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102nd Air Guardsman receives coveted AFISRA Larson Award for the first time in its 32-year history

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard.  Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard. Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard.  Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard. Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard.  Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard. Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron receives a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard.  Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (U.S. Air Force photos by Mr. William Belcher/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron received a gold medal from Air Force ISR Agency Commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Otto Oct. 27, during the Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The coveted competition identifies, recognizes and honors the “Best of the Best” performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported units from active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard. Out of over 600 other competitors, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home a Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1). (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Kerri Cole/Released)

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- Seventy-two of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency's best and brightest airmen were honored at the 32nd Maj. Gen. Doyle Larson Awards Banquet at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas on October 27, 2011. Among the honorees was Staff Sgt. Justin Thomas of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron, Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts.

The coveted competition, formerly titled Sensor Olympics, identifies, recognizes and honors the "best of the best" performers in 25 job specialties found at cryptologically-linked and administratively supported Active Duty, Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard units. Since ISR units are relatively new to the Air Guard, this was the first year they have participated in the competition, according to AFISRA. The 72 finalists were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals in their respective career fields, but they didn't know what medal they got until it was announced at the banquet.

Out of more than 8,500 Air Force technicians that test at the unit level, followed by more than 600 who test at the AFISRA level, Staff Sgt. Thomas was the only Guardsman to place as a finalist, taking home the Gold medal in the Client Systems career field (3D1X1).

"After it was announced, the banquet attendees knew the Guard was there representing because our small table of people stood up and yelled 'Go Guard!'" said Lt. Col. David Bascom, 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron commander.

The tests are in 3 phases of 100 multiple choice questions each, which consist of moderate to in-depth technical knowledge and practical skills. All eligible ISR units conduct annual preliminary testing, or alternative selection methods, to determine who qualifies for agency-level testing. The tests are administered in the summer months by unit test proctors.

Staff Sgt. Thomas joined the 102nd Fighter Wing in 2001 as an Aircraft Armament Systems specialist for the F-15 Eagle in the former 102nd Maintenance Squadron Weapons Shop, and was also part of the Alert Force as a fire guard. When the wing was re-designated as the 102nd Intelligence Wing in 2008, Thomas cross-trained into the Client Systems career field and became part of the new Intelligence Support Squadron, where he is currently a full-time technician.

"When I first joined the Guard in 2001, I tried to get into any computer-based position in the 267th Combat Communications Squadron but there were no openings at the time," Thomas said, "but now I am right where I want to be: working on and maintaining computer systems."

The Maj. Gen. Doyle Larson Awards program originated in 1979, the year the general assumed command of the United States Air Force Security Service, which then became the Electronic Security Command, both predecessor organizations of the agency.
Coupling his vision and technical ability, General Larson improved the performance of the organizations global cryptological mission, setting the foundation for what the Air Force ISR Agency has become today.

Lt. Col. Bascom said "This competition was a great way to showcase our talents in the Air Guard-- Sgt. Thomas represented the 102nd Intelligence Wing well and has made us and the Air Guard proud by taking home first place in a very difficult competition; he is truly a stand-out individual."