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Luke reservist one of Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen

MSgt Sandra Plentzas,944th Fighter Wing chaplain assistant, was recently awarded the John Levitow Award following graduation from Senior NCO Academy March 11. (Courtesy photo)

MSgt Sandra Plentzas,944th Fighter Wing chaplain assistant, was recently awarded the John Levitow Award following graduation from Senior NCO Academy March 11. (Courtesy photo)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- It's been said lightning only strikes once, but that's not true for Luke. For the second time in three years, a base Airman has been named an Air Force Outstanding Airman of the Year.

Master Sgt. Sandra Plentzas, 944th Fighter Wing Chapel superintendent, was selected as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen for 2012.

"It is with the utmost respect and pleasure that I was able to announce our very own 944th Fighter Wing warrior as one of the United States Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year recipients," said Col. Jose Monteagudo, 944th FW commander. "She has shined bright this past year with multiple Air Force-level awards."

Plentzaz was selected in 2011 as the John L. Levitow Award recipient and distinguished graduate at the Senior NCO Academy. During the Golden, Colo., native's deployment to Southwest Asia, she was named the U.S. Air Force Central Outstanding Chaplain Corps Senior NCO of the Rotation and earned the Senior NCO Airman Excellence in Fitness award. All the while, Plentzas volunteered with several different organizations on Luke, including working with spouses of deployed members and the Air Force Sergeants Association.

"Master Sgt. Plentzas is a true representation of the professionalism of our military and the caliber of our service members," Monteagudo said. "Her accomplishments and dedication speak louder than words. It's a distinct honor to have her in our wing. She is an inspiration to us all."

Over the past year, Plentzas also completed Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education, the Chaplain Assistant Senior Leadership Course and the Air Force Reserve Senior NCO Leadership Development Course, while completing her third associate degree in social services.

"Some of the best career advice I ever received was to do everything I have control over to make myself eligible and competitive," Plentzas said. "You need to be sure you are taking care of your PME and education at the earliest opportunity. Take care of any upgrade or qualification training in a timely manner and strive to do your best on the job."

Plentzas' advice to other Airmen is to know what to do to make it to the next stage of one's career and to be proactive in pursuing it.

"Take charge of your own career and don't wait for someone else to work things on your behalf," she said. "But above all, be sure that you do everything with excellence and for the right motive. If you are genuinely concerned about your fellow Airmen and the mission, recognition will follow."

Her concern for fellow Airmen was never more evident than during her recent deployment. As the NCO-in-charge of the largest chaplain team in the area of responsibility, spanning four sites in three countries and supporting more than 18,100 deployed members, Plentzas brought her expert leadership to her team. Her deployed wing chaplain said she was "the key to the Air Expeditionary Wing team."

Plentzas forward deployed three times during her seven-month deployment and was handpicked to help military members deal with a fellow Soldier's suicide.

She also benchmarked a comprehensive Airmen's fitness program and led 26 members in a resiliency outreach to 1,100 joint forces.

"Putting on the resiliency week for newly arrived Airmen was the highlight of my deployment," Plentzas said. "It's the thing I'm probably most proud of."

Some of Plentzas' fellow Airmen are not surprised she was chosen one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

"Master Sgt. Plentzas is the consummate military professional," said Chaplain (Capt.) Kevin Rash, her supervisor in the 944th FW. "Those of us who work with her daily are not surprised that she won."