Staff Sgt. Lindsay Bell is passionate about helping others.
She took a three-month deployment to the war zone for a fellow airman whose mother fell ill. She feeds the hungry a couple of times a month at a soup kitchen. She has raised thousands of dollars for cancer research. And, day in and day out, she lives by the Air Force’s core values of integrity, service and excellence.
Her dedication and unselfishness inspire her fellow volunteers in the community, her team members, even her superiors at Fort Gordon, Ga.
“Staff Sergeant Bell is an all-around great troop and continually sacrifices for her team members and community,” said Capt. Seth Marin, Bell’s supervisor.
From Tech. Sgt. Louis Benes, who has been both her boss and co-worker: “Staff Sergeant Bell consistently puts others ahead of herself. She can never say no to someone in need.”
For that commitment and caring, both on the job and off the clock, Bell is Air Force Times’ 2011 Airman of the Year.
Bell, 26, sees what she does as nothing extraordinary.
“I’ve always been the type of person that, if someone needs the shirt off my back, I would give it to him,” Bell said in a telephone interview from southwest Asia, just a week before she returned to the U.S. in late June.
“I love helping people.”
Bell almost didn’t join the Air Force. She toyed with being a sailor first.
The decision to join the military was an easy one. It was a way to get a college education without burying her parents in debt. But which service to sign with wasn’t as clear-cut. The Navy made a pitch and Bell considered it — until her dad reminded her about an uncle in the Air Force stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. A visit to the uncle, now retired, and the Air Force Academy in nearby Colorado Springs made up her mind.
“I was in awe,” she said of the trip. “I fell in love.”
Two months to the day after graduating from high school, Bell enlisted in the Air Force. Today, with eight years in, she couldn’t be more confident about her choice.
“I feel like I’m where I need to be,” she said.
Bell, a native of Hayden, Ala., is a national tactical integration analyst with the 31st Intelligence Squadron; she remembers working hard to learn her job but not always having supervisors invested enough to help her get better.
“I had to do a lot on my own,” she said, “and that kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth.”
Instead of giving up, Bell became determined to be the best airman she could be and to be a supportive leader when her time came.
“I think it’s very important to be the one that leads by example,” she said.
Senior Master Sgt. Michael Brown, the 31st’s superintendent, credits Bell with making sure seven airmen completed their career development courses and raising the squadron’s pass rate by 50 percent. The achievement took more than 100 hours of Bell’s off time, he said.
“Staff Sergeant Bell exemplifies what the Air Force asks of its NCOs along with serving as a stellar example of our core values,” Brown said. She “is honest, straightforward and can be counted on to always complete her duties and take care of her airmen.”
Bell praises the airmen she supervises and makes what she does sound easy.
“A lot of the airmen I meet just want to know that someone believes in them,” she said.
One of the honors that Bell received last year from the 31st was Volunteer of the Year, but she hasn’t always been into community service. She came to understand its importance through the Air Force, she said. These days, it’s second nature.
“It’s my niche,” she said.
Bell serves as treasurer of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group’s Booster Club and has helped raise more than $4,000 for morale activities.
Outside the Air Force, Bell’s pet causes are ending hunger and fighting cancer.
The fight against cancer is a personal one. One of Bell’s uncles has the disease; other family members have died from it.
Every year, Bell makes an effort to participate in Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event. In 2010, Bell organized a unit team, which raised $2,000 for the event.
The hunger fight takes place at the Master’s Table, a soup kitchen run by Golden Harvest Food Bank in downtown Augusta, Ga. Bell is particularly touched by the veterans who stop in.
“It just makes me feel good that I can help them,” she said. “They didn’t have the resources that we have today, and it’s neat to talk to them and hear their stories.”
Bell rounds up airmen from her squadron to lend a hand at the soup kitchen.
“She is an all-around perfect volunteer,” said Tammy Lynn Jackson, Golden Harvest’s volunteer coordinator.
Six months ago, Bell had her doubts about whether she would be in the Air Force today. Foot injuries and an asthma diagnosis sent her before a medical evaluation board. She had more than a few anxious days. All the worrying turned out to be for nothing. She went before the board Feb. 6, received the thumbs up two days later and soon headed off to the war zone.
Bell had been scheduled to deploy in June but decided to push ahead her tour to help the airman with the family emergency.
“I felt like I was going in a couple of months anyway, why not go now,” she said.
Bell caught her husband by surprise — sort of.
“She’s always looking for a new challenge and always wants to help anybody and everybody,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Bell, a signals analyst with the 3rd Intelligence Squadron, also at Fort Gordon.
“She says ‘no’ very seldom,” he said. “I don’t think it’s in her vocabulary.”
Bell said she enjoyed her three-month deployment in southwest Asia because she could see the results of her work.
“I helped protect the lives on the ground every day,” she said. “It’s good to know that something I’ve done has helped someone else.”