane, and her son, Jackson.
Military Spouse & Civilian Employee Honorees
Wife of Master Sgt. Danny Oaks, 82nd Civil Support Team
SOUTH DAKOTA NATIONAL GUARD
Amanda Oaks is the wife of Master Sgt. Danny Oaks, a member of the 82nd Civil Support Team stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Amanda has provided outstanding support for her husband, his unit, and his service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.
Amanda demonstrates unwavering commitment to her soldier and his unit, as well as supported other 82nd CST families while being a member of their family readiness group. Amanda has provided countless hours of support by providing encouragement, volunteering for event support, gifting food, and making phone calls to other families and spouses.
In addition to being a family readiness group volunteer and wife, Amanda is also an inspiring mother to their 4 children, two of which are adopted. The Oaks were so highly regarded by the adoption agency that they were hand-picked and fast-tracked to become the adopted parents of two little girls.
Amanda has gone on to give her time and energy in helping another family prepare their home, attain financial support, and receive emotional coaching-support in order to sponsor foster children from the Ukraine. Due to Amanda and Danny’s example, encouragement and assistance, this family has now adopted three sisters from the Ukraine.
Ellsworth Air Force Base
Mrs. Amanda Odenwald is a Key Spouse assigned to the 28th Security Forces Squadron. As a service minded volunteer she provides families support throughout the deployment cycle. Additionally, the Key Spouse Program encourages and builds family links to unit leadership, and helps increase awareness of installation resources for Airmen and their families.
Amanda comes from a family rich in military history. Her great-grandfather served as a radio operator during the height of the Cold War, retiring from the Air National Guard as a Master Sergeant. Her great-uncle served in the Air Force Reserve in aviation management, retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant, and her husband is a Technical Sergeant stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, as Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Electronic Security Systems.
She was the sole Key Spouse throughout most of 2020 organizing six family events during the pandemic following all prescribed COVID guidelines. She headed the 28th SFS Spouse’s Facebook page providing key information about COVID-19 policies and health information to Airmen and their families. Furthermore, she headed a roster of deployed member spouses in need of assistance throughout the deployment providing a constant link for the family and the unit.
Her husband, Joe, and their daughter, Abby will be joining her at the event.
SOUTH DAKOTA NATIONAL GUARD
Steele Bendigo is the real property manager for the Facilities Management Office of the South Dakota Army National Guard. He is from Rapid City and has been employed with the SDARNG for four years.
Steele works in the planning and programming section and his duties include daily management of all real-property assets, which includes 91 lease agreements.
Steele’s outstanding performance, work ethic and dedication to duty is of the highest caliber among the SDARNG’s civilian employees. His demonstrated performance for the Facilities Management Office added $130 million in plant replacement value assets last year, bringing the total to $748 million.
Steele also received 100% compliance with the Financial Audit Compliance Testing, ensuring the reliability of financial reporting, effectiveness and efficiency of operations, and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and agreements.
His experience and expertise is highly valued, and he is recognized by the National Guard Bureau as an instructor for real property management nationwide. Steele was also recognized this year by the South Dakota National Guard’s adjutant general for NGB’s internal audit compliance.
Mr. Jeffery Hollinshead
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE
Mr. Jeffery Hollinshead is a Work Life Specialist assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron. He is responsible for managing the 28th Bomb Wing Personal Financial Management program providing direct oversight of congressionally mandated educational workshops and educating 28th BW Airman on strategies and concepts of personal money management. Hollinshead facilitates one on one counseling sessions and coordinates with squadron leadership to identify and mitigate financial distractors affecting 28th BW mission readiness.
Hollinshead and his wife, Leann, are both proud USAF retirees. He served in multiple locations in various career fields spanning a 21 year career. After achieving the rank of the rank of Senior Master Sergeant, his final assignment was the First Sergeant for the 28th Maintenance Squadron here at Ellsworth AFB. His wife of 26 years, Leann also achieved the rank of Senior Master Sergeant and completed her 20 year career as the Superintendent of the 28th BW Command Post.
His wife Leann Hollinshead will be joining him at the event.
Military Friendly Business Honoree
Box Elder Location
Timmons is a local community connection for high quality foods, friendly service and great prices. They opened their doors in Box Elder recently, filling a need for quality grocery in the area. Their support and appreciation for the military comes through is everything they do. Form military discounts, providing services to meet military needs, and hiring military spouses and dependents.
The family-owned store offers a convenient one-stop shop where you can find everything you need from the everyday essentials to specialty items from around the world.
Timmons was nominated numerous times by military members for this recognition. They have quickly become a staple for quality service and products in the military and Box Elder community.
Nominated business include: Veterans Roofing, Family Fare, Cruizzers Pizza, Wall Meats, Kelly’s Sport Bar, Lowes, Millstone Family Restaurant, Workhorse Nutrition, Indian Motorcycle of Sturgis, Fleet Farm, T&K Hunting Gear, The Cowboy Back Bar, Tactical Cuts, Thirsty’s, Culver’s, Pizza Ranch Sturgis, Red Rock Restaurant, Black Hills Countertops Etc., NutriShop Rapid City, Dapper Jacks Barbershop, South Dakota Service Dogs