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Academy NCO wins Levitow Award from Vosler NCO Academy

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The NCO in charge of command career enhancement programs for the Air Force Academy staff here received the John Levitow Award when she graduated from the Vosler NCO Academy at Peterson Air Force Base April 8.

Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Smith was the top graduate among 125 mid-level NCOs who graduated from the NCO Academy's Class 10-3.

"It's humbling and an honor," Sergeant Smith said of the award, named for Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John Levitow.

Senior Master Sgt. Robbie Wellbaum, the interim NCO Academy commandant, called Sergeant Smith a "great briefer" who took the lead on study groups and enforcing standards in class and who helped students who struggled with academics.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Lt. Col. Karen Burke, chief of the Academy's Personnel Support Division, said of Sergeant Smith's award. "She is by far one of the best, if not the best, NCO who has ever worked for me."

Sergeant Smith called the NCO Academy curriculum challenging but "super refreshing" at the same time.

"It was a huge investment of time every single day," she said. The wide area of studies included communications, leadership and management and military skills.

Sergeant Smith entered the Air Force after graduation from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs and found her niche in the personnel career field, which appealed to her customer service and administrative inclinations.

Colonel Burke said Sergeant Smith typically goes above and beyond what is expected of her, plans far ahead for upcoming projects and looks for ways to solve issues before seeking guidance.

"She just blows me away," Colonel Burke said.

Sergeant Smith's previous assignments included the 10th Medical Support Squadron here, Air Force Space Command Headquarters at Peterson AFB, and military personnel flights at Peterson AFB and McConnell AFB, Kan. Among other duties, Sergeant Smith is responsible for promotions for officers and enlisted Airmen, awards and decorations and Reserve man days.

"Looking back, I couldn't be happier," the 11-year Air Force veteran said of her chosen field. "I can't imagine myself doing anything else."

The daughter of a retired Army command sergeant major said the qualities of a good leader include focusing on the mission and developing Airmen.

Sergeant Smith is currently working on her Bachelor of Science degree in organizational management and human resources, an area she would like to pursue in the Air Force professional military education setting as an instructor.

"I very much like the academic setting, and I enjoy public speaking," she said.

She said she would also enjoy a future overseas assignment with her husband, Master Sgt. Joe Smith, who is stationed at Peterson AFB, and their children. The mother of three -- two sons and a daughter -- enjoys family time while away from the Academy as well as skiing, snowboarding and rafting. She said she looks forward to interacting with her NCO Academy classmates in the future.

"They are a fantastic group of people," she said. "Networking is one of the best benefits."

The Levitow Award is presented to the top graduate excelling in leadership and scholarship at each level of the Air Force's professional military education programs, which include the Airman Leadership School and Senior NCO Academy as well as the NCO Academy. Sergeant Levitow, for whom the award is named, received a Medal of Honor for his actions inside an AC-47 Spooky outside Long Binh Army Base, South Vietnam, when, wounded, he secured a loose, burning Mark 24 flare and hurled it through an open cargo door, saving lives and the aircraft.