Personnel squadron commander wins prestigious national award

U.S. Air Force Maj. Melissa Danley, commander of the 118th Force Support Squadron, Tennessee Air National Guard, examines the work of Airman 1st Class Willie Williams, a personnelist with the 118th FSS, May 14, 2019 at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tennessee. Danley was awarded the Lt. Gen. Norm Lezy Award for the Air National Guard in April 2019, which recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions in the personnel career field. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Agosti)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Melissa Danley, the 118th Force Support Squadron commander at the 118th Wing, took home a top Air National Guard level award for 2018 at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tennessee, April 2019.

The award, the Lt. Gen. Norm Lezy Award, is given to commanders in the personnel career field making outstanding contributions through their leadership and ingenuity.

“I haven’t won that type of an award before, so I was very surprised,” said Danley. “I had no expectation of winning, I was just happy to be nominated.”

Danley said her nomination included her work on drastically reducing unit write-ups, creating an effective manpower tracking system, developing a three-year strategic plan, and streamlining customer service to name a few. It also included historic first in Air Force history.

“I’m the first active-duty Air Force officer,” said Danley. “To be a squadron commander at a Guard squadron.”

Danley’s unique perspective as an active-duty Airman in an Air Guard unit helped bring fresh ideas and approaches on how to improve things in the squadron.

“We were extremely nervous about her coming, because she’s active duty; we didn’t know what to expect, but it was one of the greatest experiences,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicole Shingleton, an officer actions clerk with the 118th FSS. “The achievement of the award while her being here just to me reflects how well she has done.”

Danley said her approach to getting work completed in the unit was to take “one bite of the elephant at a time.” She said by focusing on resolving one or two programs or issues at a time helped immensely with improvements in the squadron.

While she is the one receiving the recognition, Danley didn’t take sole credit for receiving the award.

“Honestly, we say that leaders never win awards based on what they do,” said Danley. “They win awards based on what their folks do.”

“It was her first instinct to say ‘Hey my people did this work, and that’s why I got this award, was because of the people in FSS,’” said Shingleton. “She’s very appreciative of us, and isn’t afraid to say that out loud.”