Cadet Squadron 04 AMT gets new stripe for the new year

Lt. Gen. Mike Gould and Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman pin stripes on a surprised Master Sgt. Bryant Ward in the commandant's conference room here Dec. 22, 2009. Sergeant Ward, an Academy Military Training NCO with Cadet Squadron 04, was promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program. General Gould is the Academy superintendent; Chief Salzman is the Academy's command chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Lt. Gen. Mike Gould and Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman pin stripes on a surprised Master Sgt. Bryant Ward in the commandant's conference room here Dec. 22, 2009. Sergeant Ward, an Academy Military Training NCO with Cadet Squadron 04, was promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program. General Gould is the Academy superintendent; Chief Salzman is the Academy's command chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Master Sgt. Bryant Ward recites the Oath of Enlistment after being promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program Dec. 22, 2009. Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the Academy superintendent, administered the oath. Sergeant Ward is an Academy Military Training NCO with Cadet Squadron 04. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Master Sgt. Bryant Ward recites the Oath of Enlistment after being promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program Dec. 22, 2009. Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the Academy superintendent, administered the oath. Sergeant Ward is an Academy Military Training NCO with Cadet Squadron 04. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Col. Gail Colvin congratulates Master Sgt. Bryant Ward on receiving a promotion to master sergeant through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program Dec. 22, 2009. Sergeant Ward, an AMT with Cadet Squadron 04, is the Air Force Academy's sole STEP promotee for 2009. Colonel Colvin is the vice commandant of cadets for culture and climate. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Col. Gail Colvin congratulates Master Sgt. Bryant Ward on receiving a promotion to master sergeant through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program Dec. 22, 2009. Sergeant Ward, an AMT with Cadet Squadron 04, is the Air Force Academy's sole STEP promotee for 2009. Colonel Colvin is the vice commandant of cadets for culture and climate. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- An Academy Military Training NCO with Cadet Squadron 04 here got a surprise gift Dec. 22: a new stripe for the new year.

The surprise came for now-Master Sgt. Bryant Ward during a meeting with Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Samuel Cox and members of the commandant's staff. The topic of cadet disenrollment packages came up, and General Cox had asked Sergeant Ward to explain his numbers. That's when Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould entered the room to turn up the heat.

The coordinated subterfuge set the scene for what came next: The Academy's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman, broke out a pair of master sergeant stripes, and the room erupted into applause.

"I thought I was losing a stripe!" the newly promoted master sergeant said after the applause settled down and the reality of his new rank -- effective immediately through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program -- started to sink in. "If I had to say anything, it would be, thank God! Thank Him, then my wife, then all the people here ... Thank you so much, seriously. I really appreciate this. This is ... wow. I'm speechless!"

Sergeant Ward recently came to the Air Force Academy from U.S. Air Forces in Europe. While he was stationed with USAFE, he received multiple awards, including U.S. European Command's servicemember of the year award and USAFE's Lance P. Sijan award. He was USAFE's Raven Program manager, supporting 448 missions and more than 1,000 days deployed to keep Air Force and Defense Department assets safe and secure.

"You've done some great things here as a senior NCO even before you were wearing the stripe," Chief Salzman said.

Sergeant Ward left the security forces career field to become an AMT at the Academy. Since arriving here, he spent 40 hours preparing, training and evaluating an 80-cadet cadre for Basic Cadet Training. He also evaluated squadron training plans and guided CS-04's leadership to an "excellent" rating in a cadet operational readiness inspection.

"The enlisted corps is a very important piece (of the Air Force), and coming to the Air Force Academy enlightened me on how important that piece is," Sergeant Ward said. "I enjoy it. I go home and talk to my wife about all the things that I've learned, because the cadets teach me as well as I hope I'm teaching them."

After hours, Sergeant Ward has volunteered for Airmen Against Drunken Driving, the Denver Fisher House and other local organizations, and he maintained a 3.8 grade-point average while taking 17 semester hours in 15 months.

"Your (nomination) package stood out," Chief Salzman said. "Sometimes the nominees' accomplishments jump right off the packages, and yours jumped right off. I'm very proud to be a part of this and giving you the master sergeant stripes."

Sergeant Ward has a Community College of the Air Force degree in criminal justice. He received the commandant's award while attending his NCO Academy professional military education. The senior NCO has been in the Air Force for about 17 years, including almost five years as a technical sergeant.

"Now all you've got to do is start working for senior master sergeant -- and you're well on your way," Chief Salzman said.