Instructor pilot awarded AF Col. Joe Jackson Award

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Colleagues, co-workers and friends define her as “remarkable,” “unmatched,” and “of the highest integrity.”

She is the 509th Weapons Squadron training flight commander, a Weapons Instructor Course instructor and a certified KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot. She has been at Fairchild Air Force Base since 2010; first as a pilot with the 92nd Operations Group and in 2015 she became an instructor with the 509th Weapons Squadron.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s both challenging and extremely rewarding,” said Capt. Deborah Gaddis. “I passionately love teaching and it’s rewarding to see the evolution of the students. The product the instructors and students create through this intensive effort is very gratifying to see at graduation.”

Gaddis was recently awarded the Col. Joe Jackson Award for Excellence in Mobility Tactics for 2016. This annual award represents the very best in the significant achievement in mobility tactics, application of innovative weapons and tactics employment, and the instruction and evaluation of tactics which significantly contributed to increased readiness.

“This award is for the best Mobility Air Force tactician; simply put, that's Gaddis,” said Maj. Ian Shelley, 509th WPS KC-135 Weapons Officer. “As soon as she graduated Weapons School she deployed as the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron weapons officer and crushed it. She enabled the execution of over 5,000 sorties.”

Gaddis recently led a Mission Area Working Group at the Mobility Air Force Weapons and Tactics Conference, held at Scott AFB, Illinois, which focused on tactical use of the KC-135 in numerous parts of the world. She has been influential at several weapons and tactics conferences and helped enable the revival of minimum interval takeoffs in the KC-135 - a capability that has laid dormant for more than two decades.

“It’s an exceptional honor to be selected for the Col. Joe Jackson award,” Gaddis said. “The company that I am in with winning this award is excellent.”

Gaddis has been flying the KC-135 since 2010. Although the Air Force wasn’t her original plan, she said, the camaraderie, academics and scholarships offered by the U.S. Air Force Academy were too good to pass up.

“I literally wouldn’t be here flying had I not gone to the academy,” Gaddis said. “The academy isn’t for everybody, but I had a lot of awesome and unique opportunities.”

After graduating from the academy in 2008, Gaddis received her first assignment to Columbus AFB, Mississippi, to begin her pilot training.

“I had to work really hard to get through [pilot training],” Gaddis said. “I did ok, but not great. I was lucky enough to receive the KC-135 as my aircraft. I genuinely love the KC-135 and the places around the world it has brought me.”

Following the completion of pilot training, Gaddis spent six months for her initial KC-135 qualification at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, and then left for the 336th Training Group Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school here at Fairchild AFB.

Gaddis received her first tanker assignment shortly after completing her SERE training, and so she was on her way back to the Inland Northwest. Gaddis deployed several times and met numerous people along the way who would end up being key to her finding the path to the 509th WPS.

“I had people who took the time to help develop and identify my potential,” Gaddis said. “Without great mentors, I wouldn’t have been pushed to attend the weapons school and wouldn’t be an instructor. For that, I am very thankful.”

Gaddis has been voted “Top Flying Instructor” by her students, has been awarded the 92nd OG Pilot of the Year, 57th Wing Company Grade Officer of the Quarter, other numerous squadron and wing level awards and three Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command awards.

“Gaddis’ work ethic is unmatched,” Shelley said. “She is truly making a huge difference in the tactical maneuvers of the KC-135. The students who graduate from the 509th WPS are experts in KC-135 employment because of her.”

Gaddis comes from a line of enlisted Air Force members, including her father and grandfather. Her father met her mother while in Korea where they married, then returned to the United States. They traveled the country until her father’s separation from the military and then settled in Portland, Oregon. Gaddis often refers to her childhood as strict and tight-laced.

“I was a clean cut kid and a huge dork,” Gaddis said. “Marching band, choir and even a little bit of drama to round it out. Then I chose to attend the academy.”

According to Gaddis, joining the academy was the perfect fit and an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. It was the first step to having tremendous success as an instructor, pilot and officer.

“Gaddis is the example,” Shelley said. “She has the highest integrity and an incredible work ethic. She’s a phenomenal pilot and instructor, and cares about the Air Force and its people.”

Gaddis hopes to take her experiences from the 509th WPS and her knowledge of the KC-135 to new heights around the Air Force, educating new pilots and putting a lasting impact on the mission.