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Honor guardsman receives 9th AF award

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Gittens, 633rd Force Support Squadron readiness NCO in charge, assesses the honor guard team during training at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 1, 2017. The team practiced a detail that would be performed during a funeral service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Gittens, 633rd Force Support Squadron readiness NCO in charge, assesses the honor guard team during training at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 1, 2017. The team practiced a detail that would be performed during a funeral service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Gittens, 633rd Force Support Squadron readiness NCO in charge, assists Airman 1st Class Noah Lalonde, 633rd FSS honor guard head trainer, during honor guard training at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 1, 2017. Gittens has dedicated seven years to the Langley Honor Guard.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Gittens, 633rd Force Support Squadron readiness NCO in charge, assists Airman 1st Class Noah Lalonde, 633rd FSS honor guard head trainer, during honor guard training at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 1, 2017. Gittens has dedicated seven years to the Langley Honor Guard.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

At first, honor guard wasn’t even a thought for, then, U.S Air Force Airman 1st Class Quinton Gittens. It was only brought up briefly in conversation with a chief master sergeant; however, as the fates would have it, Gittens was tasked to start an honor guard program the very next week.

“When I started honor guard, I wasn’t the best,” explained, now, Staff Sgt. Quinton Gittens, 633rd Force Support Squadron readiness NCO in charge. “I was struggling pretty badly, but as time went on, I ended up liking it, and I ended up doing really well at it.”

For Gittens, honor guard became more than just doing details and participating in ceremonies, it became an opportunity to lead and help Airmen become better. 

After seven years of serving as an honor guardsman, Gitten was recognized for that leadership by receiving the 9th Air Force Program Manager of the Year in 2016. He won the award while leading Airmen as the 633rd FSS honor guard manager.

“My entire Air Force career I haven’t won any awards, until now,” Gittens explained. “Honor guard has definitely rewarded me for my hard work.”

The Program Manager of the Year goes through multiple levels to determine the winner. It starts off at the base level, where individuals submit a package to be selected for the award. The package then goes up to the numbered Air Force level. This is where individuals are evaluated and compared to candidates from other bases. Next, the best candidates are chosen from their respective major command level. Lastly, those who were submitted for the 12 outstanding Airmen of the Year level are chosen.

While Gittens was very excited and accepted his award with great gratitude, he didn’t want to take all the credit.

According to Gittens, the Airmen he led were his motivation. If it wasn’t for them, he doesn’t think he would have been a candidate for the award.

“Bettering someone, that is my motivation,” Gittens said. “If I reach out to you and help change your life… and I see the positive results from that, that’s my motivation.”

Gittens truly cares about the Airmen he mentored, to the point where he turned down a position at the Air Force Honor Guard, since he believed he could better impact Airmen at the base level.

“The definition of a true leader is having people who are willing to follow you,” Gittens said. “That’s what I lead by.”