Hagan praises winner of Air Force award

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan this week met with Master Sgt. Jason Payne from Sanford to congratulate him for being recognized this week as one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year at the Annual Air Force Association Convention.

Payne is stationed at Fort Bragg and was chosen for the award based on his service as a technical sergeant. The Outstanding Airmen of the Year award recognizes 12 outstanding enlisted personnel for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.

“I’m proud of Master Sgt. Payne for earning this award and representing North Carolina exceptionally well,” Hagan said. “Master Sgt. Payne represents the best of our armed services, and his work ensures our safety and freedom every day. His wife, Natalie, like many military spouses, also makes many sacrifices for the sake of our country. I thank both of them for their continued service to our nation.”

Master Sgt. Payne deployed as the sole combat controller with a 50-man U.S. Navy Seal team, where he directed close air support during 31 high-risk missions with zero losses. He conducted 19 combat operations that led to the killing or capturing of 44 enemy fighters, severely crushing local Taliban networks, according to a prepared statement from Hagan’s office.

“He also served for 120 days on a one-hour alert with a national crisis response force ... , and he contributed to a plan to capture the Joint Task Force’s number-one priority target. This enabled a surprise assault and successful mission,” according to the statement.

Hagan added, “It is very fitting that we are honoring Master Sgt. Payne this week as the U.S. Air Force celebrates its 66th birthday. America’s Air Force is unparalleled in its achievement of air and space superiority, and I thank Master Sgt. Payne and each of his fellow airmen for their service to our country.”

On Sept. 18, 1947, President Harry Truman signed legislation establishing the Air Force, once known as the Army Air Corps, as a separate branch of the military.

Hagan comes from a military family. Her father-in-law was a two-star U.S. Marine general, and her brother and father served in the Navy. Her husband, Chip, is a Vietnam veteran who used the GI Bill to help pay for law school, and she has two nephews who are on active duty.