34th Annual Military Appreciation Event Honors Black Hills’ Finest
As a community, the Black Hills is proud to be the home of Ellsworth AFB and numerous South Dakota National Guard members. We are grateful for the selfless commitment our military members and families give in defense of our national freedom. Each year, our community hosts a Military Appreciation BBQ to recognize a handful of these Airmen and Soldiers for their outstanding achievements. Due to COVID-19, this year’s celebration is going to look a little different, and we are asking for your help to honor the achievements of local servicemen and women.
The Military Appreciation Event is hosted by the Military Affairs Committee, a coalition of community members, businesses, Elevate Rapid City and South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority. What started 34 years ago as a casual BBQ and potluck has evolved into a community-wide recognition event that hosts more than 500 military families for a fun gathering. While this year’s celebration won’t include the traditional BBQ and pig roast, we will still honor ten outstanding members of our military.
Beginning September 11 and continuing through September 22, we’ll be paying tribute to a different honoree every day—10 in all, with five representing Ellsworth Air Force Base and five from the South Dakota National Guard. The honoree spotlights will be hosted on Black Hills Wire, a website that serves as an informational resource for military members and their families in western South Dakota. We are encouraging the public and our media partners to check out Black Hills Wire’s website and follow their social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn) to help us share and spread the word about these amazing service members.
We have highlighted each of this year’s honorees below.
Ellsworth Air Force Base Honorees
Technical Sgt. Amanda Ramsey
28th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron
Technical Sgt. Amanda Ramsey is an Independent Duty Medical Technician and Paramedic assigned to the 28th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron at Ellsworth AFB. She provides medical treatment to all active-duty military patients and is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Flight and Operational Medicine Clinic. Sergeant Ramsey hails from Brookhaven, Mississippi, and arrived at Ellsworth in August 2018. She has been in the Air Force for 18 and a half years — the first in her immediate family to serve in the military. Her husband is retired Master Sgt. Michael Ramsey, who served for 20 years in the Air Force. Ramsey recently returned from a deployment at an undisclosed location in the Middle East. While deployed, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, she served as an Independent Duty Medical Technician and Paramedic, providing 24/7 medical coverage for 2,500 military and civilian personnel while enabling 4,900 combat sorties and 28,000 flight hours. She managed the Air Expeditionary Wing outreach program where she coordinated 42 health and wellness visits to three geographically separated units, as well as provided over 4, 000 immunizations. Ramsey augmented the wing’s Bio-environmental and Public Health flights, conducting six shop visits, collecting four air samples, and clearing over 3.7 million liters of water. Lastly, Ramsey completed 652 deployment health risk assessments for military members returning home and treated over 200 patients.
Senior Airman Ethan Williams
28th Security Forces Squadron
Senior Airman Ethan Williams is a Visitor Control Center Technician assigned to the 28th Security Forces Squadron at Ellsworth AFB. Williams validates entry for approximately 95 visitors daily and processes and files Installation Entry Authority Lists and special event lists, ensuring only authorized personnel are granted entry onto the installation. He is also responsible for issuing and inventorying restricted area badges to assist the 28th Bomb Wing’s stringent restricted area circulation controls. His daily actions set the front line of security for Air Force Global Strike Command’s largest combat B-1B Lancer fleet. Airman Williams hails from Hesperia, California, and arrived at Ellsworth in November 2017. He has been in the Air Force for just over three and a half years – following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Sgt. Sergio Luis Cortez-Rivera, who served as Provost Martial, U.S. Army, from 1966 to 1969. Airman Williams recently returned from a deployment in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support, where he served as a Response Force Member. While subject to indirect fire, Williams secured four medical evacuations aiding in emergency medical response for four coalition forces members wounded in action. Additionally, Williams supported Operation Daylight in which he served as a heavy weapons gunner to secure the Kandahar Air Field perimeter that negated enemy ground attacks and ensured the security of inherent resources. Furthermore, Williams responded to two separate indirect fire attacks and conducted post-attack reconnaissance to ensure the safety of 19 taxiways and 225 coalition aircraft, and identify unexploded ordinance, effectively securing 3.5 billion dollars in joint assets. Finally, Williams was an active member and elected Treasurer of the First Four professional Airmen’s organization that worked to improve the morale and provide professional development to Kandahar Air Field’s junior enlisted members.
Senior Airman Thomas Karol
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office
Senior Airman Thomas Karol is a Photojournalist assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs office at Ellsworth AFB. He is responsible for planning and conducting interviews to develop news and feature articles and videos to highlight the 28th Bomb Wing mission, producing news and video features and taking pictures and video in support of the world’s largest B-1B combat wing. Airman Karol hails from Round Hill, Virginia, and arrived at Ellsworth in May 2017. He has been in the Air Force for nearly four years – following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Kenneth Kerridge, who served in the U.S. Army with Darby’s Rangers and the First Special Service Force in World War II. Airman Karol recently returned from a deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While deployed, he served as a force protection member and provided security for over 2,500 military members, civilians and contractors. During his deployment, he helped oversee 38,000 local nationals, 12,000 vehicles and 22 projects. He also safeguarded 436 acres and 2,100 coalition personnel. Additionally, he was a dedicated escort for 500 local nationals, provided site security for $1.7 million in custodial contracts and helped protect infrastructure and 36 aircraft valued at $2.3 billion.
Technical Sgt. Robert Carino
28th Maintenance Squadron
Technical Sgt. Robert Carino is an Aircraft Structural Maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to the 28th Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth AFB. He guides 32 personnel performing structural repairs on 27 B-1B Lancers and 675 pieces of support equipment. He also conducts training on 218 tasks for newly assigned members. Additionally, Sergeant Carino manages the manufacture of aircraft components using engineering blueprints and technical orders. Sergeant Carino hails from Coolidge, Arizona. He has been in the Air Force for 14 years, previously serving at Hurlburt Field, Florida, and then Kadena Air Base, Japan, before coming to Ellsworth in May 2017. He is the first in his family to serve in the military. Sergeant Carino recently returned from a deployment tasking to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. While deployed, he served as section lead for three personnel, guiding multiple structural repairs on B-1 aircraft. He led a team of technicians in the repair of a B-1 wing lower pivot wedge fiberglass repair. His timeliness led to the repair time estimate beating the 48 hour estimate by 12 hours. His actions enabled a B-1B Bomber Task Force to execute a large force exercise with B-2 Spirit, Japan Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle, U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, F-35 Lightning II, and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft in the East Sea. Also, the large force exercise included the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.
Senior Airman Preacher Dunbar
28th Operations Support Squadron
Senior Airman Preacher Dunbar is an Airfield Flight Equipment Journeyman assigned to the 28th Operations Support Squadron at Ellsworth AFB. He maintains safety equipment that has the potential to be used during in-flight emergencies, ranging from aircraft decompression to catastrophic failure resulting in ejection for all 28th Bomb Wing aircrew operating on the B-1B Lancer fleet. Airman Dunbar hails from Biloxi, Mississippi. He has been in the Air Force for nearly four years – the first in his family to serve in the military. He arrived at Ellsworth in December 2016. Airman Dunbar recently returned from a deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While deployed, he provided installation security for over 2,500 military members, civilians and contractors. Dunbar was responsible for the movements of over 70 other country nationals who were building new facilities, repairing runways, aircraft parking ramps and sanitation projects.
South Dakota National Guard Honorees
Sgt. Matthew Jacobs
235th Military Police Company
Sgt. Matthew Jacobs serves as a detention and corrections specialist with the 235th Military Police
Company in Rapid City. He is from Rapid City and has 13 years of service in the South Dakota Army
National Guard. Sgt. Jacobs is one of the 235th’s subject matter experts regarding riot control and civil disturbance procedures. He served during several state active duty missions supporting the state of South Dakota and local law enforcement agencies during civil unrest this past year. Sgt. Jacobs was directly responsible for the success of more than 40 soldiers being trained and ready to provide civil unrest support. He provided outstanding leadership during these missions and placed his soldiers’ needs before his own – by continuously checking on their wellbeing and providing relief when necessary. Sgt. Jacobs is also a combat veteran and served with the 842nd Engineer Company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2011. During his deployment he demonstrated exemplarily courage by safely removing a roadside bomb with a front end loader. His actions earned him praise and recognition from the 82nd Airborne Division commander.
Sgt. Justin Thompson
235th Military Police Company
Sgt. Justin Thompson serves as a detention and corrections specialist with the 235th Military Police
Company in Rapid City. He is from Rapid City and has nearly 10 years of service in the South Dakota
Army National Guard. Sgt. Thompson served during several state active duty missions supporting the state of South Dakota and local law enforcement agencies during civil unrest this past year. His dedication to service, his unit, and the state of South Dakota proved evident as he supported one state mission even though he was getting married the very next day. Sgt. Thompson is one of the 235th’s subject matter experts regarding the M50 Gas Mask and his knowledge and expertise was vital in ensuring soldiers were properly trained to use their new mask during riot control missions. He provided outstanding leadership during these missions and placed his soldiers’ needs before his own by continuously checking on their wellbeing and providing relief when necessary. Sgt. Thompson is also a combat veteran and served with distinction with the 235th MP Company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2013.
Staff Sgt. Chase Cummings
Headquarters Company, 109th Engineer Battalion
Staff Sgt. Chase Cummings is a combat engineer assigned to the Headquarters Company, 109th Engineer Battalion in Rapid City. He is from Rapid City and has over 13 years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard.Staff Sgt. Cummings served in a pivotal role in the reactivation of the 109th Engineer Battalion in 2019,by leveraging his extensive Army engineering background and knowledge of the equipment maintenance processes. Staff Sgt. Cummings’ outstanding leadership and performance in the 109th was a major contributor to establishing the maintenance culture, plans, and accountability for his unit. He also used his knowledge of tactical engineering tasks to train unit soldiers on battlefield survivability tasks this past year. Staff Sgt. Cummings’ significant technical and tactical expertise has earned him the trust and confidence of the staff and soldiers of the 109th, and his level of expertise and professionalism is a point of pride for his leaders, peers, and subordinates alike. Staff Sgt. Cummings is also a combat veteran and served on two deployments overseas. He served with distinction with the 211th Engineer Company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2009, and also served with the 155th Engineer Company in support of Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait in 2015.
Staff Sgt. Karen Tucker
Joint Force Headquarters
Staff Sgt. Karen Tucker is the training noncommissioned officer assigned to Joint Force Headquarters in Rapid City. She is from New Underwood and has 14 years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard. Staff Sgt. Tucker is responsible for training requirements for soldiers assigned to JFHQ, as well a number of administrative requirements to support soldier personnel readiness. Her performance this past year and dedication to service to support the nearly 200 soldiers assigned to JFHQ has been essential in the unit meeting their yearly training readiness. Staff Sgt. Tucker’s service has included a number of state active duty assignments to supported state of South Dakota, which include Winter Storm Atlas in 2013, the Pierre Flood in 2011, and the ice storm that affected the Faith and Isabel communities in 2009. Staff Sgt. Tucker is also a combat veteran and served with distinction with the 842nd Engineer Company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2011.
Sgt. Keith Bryant
Headquarters Company, 109th Engineer Battalion
Sgt. Keith Bryant is the NBC, or nuclear, biological and chemical, noncommissioned officer assigned to the Headquarters Company, 109th Engineer Battalion in Rapid City. He is from Summerset and has 19 years of service in the South Dakota Army National Guard. Sgt. Bryant is the 109th’s resident expert on NBC training, equipment readiness, and operations. He served in a pivotal role in the reactivation of the 109th Engineer Battalion in 2019, by leveraging his experience as a NBC NCO to improve the training and readiness of the unit’s soldiers to operate in a NBC environment. Sgt. Bryant’s exemplary performance this past year ensured unit soldiers were trained on their new M50 Gas Masks, as well as advised on the unit on the setup and execution of a vehicle convoy and IED training lane during their annual training period this year. Sgt. Bryant is also a combat veteran and served with distinction with the 114th Security Forces Squadron during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait in 2003, where he provided convoy security and route reconnaissance to ensure the safe movement of U.S. and coalition forces in the region.