Med Group NCO 'STEP's up a notch

  • Published
  • By David Edwards
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
Tech. Sgt. Paige Hanson's promotion Jan. 28 was so big, it was written in all-caps.

The newly minted Master Sgt. Hanson received the coveted Stripes for Exceptional Performers promotion at a ceremony in the 10th Medical Group clinic. STEP recipients' promotion takes effect immediately, and the promotion is limited to one per base per year.

So yeah, it's a pretty big deal. And Sergeant Hanson fully understands the magnitude of it.

"The reality has not sunk in yet. I still don't believe it," she said. "It is an amazing feeling to be selected as the 'chosen' one deserving of a (senior NCO) rank. And words cannot describe how it felt to be able to wear it immediately."

Sergeant Hanson said she's not sure yet how the promotion will affect her long-term plans with the Air Force. But she proclaimed herself ready to pursue her next goal in life, earning a master's degree.

The STEP promotion ceremony is all about the element of surprise. Because of all the advantages that adhere to the award, the surprise is a pleasant one. And nobody let the cat out of the bag beforehand for this year's winner.

"I was not given any hints. It was a complete shock to me," Sergeant Hanson said. "All I knew was that I was receiving an Above and Beyond award."

As she stood in the spotlight, she saw Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the Academy superintendent, and Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman, the Academy's command chief, approaching.

"I knew something good was about to happen," she said.

And indeed it did. That's when the thrilling news was broken to the TriCare Operations and Patient Administration flight chief.

The honor was made even sweeter by the presence of Sergeant Hanson's family and her colleagues in the 10th Medical Group, all of whom were already in a festive mood thanks to the wealth of honors handed out prior to the STEP promotion.

"The best thing about being part of presenting someone with a STEP is the surprise, and ensuring their family is there, too," said Col. Rick LoCastro, commander of the 10th Air Base Wing. "We worked hard to keep it a secret, so to have (Sergeant) Hanson totally floored by General Gould presenting the stripe and to have her husband there to also enjoy it all was amazing."

Chief Salzman, one of the award presenters, echoed Colonel LoCastro, saying that the best part of STEP promotions is the maximum shock value if they're done properly. He was effusive in his praise of Sergeant Hanson.

"What impressed me most was the readily apparent can-do attitude and that she was already working at the senior NCO level," Chief Salzman said. "Her efforts were in lockstep with the requirements of a master sergeant."

Although there probably is no magic formula in Sergeant Hanson's path to the STEP promotion, she did trace the major steps that led to her unexpected ascent up the ranks. Not only did she become a master sergeant immediately, she also had significant time shaved off the number of years it typically takes to go from technical sergeant to master sergeant.

Yet as others sang her praises, Sergeant Hanson didn't hesitate to share credit for the promotion.

"My supervisor is really into mentoring his people and keeping us focused on our goals as well as establishing new ones," she said. "He knew that my goal was to make master sergeant and begin my master's program. He gave me opportunities to fill in as the flight chief, which has been challenging at times. Apparently I have exceeded his expectations."

And now she can bolster that claim with visual evidence: an extra stripe.