Space Force Announces Polaris Awards for 2023’s Top-Performing Guardians (Image Credit: airandspaceforces)
The Space Force announced the recipients of the 2023 service-level Polaris Awards, which honors Guardians for excellence in performing their mission and living the values of the Guardian Spirit.
There is an individual award for each of the four values: character, connection, commitment, and courage, and a team excellence category that represents all four values, the Space Force said in a Jan. 11 press release. All of the more than 13,800 military and civilian Guardians are eligible for the award program, which began in 2022.
“Guardian Values are our Polaris—our North Star—they guide us in all we do,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman said in the announcement of the first field command-level Polaris Awards recipients in November 2022. “Every Guardian’s commitment to our values directly influences our ability to execute our mission and maintain readiness.”
Then-Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger Towberman praised the Polaris Awards in his final keynote address at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in September, comparing it to the Air Force’s annual 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year awards.
“Our annual awards, the Polaris Awards are given for living up to our core values, competing against the standard that is accessible to every Guardian,” Towberman said. “How close can you get to Guardian perfection and courage or character or connection or commitment?”
Tech. Sgt. Isabel Childress, of the 1st Delta Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was the first Guardian to earn all three awards at the Military Training Instructor School: Distinguished Graduate, Excellence in Instruction, and the Commandant’s Award. She also made a website for the instructor schoolhouse, co-hosted a town hall for future MTI applicants, and “found creative methods to motivate and connect new Guardians and their families,” according to the Space Force.
Maj. Jessica Pratt, of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., exemplified “connection” by creating new connections between USAFA and the Space Force, the release explained. She integrated the space domain into cadet capstone exercises, included Guardians from across the Space Force in USAFA events, helped grow Azimuth, a summer training program for service academy and ROTC cadets interested in joining the Space Force, and mentored instructors training cadets in the space domain.
1st Lt. Jonathan Novak of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Space Force Base, Colo., showed commitment by researching resilient space architectures, publishing his work in an international aerospace engineering journal, presenting to 60 educators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and leading the creation of the Space Force’s first space-centric acquisition training, the service wrote.
Capt. Samantha Pereira of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron, also at Schriever, exhibited courage when she empowered her team at the 3rd SOPS’ engineering flight to identify issues and challenges and develop a “get-well plan.” Her actions led to an “accountability and configuration control process” and helped the unit pass its first security inspection, the Space Force wrote. Pereira did so while “cultivating an environment of dignity and respect” and fostering innovation among team members.
Team Excellence Award
The 22nd Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, at Malmstrom Air Force Base is only Space Force unit in Montana and acted as “ambassadors” for the service for the joint force and the local community, the Space Force wrote. They highlighted the importance of STEM to children across the country, implemented a professional development program for unit members, and better integrated space and intelligence into the unit’s cyber mission.
Though only a few Guardians receive the Polaris Awards every year, the Space Force aims to work its core values into every Guardian’s experience.
“We also were able to weave our core values into our promotions, rewriting the board charge to focus on those core values to say, ‘Hey, whatever you are doing, you should be doing it through these four Cs.’” Towberman said in September. “‘So hey, promotion board, let’s value them through that. Let’s look at those things. Let’s get rid of the tests. Let’s be honest.’”