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The best and brightest members of U.S. Air Forces in Europe were honored Friday night during the annual outstanding airmen of the year ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Recipients were culled from 83 nominees who had won at the squadron and wing levels before going on to the big soiree. The recipients will now compete for bragging rights at the Air Force level later this year in Washington, D.C.

Among the winners were:

Airman of the year — Senior Airman Christopher Gerdes of the 435th Civil Engineer Group at Ramstein.

Noncommissioned officer of the year — Staff Sgt. Joseph Berberich, a biomedical equipment craftsman for the 48th Medical Support Squadron out of RAF Lakenheath, England.

Senior noncommissioned officer of the year — Senior Master Sgt. Henry Parker III, of the 65th Services Squadron at Lajes Field, Azores.

First sergeant of the year — Master Sgt. Jeffrey Jacobson of the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Company-grade officer of the year — Maj. Bryan Tash of the 16th Air Force at Ramstein

Civilian category one award, for employees in GS-2 through GS-8 pay grades — Heather Hughes of the 52nd Medical Operations Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Civilian category two award, for employees in pay grades GS-9 through GS-13 — Randall Cummins of the 39th Contracting Squadron at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

Berberich, 25, said he was surprised that he pulled out one of the top USAFE awards.

“I feel awesome,” the Philadelphia native said Monday. “It’s a great honor to be able to win something like that.”

Berberich’s supervisor, Master Sgt. Chuck Frizzell, said he nominated Berberich because of his discipline and the example he sets for others.

“He is the first person to work,” Frizzell said of Berberich. “He is in by 6 a.m. … and he requires no oversight. He doesn’t leave until 5 or 6 in the evening, and he still finds time to score 100 on his fitness test. In my 14 years of service, he’s the best NCO I’ve ever worked with.”

Frizzell said he wouldn’t be shocked if Berberich takes the big cheese at the Air Force-level awards later this year, although Berberich himself is taking it in stride.

“It’s exciting,” Berberich said. “I’m a bit nervous, but it will be great.”

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