116th navigator wins BIG

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Paul Ross
  • 116th Air Control Wing
Lt. Col. Joseph Richardson accepted the 2007 Blacks in Government Meritorious Service Award, Aug. 17 during a ceremony at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.

The award is given annually to a military member or Department of Defense civilian employee who has distinguished themselves through significant contributions to their service, the advancement of African-Americans and to the nation.

The 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron director of operations and E-8C Joint STARS navigator has a gracious attitude toward winning the prestigious award.

"If a farmer got picked to be farmer of the year it isn't really a big deal to him," said Colonel Richardson. "The farmer just cares about the results of what he did that made him farmer of the year -- all the people that were fed, all the needs that were met and the meals that were eaten because he was doing a great job."

The Lima, Ohio native insists that this award is due to the contributions of many.

"An award like this is a reflection that I'm part of a core of people ... out there doing something, something beyond rhetoric," said the colonel. "To me it's just an acknowledgment of the fact that I'm doing a little more than providing rhetoric. I'm actually putting some skin in the game and hopefully making a difference in some people lives."

Colonel Richardson is actively involved with the community through Aviation in Schools Incorporated, an organization that introduces students to the field of aviation.

"We give them someone who is personally involved in aviation. We tell them what we do, why we like what we do and how we got to where we are."

The colonel and Aviation in School Incorporated have three main goals.

"We want to motivate the kids to educational excellence, we want to introduce them to the aviation career field and then we want to help facilitate the pursuit of their goals."

The colonel didn't have a program like Aviation in Schools but he did have a brother -- and a goal to make something of himself.

"For me it was just seeing my brother enlist in the Air Force," said Colonel Richardson. "He came home from basic training cleanly shaven, in a sharp uniform, with money in his pocket and a sense of purpose. Just that visual image was enough for me to realize the Air Force was worthwhile."

The colonel sees himself as an advertisement for everything the Air Force has to offer.

"I'm a walking advertisement, a billboard and a speaking poster of the opportunities the Air Force has to offer," he said. "Look around you and see the blessings, the opportunities and the privileges that are yours by being a part of the greatest air and space force in the history of mankind. Take advantage of them to grow and develop and go out and tell people about them."

He feels that military members have a responsibility to inspire those who need guidance.

"There are people out there that don't know what they want to do," Colonel Richardson said. "They are looking for guidance, for direction. You may go out and speak to fifty kids and you'll see that one C student with a glimmer in his eye who will say, 'that's it, that how I can become a positive member of society and contribute to my country.' You've got to reach that one student. I was that one student.

As an airman basic and personnel specialist, Colonel Richardson stumbled upon the Air Force Academy and it made all the difference in the World.

"I was using the copy machine and someone had left a pamphlet that talked about some place called the Air Force Academy," he said. "I had never heard of it before. I read the pamphlet and thought, 'the Air Force actually has a college that you can go to?' "

Finding the pamphlet that day at the copy machine is what motivates him to give back to the community.

"I found out about it by accident," he said "If I found out by accident and it has made such an impact on my life, what would happen if we were proactive? If we intentionally let people know about the opportunities out there, how many lives could we change?"