TSgt. Jason D. Payne, a Combat Controller with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, N.C., is one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2013. Payne deployed most recently as the sole combat controller with a 50-man Navy SEAL team in Afghanistan, directing close air support during 31 high-risk missions with zero losses. He helped conduct operations that led to the killing or capturing of 44 enemy fighters. He participated in a successful rescue of a US hostage that required quietly infiltrating an insurgent stronghold after a grueling six-mile journey and then guiding shooters onto enemy positions and personally killing seven enemy fighters. During one mission, he stood exposed in open terrain to survey and secure a hot landing zone to quickly evacuate a wounded SEAL. Payne also served with a national crisis response force where he was the lead Combat Controller with an elite special operations forces team. His home of record is Pensacola, Fla.
Each year, AFA salutes twelve outstanding enlisted personnel for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement, and personal achievements. AFA proudly honors these Outstanding Airmen at its annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition held in September in Washington, D.C.
"The Air Force Association is very proud to honor the commitment of these exemplary Airmen," said George Muellner, AFA Chairman of the Board. "We salute them for their professional achievements and dedication and thank them for their continued service to our country."
"These men and women have demonstrated exceptional leadership and performance," said Craig McKinley, AFA President. "Each year we join the Air Force in recognizing the achievements of select distinguished Airmen. Their commitment to their jobs reflects the high standards that exist within the United States Air Force, and we look forward to seeing what else they accomplish throughout their careers."
The program was initiated at the Air Force Association's 10th annual national Convention, held in New Orleans in 1956. The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, a general officer, and selected Major Command chiefs form the selection board. The Air Force Chief of Staff reviews the selections. The Twelve Outstanding Airmen are awarded the Outstanding Airmen ribbon with the bronze service star device and wear the Outstanding Airmen badge for one year. They also serve on the Air Force Enlisted Council for one year.