Tempe Chamber Honors Servicemembers at Goldwater Air Base

by Christopher Samuels

The Tempe Chamber of Commerce and its Military Affairs Committee honored an officer and an enlisted Guardsman in the 161st Air Refueling Wing during a ceremony at Goldwater Air National Guard Base in Phoenix Wednesday, Oct. 11.

Referred to as the Plough/Truman Award, the award was established to honor Maj. Truman Young, a pilot, and Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough, a boom operator, two of four airmen who were killed when their KC-135 refueling aircraft was hit in a mid-air collision and crashed on March 13, 1982.

Lt. Col. Dean C. Owen, an Arizona native and commander of the 197th Air Refueling Squadron, was awarded the Maj. Truman Young Award. Lt. Col. Owen has been in the Air National Guard for over 26 years. In his acceptance speech, he noted the dichotomy between the bravado associated with military pilots and his day job — a rancher — and the humility that he shows in his duties.

“I’m humbled to receive it, Lt. Col. Owen said of receiving the award. “I’m humbled that people think of me that way. The core values of the air force — integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do — I try to live my life that way.”

The Tech. Sgt. Donald Plough Award was given to Staff Sgt. Gregory A. Laffrey. Staff Sgt. Laffrey is a nine-year veteran of the active duty Air Force and joined the Air National Guard in 2016 as a client systems technician for the base. While on active duty, he was a mental health technician.

Staff Sgt. Laffrey noted his experience with other civilian-military affairs groups as he accepted the award.

“I’m thankful; I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “In a previous life, I was with a military affairs committee as a past assignment, so I know what that relationship is and how important that is. It’s nice to have them involved with the award.”

The Tempe Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee holds numerous luncheons and awards with military installations across the Phoenix area. They recognize service members at each installation that are nominated by commanding officers and community groups.

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