Robins sergeant earns Tuskegee Airmen award for professionalism

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
Master Sgt. Derek Fromenthal has collected numerous awards in his 16-year Air Force career, but none was more special than the award he brought home last weekend from Las Vegas.

Sergeant Fromenthal, who serves in the 5th Combat Communications Group, is the winner of the 2009 Tuskegee Airmen Inc. award for top senior non-commissioned officer. The award, called the Chief Master Sergeant Fred Archer Award, recognizes outstanding performance in professional and community service.

The award is open to all military personnel, and Sergeant Fromenthal was chosen from among 270 applicants. He traveled to Vegas to accept the award at the annual Tuskegee Airmen convention.

"When I found out I had won a prestigious award like the Tuskegee Airmen Award, I was really honored, especially when you look at the history of what the Tuskegee Airmen did for the Air Corps," he said.

Sergeant Fromenthal is the superintendent of the Mission System's Flight in the 51st Combat Communications Squadron. He is a veteran of two deployments, one to Iraq in 2007 and, his most recent one, to Afghanistan.

He was excited about the Iraq deployment because it was his first, but his duties were primarily limited to a sustainment mission that confined him to the base.

His 209-day Afghanistan mission, however, was far different. There he supervised the development of communications for the Afghan Air Corps.

"I traveled throughout Afghanistan laying the infrastructure both for U.S. personnel and the Afghan Air Corps," he said. "It was probably one of the biggest accomplishments that I've had as a contributor to a conflict."

In the award nomination, Maj. Isreal Askew of the 5th CCG cited numerous accomplishments, with many of those stemming from the Afghanistan mission. Maj. Askew noted, among many other things, that Sergeant Fromenthal was a "superior performer" and led 15 warfighters at eight forward operating locations. He also noted that Sergeant Fromenthal led the communications infrastructure planning for the Afghan Air Corps headquarters, overseeing eight contracts and completing the job two months ahead of schedule.

Maj. Askew also called him a "compassionate leader" who coordinated an Airman's emergency leave from Afghanistan, allowing the Airman to depart in less than 24 hours. The nomination also noted several public-service accomplishments, including involvement in a community-relations program issuing clothing and medical supplies to 125 families in a war-torn village. Sergeant Fromenthal also volunteered to set up ceremonies for four U.S. military members killed in action.

A native of New Orleans, Sergeant Fromenthal said his leadership style includes treating everyone the way that he would want to be treated.

"I like to ask them to do something for me before I have to use my authority," he said. "I have found over 16 years that has worked well for me."

Even when he is not deployed, Sergeant Fromenthal said he still finds his work in the 5th CCG exciting.

"I'm a person who likes challenges and things that are different every day that keep you thinking," he said. "When you do get the opportunity to deploy or you are in an exercise setting, you have to think outside the box to find a way to make communications work."