Intel Airman wins Air Force award

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alex Mercer)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alex Mercer)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- More than a thousand flight hours and 600 combat missions with a high rate of success have earned Senior Airman Ryan Jewell, 56th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron mission intelligence coordinator, the title of Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Airman of the Year.

Jewell was recognized for the leadership and skill he brings to the combat intelligence support mission, according to Maj. Marcell Strbich, 56th SOIS operations officer.

Using surveillance imagery to watch over hot spots around the world, Jewell serves as the connection between ISR aircraft operators and warfighters on the ground.

“Essentially, I act as a liaison between our aircrew and a supporting unit,” Jewell said. “I relay taskings from leadership, develop intelligence and identify targets.”

Jewell’s overhead coverage can involve identification, analysis and tracking of threats in order to provide immediate situational awareness for troops on the ground.

“Without his contribution, there would be no clear sight picture,” said Strbich. “Airman Jewell enables warfighters to target more accurately, and he allows aircraft crews to focus on flying and sensor operation while he keeps communication flowing.”

By coordinating between ground fighters and air operators and maintaining focus on the right target at the right time, Jewell regularly saves lives: his efforts keep civilians out of harm’s way and eliminate enemy combatants.
Jewell’s duties also keep him working on a global scale, serving campaigns worldwide. During a deployment, he managed 11 aircraft, sustaining tactical command and control to ensure mission execution—all while managing national-level taskings.

“When I deployed, I got to work on a different side of my mission,” he said. “On top of managing our assets, I got to work on eliminating enemy targets.”

Jewell’s collected experiences and leadership capabilities led to new career opportunities at home, including a position as an instructor and evaluator where he provides a standard for incoming Air Commandos as he builds combat-ready forces.

“He’s earned the trust and respect of his senior leaders,” Strbich said. “He is a standout Airman who has been performing at the level we expect from NCOs.”

In spite of his accolades in garrison and overseas, Jewell was surprised to be recognized at the Air Force level.
“I knew that my leadership had written a great package for me, but I did not realize it would go all the way up to the Air Force level,” he said.

Jewell attributed his success in part to the mentors who helped shape his approach to his career.

“I have a couple of mentors, but I regard my flight chief as one of the smartest people in our shop,” he stated. “When he first came in, I was the one who showed him the ropes; once he became a leader, he became my mentor. We are able to feed off each other, and he constantly pushes me to be better.”

As a potential mentor to the Air Commandos he trains and qualifies, Jewell hopes to pass on the trait that has best motivated him throughout his career.

“It pays to have intellectual curiosity,” he said. “Never stop striving to learn. Don’t be the standard—exceed it.”