News: JBER Airman named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year
Story by Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Moving from Australia to Europe and then to Florida, the 14-year veteran wanted to do something with his life. As a U.S. Air Force family member, he saw what the Air Force had to offer -- working with people, seeing the world, doing something different and challenging himself.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Michael Venning, 673d Contracting Squadron superintendent, did just that and was recently named as one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
"I was involved in a lot of Department of Defense and joint contracting initiatives anywhere from training the Army on their new system that is being develop for contingency contracting environment as well as the contracting mission," Venning said. "I was also selected to pioneer the contracting electronic training record implementation plans for the career field manager."
As a front man of a 12-member executive demonstration travel team, Venning has traveled to numerous locations to help train DoD personnel.
"Just like what [Air Force Chief of Staff] Gen. [Mark] Welsh and [Chief Master Sgt of the Air Force] James Cody said, 'Your performance has to come first above all things.' You have to be really good at what you do," Venning said.
Having deployed on 12 temporary-duty assignments in 2013 away from home station, the Melbourne, Australia, native said he had a great year.
"My wife, Laura, felt the brunt of my TDYs, but I was fully supported by my wife," said the father of three. "My children think it was really cool for me to go out and talk to all these people."
While his situation is unique, he said his family in Australia couldn't be more proud of him.
"A lot of times, my family doesn't understand what it is we do in the Air Force. They think everyone fly planes," said Venning. "It was really good that I could explain to my family how I affect the broader Air Force mission and my dad is very proud."
Prior to his most recent accolades, Venning joined the military in 2000 and easily stood out amongst his peers. Upon graduation from Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as an element leader, he went to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, for technical training in electrical power production and was a distinguished graduate.
"Looking back, I did what I was told -- they give you rules and instructions to help you succeed," Venning said. "Doing what you are supposed to do with a positive attitude was the start of my career."
Early in his career, Venning said he had the mentality of "If my answer is right, everyone is wrong," and it took a few good noncommissioned officers along the way and a couple of senior noncommissioned officers to straighten him out.
"This was not the right approach." Venning said. "It's okay to be right, but that doesn't mean everybody else is wrong."
Venning persevered to serve in the military and -- prior to his first reenlistment -- he became a U.S. citizen in 2005.
In 2006, Venning retrained into contracting. During his first contracting assignment at one of the largest operational contracting units at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., he became a contracting officer warrant after less than two years in the career field.
Venning said if people are afraid to fail, then they are not going to try harder at what they are doing.
"We are not going to be growing, we are not going to be innovated," the father of three said. "You've got to say yes to every opportunity and don't be afraid to fail."
"Outside the Air Force three core values, I believe in teamwork and hard work," said Venning. "I know they are part of the core values, but when you emphasize those, there is nothing you cannot accomplish."
Through multiple deployments and readiness exercises during his career, he also earned a below-the-zone promotion and was the John L. Levitow award recipient twice at Airman Leadership School and Noncommissioned Officer Academy. Venning also was named as the unit's NCO of the Year consecutively for 2007, 2008 and 2009. While attending the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, he was selected as the SNCOA distinguished graduate and commandant's award winner. In addition to his accomplishments, he was selected as the Air Force Materiel Command Contracting SNCO of the Year.