552 ACW Airman wins Levitow

TINKER AFB, Okla. -- The following is a speech written by Staff Sgt. Tyler Wallace, budget analyst, 552nd Air Control Wing, for a speech class he is taking to earn his degree through the Community College of the Air Force. 

JOHN L. LEVITOW AWARD: This award is presented to the top student in each Airman Leadership School class. It is presented to the student scoring the highest on objective tests, performance evaluations, peer rankings, and staff rankings. Any student who fails any summative objective or performance evaluation will become ineligible for this award.
"Our final award is the John L. Levitow award, which is sponsored by the Air Force Sergeants Association, Chapter 985. The John Levitow award is awarded to the student who demonstrated excellence in all facets of the curriculum. Named in honor of the Air Force's lowest ranking enlisted Medal of Honor recipient, it is the highest award presented in Enlisted Professional Military Education. This award denotes excellence both as a scholar and as a leader." 

My name is Staff Sgt. Tyler Wallace, and I was selected to receive the John L. Levitow award upon graduation from Airman Leadership School (better known as ALS). This was my goal when I started ALS, but I never thought I would actually win it. I will explain that, as well as what it means to me personally. 

You see, I don't consider myself to be what you would call a "Smart Man." When somebody tells me something I don't know, I have to think on it for awhile until I can wrap my mind around it. I have learned to overcome that obstacle, but one of my biggest challenges is reading. I am an incredibly slow reader and that, coupled with my lack of intelligence, was a real struggle in ALS. 

Most of ALS is reading. On the first day, we were all issued a bulging four-inch binder and another stuffed one-inch binder. We were expected to read, understand, and regurgitate all that information in only 28 academic days. To say I was concerned is an understatement, but I pressed forward, and for the entire month of April, I never went to bed earlier than midnight, while still waking up by 5:00 am. I never took any breaks; no video games, no TV, no time for anything else except study. Somehow, I was able complete all the assigned tasks and maintain a good average. But academics were only half the award. I also needed to demonstrate the ability to lead. 

I was constantly sharing my life and professional experiences with my flight. During the scheduled breaks, I would try to help others who were struggling. I would often stay late to help edit writing assignments, and tried to keep moral up whenever possible. 

Finally, the night of graduation came and we ran through the ceremony flawlessly. As the award presentation began, I tensely waited to hear my name. We had two distinguished graduates; my name was not called. Then came the academic excellence award; my name was not called. Next, the leadership award; my name was not called. Now it was time for the Levitow. "From the 552nd," (I'm in the 552nd), "Air," (yes), "Control," (still good), "Wing," (Ok, there are only two of us here from the wing level), "Senior Airman Tyler O. Wallace," (no way)! This was the culmination of all the hard work I had put in. It was also a crowning moment, in my so far successful career... validation for the way I live my life. I was in complete shock. I sat there, with my head in my hands, unable to move as the room exploded around me. I was finally able to stand up and receive my award, but I could not hide the emotion that was so clearly running through my body. 

If I may be so bold as to pass on some advice to those who have yet to attend ALS, you should already know what to do. Everyone has been telling you how to succeed since basic training. Just step up and do it. Give your all to every task, challenge, and opportunity that comes your way. Rise to the expectations and show that you are capable of great things. Thank you.