2017 Air Force Times
Winner
Tech. Sgt. Megan Harper

Tech. Sgt. Megan Harper has been chosen as our 2017 Airman of the Year due to her nearly 15 years of service excellence – from the battlefields of Iraq, to her devotion to producing outstanding new airmen as a Military Training Instructor, to serving her community and saving lives at home. Harper, of Mesquite, Texas, came from an Army family and joined the Air Force after the Sept. 11 attacks. She became a security forces airman, and deployed five times beginning in fall 2003 to Kirkuk, Iraq; Balad, Iraq; Kuwait twice; and Manas, Kyrgyzstan.
 
In May 2004, Harper became the ninth woman in Air Force history to finish the elite security forces Phoenix Raven program, which specially trains airmen to secure aircraft while in flight and provide ground security when those aircraft land in dangerous areas.
 
Harper has trained 1,125 new airmen and graduated 22 flights since she became an MTI in 2014, as well as overseeing 14 other instructors as an interim instruction supervisor – the only one in her unit who is not a master sergeant. Her flight commander, Maj. Christopher Sweeney, said her passion and enthusiasm has made her respected by all as she trains and inspires her basic trainees. “She’ll get down and do pushups with you,” Sweeney said.
 
Harper even saved the lives of two people in two separate occasions in a span of less than three hours in May 2016. She first performed the Heimlich maneuver on a trainee who was choking in a dining facility during dinner. Then, shortly after she left Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Harper saw a pedestrian who had been struck by a vehicle. She performed first aid on the victim, redirected traffic, and talked to her constantly to keep her from falling into shock. For her actions, Harper received the Air Force Achievement Medal – but Sweeney said that due to Harper’s humility, other airmen had to drag the details of the incidents out of her.
 
Harper is heavily involved in volunteer activities that support veterans and at-risk, underprivileged youth in her area, such as the Bataan Death March memorial race, drives to raise hygiene supplies for female veterans and uniforms for junior ROTC. She also works with Team Rubicon, a veterans organization that responds to natural disasters in the area such as tornadoes and flooding. And she heads up a mentorship program for young LGBT troops coming in to the military.