TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Master Sgt. Brianna Hunt, 60th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant at Travis AFB, was recognized June 20 as the 4th Assembly District Veteran of the Year.
California Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry honored Hunt, a resident of her district, at the Esparto Veterans Hall in Esparto.
"Master Sgt. Brianna Hunt is a proven leader bravely serving our country and her community every day," Aguiar-Curry said in a statement released by her office. "I am honored to name her as the 4th Assembly District Veteran of the Year."
Each year, the California State Assembly honors veterans throughout the state. Hunt was nominated due to her service on and off duty. During the course of her Air Force career, she has served as an operating room flight chief, base honor guard superintendent, surgical technician, instructor supervisor and interrogator. Her deployments include Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
For Hunt, who enlisted in 2000, helping others is a theme that runs through her service as well as her off-duty efforts.
"The Air Force has stressed to me that as a member of every community, that I am blessed to work in and live in, it is my responsibility as a community member to leave that area better than when I arrived," she said.
Hunt said that although she is grateful for all of the duties she has had, her time as an honor guardsman at Travis, as well as during deployments to Qatar and Iraq, stands out.
"Honor guard is the highest honor to render final military honors to our fallen comrades, whether active duty, veteran or retired," she said. "I am grateful for each opportunity and believe I was in each position for a reason."
Hunt understands the gravitas that comes with the duty. She holds many hard memories, such as comforting crying, distraught families. One night she also received a phone call that an Airman she knew committed suicide and she needed to prepare for the funeral.
But Hunt saw stories of perseverance, too. As the honor guard superintendent at Travis, she performed honors at 1,484 funerals and supported 611 formal details, leading 432 Airmen. One of those Airmen was an honor guard member who was afraid of caskets due to traumatic events as a child.
“I urged her to try and that we would support her in moving from urns and memorials to caskets,” Hunt said. “Over time, she became one of our sharpest guardsmen and was carrying caskets with no issue. She overcame her fear because she knew in her heart that honoring our fallen is of the utmost importance.”
During dignified transfers, Hunt would have an Airman stay with the receiving family in the hangar so they weren’t alone while they waited to transfer the fallen from the plane to the hearse.
Her consideration for others extends beyond her duty hours. During her time at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, she cared for two ailing and homebound seniors.
For the past several years, Hunt has also participated in the North Bay Stand Down, a three-day resource fair for veterans who are homeless or at risk in the Bay Area. She assisted with check-in and registration, prepping meals and recruiting service members to volunteer.
Hunt said she admires the mission and the motto of the event, which is "a hand up, not a hand out."
"Veterans are proud people, and when we fall on hard times, we appreciate the help up, but want to walk once again on our own," she said. "Veterans are looking for support, not pity."
Another of Hunt's passions is working with and rescuing animals. She has fostered 26 dogs and cats. Additionally, she's trapped 37 feral cats to have them neutered and released.
"I usually leave with new animal additions to my family," she said about permanent changes of station.
Hunt said that her commitment to valuing animals started at a young age, when her parents taught her about treating other species with respect.
"I read a quote recently that resonated with me: 'People who care about animals tend to care about people,'" she said. "They don’t care about animals to the exclusion of people. Caring is not a finite resource and, even more than that, it’s like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets."
Even after all Hunt has accomplished, she said she was surprised to be recognized as VOY.
"I never imagined that doing what comes natural could bring such appreciation and recognition," she said. "I was not aware this formal recognition existed, therefore I was taken aback."
Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes Lake and Napa counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma counties and Yolo County except West Sacramento.