JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Master Sergeant Ashley U.P. Able was selected as the Air National Guard’s 2018 Outstanding Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year.
Able, an aeromedical evacuation technician with the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard, stood out among her nationwide counterparts to be selected for the award. Her superior technical skills, passion for personal and professional development, acute problem-solving skills, and innovative mindset has set her apart among her peers.
“I do my job and that’s what I do,” Able stated matter-of-factly. “I am sure there are other Airmen who are more deserving than me. I’ve met some very impressive master sergeants and senior master sergeants and I would not have thought I would have gotten it over them.”
The professionalism and military bearing Able is known for have propelled her towards opportunities to have a lasting impact within her unit and for her wing. She is one of the four founding members of the up and coming NCANG Charlotte and Stanley County Top 3 Council. Able also sustained 3,000 hours while deployed in support of operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve, providing 24/7 aeromedical evacuation operations over 4.6 million square miles.
Always ready, Able rapidly responded in less than an hour for a sustained 480 hours in support of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Jose efforts. She attributes her readiness directly to her Guard career.
“I joined the Guard in 2006. I’m a Guard baby; this is all I’ve ever known,” Able said with a smile. “I’ve always been in air evacuation as a flight medic because I love it so much and I love the people I work with.”
Able has been a flight medic her entire Guard career. She was steered into the medical field by her recruiter and hasn’t looked back since.
“I wanted to fly,” Able said. “I thought this would be great because I can use some of these skills in the outside world, which I have. I work in an emergency room now as well.”
When reflecting on her role as an aeromedical evacuation instructor, Able speaks to the integrity of what she does.
“It is a very intimidating position sometimes because you are instructing people who are pretty much going to be saving the lives of other people,” Able said. “It is nothing to be taken lightly. We have some great Airmen out there doing this job. I try to just give them all that I can.”
Able’s trainees have saved lives. She cites instances of them happening upon critical emergency situations and being able to fill in the gap until emergency services arrived. She feels a sense of pride, not for herself, but for her Airmen who were able to act swiftly under pressure.
“It is a good feeling,” Able said with a smile, “but I feel great that the person themselves were able to save someone. That they were able to pull on what they knew, bring that out and do what they needed to do.”
Able has also put her medical skills to good service while off duty, providing critical medical attention to a fellow member who collapsed en route to the gym.
Considered a trailblazer by her peers, Able says she tries to stay involved in a variety of activities. She tries to treat people fairly and see that everyone gets what they deserve out of their career.
“I’m the advisor for the Junior Enlisted Council, Able said. “I’m working with Top 3 on a Junior Enlisted Symposium.”
Able recruited 10 volunteers to be “Galactic Buddies’ for over 40 children for a vacation bible school program serving Al Udeid’s permanent families. She also completed a sign language course in theater in order to prevent barriers when communicating the needs of deaf individuals.
“I try to involve myself with volunteer and mentoring opportunities,” Able reflected. “If I can do them and they are within my schedule and my means, then I am more than glad to take them on.”
Able has a passion for mentoring junior enlisted members of her unit. She serves as first sergeant as an additional duty and takes every opportunity to pass on wisdom to her Airmen.
“Set goals,” Able said. “Know why you’re here. Know why you want to be here. If you’re going to continue to be here, try and strive for those goals. Once you achieve them set more goals. Continue on that path. Set yourself up for success from the very beginning.”
One special goal Able achieved was completing the Boston Shadow Marathon while overseas, a 26.2 mile run benefiting over 30 United States charities.
Being a Citizen Airman is a unique service experience. Able recognizes the challenges of juggling service and home life and stresses the importance of finding balance.
“As a Citizen Airmen, one of the most challenging parts is having a civilian life outside of your Guard life,” Able reflected. “You have a family, you might have school. That can be a challenge. You have to be able to find that work and family relationship or work and civilian relationship.”
Able says that tapping in to the experiences of other leaders and other service members can help newer Airmen navigate the nuances of their dual roles.
“The best part is that there are other people doing it alongside you,” said Able. “You may feel like you’re in it by yourself but you’re not. There are other members who probably have experienced some of the same difficulties.”
Able speaks to wingmanship and the Airman concept, citing that service members are stronger together and that Airmen should lean on their wingman for support when they need it.
“It’s good to have a battle buddy and a wingman that you can trust and you can confide in,” Able suggested. “That makes it a whole lot easier.”
Able is already looking ahead to her year as an ANG Outstanding Airman. She wants to use her platform to be a voice for other Airman and utilize her access to ANG senior leadership wisely.
“One of the things I want to do is to be able to bring the some of the Airmen’s problem to the bigger voices, to the people who actually get to make decisions for us,” Able stated.
Her heart for being a voice goes beyond just her wing. She believes she can be a catalyst for change for a larger audience.
“In doing that, I feel like that would be a huge win for the Guard as a whole,” Able said.
Able’s coworkers and trainees consider having her within their ranks to be a huge win for the 156th.