News: Combat cameraman wins Public Affairs Communication Excellence Award
Story by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones
MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. – From the Horn of Africa to the Republic of Korea, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Don Allen’s imagery has played a vital role in telling the Department of Defense story.
Allen, a native of Vinton, Va., was selected for the Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Frost Outstanding Communication Noncommissioned Officer Award in the 2012 Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs Awards for Communication Excellence and was nominated to advance to the Air Force level competition.
Col. Samuel Mahaney, 452nd Air Mobility Wing commander, presented Allen with the award July 13.
This esteemed award cited Allen’s photography skills, due diligence, and flexibility.
“Winning this award was an unexpected surprise. I've worked hard to be an effective combat photojournalist and perform my duties to the utmost of my abilities,” said Allen, a newly-promoted senior NCO.
Allen found his home at the 4th Combat Camera Squadron here in 2009.
For the past four-and-a-half years, Allen has been a photojournalist with the 4th CTCS. His 21-year career includes multiple deployments to various locations around the world.
From the Middle East to humanitarian missions including the Haitian refugee crisis at Guantanamo Bay, his hard work and dedication to duty make him stand out among his peers.
Another NCO who strived for excellence was Frost, the airmen for whom the award was named.
Frost, a Waukesha, Wis., native, was a photojournalist assigned to the 377th Air Base Wing, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when he died in a Mi-17 helicopter crash caused by a sandstorm March 4, 2008.
“Our unit has an interesting tie to Sgt. Frost,” said Maj. Hamilton Underwood, 4th CTCS photojournalism flight officer in charge.
Underwood was deployed to Iraq at the time of Frost’s death and received the last photos of Frost taken with the Iraqi air force just prior to their flight. When Underwood returned from deployment, he wanted to make sure Frost’s loved ones received the photos. Underwood contacted Frost’s family and sent a slideshow of these very precious images.
Allen said it is an honor for him to receive an award named for one of his fallen comrades.
“Staff Sgt. Frost was only one of many heroes lost in this conflict,” said Allen. “What makes him different to me is that he is one of a very few photojournalists who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Winning an award of this nature only serves to inspire Allen to continually improve.
“I'm not an island of knowledge,” said Allen. “There is always someone to learn from and room to grow as an NCO and photojournalist.”
Whether growth comes from supervisors, peers or subordinates doesn't matter. Allen takes the slow and steady approach to leadership and gives subordinates the guidance, time and room to grow.
“Leaders should constantly be aware that they will be replaced in time by those beneath them, and should make sure those rising stars are as bright as possible,” he said.
Editor’s note: I got chills when I heard the name of this award. While I was in technical training at the Defense Information School, Frost was among my circle of friends. I am deeply saddened for his wife, family and children. He had a strong passion for journalism and the Air Force. That day we lost one of our own, and I am very proud that Sgt. Allen, who is now my direct supervisor, can carry on Frost’s name with this award. Knowing two such fine NCOs inspires me every day.