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HQ RIO announces the 2020 IRs of the Year

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams
  • Headquarters Readiness and Integration Organization Public Affairs
Headquarters Readiness and Integration Organization is proud to announce the 2020 Individual Reservists of the Year awards for the NCO, senior NCO, and company grade and field grade officer categories.

“The competition was extremely tough and tight,” said Krystal Q. Knight, HQ RIO first sergeant. “Those who came out on top should be extremely proud because it was hard won.”

The winners of this prestigious award had significant accomplishments in their leadership and job performance, self-improvement, and base and community involvement. Their dedicated efforts have earned them the title of 2020 IR of the Year.

And the 2020 IRs of the Year are:

Tech. Sgt. Nataly Zarrella, Security Forces Training Instructor, 99th Security Forces Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada

Zarrella was instrumental in developing training at her squadron and wing level. She revamped the wing’s training program and developed the squadron flight training program. Her efforts led Defenders to increase lethality and exceed their annual training requirements.

She also focused time bettering herself and those around her. Zarrella gained leadership skills through courses and a first sergeant symposium. One of the ways she spread the knowledge was by hosting a combat readiness training for 50 ROTC cadets at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

HQ RIO has awarded her the title of 2020 IR of the Year for the NCO category.

Senior Master Sgt. Daniel P. Leonard, IMA Superintendent and Air Refueling Directorate, 618th Air Operations Center, Scott AFB, Illinois

Leonard made numerous contributions to worldwide air refueling missions. He planned and executed more than 1,200 top priority missions which offloaded 35 million pounds of fuel to around 1,800 aircraft. He also managed 200 high priority U.S. Marine Corps and Navy air refueling missions.

He was also involved in his local community. Leonard cooked and delivered meals for families who were struggling during the pandemic, and led a youth mentoring program for 25 boys.

HQ RIO has awarded him the title of 2020 IR of the Year for the SNCO category.

Capt. Elizabeth J. Garza-Guidara, Intelligence Officer, USSOUTHCOM, Doral, Florida

Garza-Guidara led several teams focused on fighting drug trafficking. Her teams disrupted and seized several tons of illicit drugs, as well as arrested a number of offenders. Garza-Guidara also was a Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS) Women’s Peace and Security ambassador and served as the AFRICOM Women’s Forum military lead.

In addition to her Air Force career, she dedicated time to her education. Garza-Guidara spent more than 300 hours on graduate school classes and certificates, gaining expertise in Latin America and U.S. foreign policies.

HQ RIO has awarded her the title of 2020 IR of the Year for the CGO category.

Maj. Stephanie J. Grunze-Swanson, IMA to the Commander, 315th Training Squadron, Goodfellow AFB, Texas

Grunze-Swanson stepped in to fill several critical roles for her squadron last year. She assumed command with a two-hour notice and led the squadron after the first COVID-19 case. Her quick actions prevented coronavirus from spreading and ensured no training days were lost.

She also dedicated time to mental health training. This gave her the tools to help Airmen process crises and return to duty. Additionally, Garza-Swanson was certified as a Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) Team responder and was an on-call suicide response volunteer during the pandemic.

HQ RIO has awarded her the title of 2020 IR of the Year for the FGO category.

“It is very humbling to read the incredible accomplishments of all our nominees,” said Col. Amy J. Boehle, HQ RIO commander. “Being able to recognize these outstanding men and women for all they do to further the active component missions of the units in which they are assigned is an honor.  A hearty congratulations to all of the winners and all who were nominated.”