820th SFG houses oustanding Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
It can be rare to meet one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, but a trip to the 820th Security Forces Group here reveals three of them. 

Maj. Glenn Palmer, Master Sgt. Paul Schaaf, and Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine have held the prestigious title, with the latter being named most recently in July of this year. 

Airman Bobseine was deployed to the desert when she learned of her award. She was running one day, when someone flagged her down and told her to take a very important phone call. The VIP on the line was Gen. Ronald Keys, Air Combat Command commander, phoning the Airman to offer his congratulations for her being named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2006. 

"I didn't realize what a big deal this was until I got back," she said. "It's humbling (to know) how much they think of you. My whole family thinks it's cool."
Sometimes called "Little Polly" by her parents, and "PB and J" by her commander, in reference to her initials, Airman Bobseine graduated high school when she was 16. She then went on to be a skiing and snowboard instructor, a horse wrangler and trainer, and later took up training field trial dogs - all before the age of 18. Because she "didn't want to go to college," she decided to join the Marine Corps. However, her 5-foot 1-inch stature disqualified her from the "cool jobs," so she joined the Air Force instead. 

"Little Polly" volunteered for the 820th while in technical training and hit the ground running once she arrived at Moody four years ago. She has since earned Marine Jump Wings, completed the Air Force Sniper School, the Army's Air Assault Course, Combat Life Saver Course, and the rigorous U.S. Army Airborne School. 

The next outstanding 820th SFG Airman was Sergeant Schaaf. Last year, he had just returned from an extended deployment overseas and was given a phone number to call, which he did. A major answered the phone and placed Sergeant Schaaf on hold. Not knowing what the phone call was about, and after about 15 minutes of holding, Sergeant Schaaf hung up the phone and went about his daily duties. 

A while later, when he tried to phone the major again, the ACC commander's secretary answered the phone and told Sergeant Schaaf to hold the line and wait for the general. This time, the sergeant stayed on the line as told and was given the news by the ACC commander that he'd been selected as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2005. The general said he was quite amused Sergeant Schaaf had hung up on the major - the commander's executive officer. 

Sergeant Schaaf, a native of Victorville, Calif., said he meant no disrespect, but he had work to do. This work ethic and enthusiasm is contagious within his unit, he said, and he expects members of his team to strive for excellence. 

"You're either outstanding or outprocessing," he said, noting today's Air Force can't afford to have people who don't want to serve to the best of their ability.
"(This is) the best job in the Air Force, the best group, the best everything in the Air Force," he said. "I love it." 

In 1988, then Tech. Sgt. Glenn Palmer was named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. He earned his commission in 1993, and is now the commander of the 823rd Security Forces Squadron, his first assignment as a cop. 

Major Palmer, recently selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel, joined the Air Force Sept. 10, 1976, with a guaranteed job of air traffic control. After passing the test, he began his career as a combat controller and never looked back. Major Palmer earned the rank of master sergeant before his 11-year point and earned his commission when he had 16 years time in service. 

"It was the greatest thing I ever did. I figured I spent 16 years screwing up the enlisted side, so I'd give 16 more screwing up the officer side," he joked. 

The Perrytown, Texas, native said he joined the Air Force because he had to "get out and see the world" following in the footsteps of his high-school friend who'd joined the year before. 

All named as "Outstanding Airmen" of the Year, all members of the 820th SFG, and all love the job. In addition to sharing the rare distinction and same unit, all three share a common love for their jobs. 

"These aren't your normal cops," Major Palmer said. "They don't stand guard mount, they don't man the gate. This is a light infantry unit." 

The 820th feels "natural," according to the major, because the mission of the 820th is very familiar to this former combat controller. "We move, shoot and communicate," he said, referring to all 820th SFG members. 

Each agreed that the 820th is a close-knit unit. They train together, deploy together and fight together. The 820th is also paving the way ahead for the future of security forces, according to the major. 

"Security forces is in a transformation phase, and it just so happens the 820th has been leading the way," Major Palmer said. "We prevent insurgents from being able to attack ... defending the airfield from 'outside the wire.' We take it to 'em where they live." 

Being named one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen doesn't come lightly, and honorees are often called to represent their branch of service at various events, banquets and awards presentations throughout the year. 

"Public speaking is always character building," said Airman Bobseine, a native of Cattaraugus, N.Y. "I just jump in with two feet and see how it works. As long as I have a good message, it should go well." 

She does, however, want to make sure she keeps her boots firmly planted on the ground. 

"I want to stay and be operational," she said. "I still think it's good that I'm out there doing my job." 

Sergeant Schaaf agreed, saying you can't let the award turn into an ego trip, crediting his success to his leadership and to the love and support of his wife. 

"You're just a representative they've chosen to represent the Air Force for that year," he said. "Enjoy the ride, but don't let it go to your head. You're the same person you were the day before the award, but now you have to do your job even better. Everything is one step up." 

Airman Bobseine said she now has a higher standard to live up to after being named one of "the 12." 

"First impressions are slightly different now," she said. "I sometimes like to get away from that; it's (sometimes) better to walk in and have no one know who you are, but I'm not going to let it affect me." 

Major Palmer isn't surprised either of these Airmen won, adding that all members of the 820th "are hungry kids that want to go do their job in the hot spots around the world." 

"When you look at what Paul Schaaf and 'PB and J' have done, it's not surprising," the major said. "They're the epitome of an Airman's Airman. And, it's a unique mission here, so when you send (an award) package forward, it doesn't look like every other package."
The common attitude and motivation among these three Airmen helped them achieve this accomplishment, although none of them set out to achieve it. 

"None of us had this as a goal," Airman Bobseine said. "You just do what you like to do and take on everything 110 percent ... I'm either doing my job, or doing something I love to do."