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​TSgt. Kenneth T. O'Brien. Courtesy photo via AFA.

TSgt. Kenneth T. O’Brien is one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2019, an award recognizing airmen for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement, and personal achievement over the preceding 12 months. The 12 Airmen of the Year will be formally recognized at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference Sept. 16-18 in National Harbor, Md.

Duty Title: Special Tactics Team Element Leader

Organization: 320th Special Tactics Squadron, Kadena AB, Japan

Home of Record: Bunker Hill, Ind.

TSgt. Kenneth O’Brien seamlessly embedded with the Secret Service and Joint Special Operation Forces as part of a President of the United States protection team, ensuring safety and security during the first United States and North Korean negotiation summit in history. While on temporary duty, he charged into a burning vehicle in South Korea, where he extracted an injured civilian and successfully performed life-saving procedures. Additionally, he played an instrumental role in the Thailand Cave rescue mission. He was essential in creating the rescue plan, which placed himself as the furthest American inside the cave. During the mission, he also led the effort to retrieve and successfully resuscitate a Thai Navy SEAL. His team’s heroic efforts led to the rescue of 13 Thai civilians.