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AFTAC Airmen selected for Air Force STEM awards

Graphic illustration of the Air Force Technical Applications Center’s STEM program.

Graphic illustration of the Air Force Technical Applications Center’s STEM program.


The winners of the 2017 Air Force Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Awards were recently announced and the Air Force Technical Applications Center had an exceptional presence among the winners.


Of the fourteen packages Air Combat Command submitted for this year’s awards, seven winners were selected, and five of those were from AFTAC.


Receipt of an Air Force STEM Award is a lifetime achievement, an honor bestowed upon very few in the course of a career, said Dr. Janet Fender, chief scientist, ACC.


This is recognition that ACC Airmen make important STEM contributions that significantly enhance operational capabilities, she said. 


Among the award recipients from AFTAC was the winner of the 2017 Annual Acquisition Awards Program Dr. Paul G. Kaminski Most Promising Systems Engineer of the Year Award, Capt. Joshua J. Ford.


The STEM Science and Technology Award winners included Capt. Kimberlee S. Pottinger, who was recognized as a winner of the Air Force Research and Development Award.


“I have an amazing group of people who work with me and put their passion into developing technologies that are used to protect the safety and security of Americans,” she said.


Pottinger’s technical leadership resulted in a program used to safeguard $11.6 billion in U.S. space assets.


“Throughout her career, Captain Pottinger has been instrumental in developing and fielding next generation technologies to the warfighter in defense of our country,” said Col. Steven M. Gorski, commander, AFTAC. “She manages a team of multi-agency personnel who oversee current and future research and development efforts aimed at protecting United States space assets from adversarial attacks.”


The 2017 individual award for Exploration or Advanced Tech Development was given to Maj. Michael S. Butler, formerly assigned to AFTAC and currently the executive officer to the vice commander of 25th Air Force.


Butler’s initiative and innovation was paramount in enhancing several combatant command space situational awareness capabilities (SSA).


After two unsuccessful Department of Defense SSA efforts in 2009 and 2015, Butler took the reins and submitted an unfunded requirement proposal to reinvigorate these efforts. Upon approval of the proposal, he quickly aligned diverse multi-organizational goals, ideas and resources to lead a 63-member team across 15 civil and DoD organizations to rapidly develop and field a first-of-its-kind SSA capability at a fraction of the 2009 and 2015 project costs, according to his nomination.


Despite the dynamics of a cross-organizational team, system engineering challenges and a tightly constrained budget and schedule, Butler applied this SSA capability to answer an urgent combatant command request on a specific space asset.


The program is now a multi-million dollar effort that provides unparalleled SSA on space activities.


This is Butler’s fifth Air Force level award in the last four years.


Other awardees included Maj. Garret Duff, who was recognized for his work in Manufacturing Technology at AFTAC, and Maj. Ernesto Curiel, who was awarded for his efforts in Research Management.


Curiel manages a Research, Development, Test and Evaluation office with 62 members and a portfolio of $95 million. His team specializes in translating warfighter and other user requirements into materiel solutions ready for deployment.


According to his nomination, Curiel developed four special communication devices worth $35 million that have been crucial to validating a $16 billion communication network. The developed devices increased data rates ten times, giving warfighters access to high fidelity communications.


Curiel said his AFTAC team was vital to the success of the projects he managed.


“I could not have claimed success on these projects unless I had a great team that worked hard,” he said.


The Air Force Technical Applications Center, part of Air Combat Command’s 25th Air Force, is on the leading edge of technological research and the evaluation of verification technologies for current and future treaties involving weapons of mass destruction which threaten national security.  The center provides national authorities with quality technical measurements to monitor nuclear treaty compliance and develops advanced proliferation monitoring technologies to preserve the nation’s security. It is the sole organization in the federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions.