The jury is in: 7th Air Force paralegal declared one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric Burks
  • 7th Air Force Public Affairs

While deliberation did not take place inside a courtroom, a panel of Air Force experts recently took a hard look at the “cases” for 36 Airmen across major commands, direct reporting units, field operating agencies and Headquarters Air Force.

It was not a jury of “12 Angry Men” but rather an Air Force Personnel Center selection board, evaluating nominee packages based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements.

After the board carefully weighed all “evidence” a verdict was reached – Tech. Sgt. Micaela Mahan, 7th Air Force Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

Mahan, who currently serves as the military justice section NCOIC, arrived at Osan in May 2023 following her previous assignment to Robins Air Force Base, Ga. At the 78th Air Base Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, she raised the bar in 2022 and received numerous accolades for her leadership and accomplishments.

“Every step of the way I was supported by friends and co-workers,” she said. “2022 was the first year I won even a quarterly award.”

Her previous supervisor, Master Sgt. Jason Moomaw, 78th ABW/JA, said, “She’s a natural leader… genuine, trustworthy, honest, reliable, respectful, accountable, with natural self-management skills.”

Mahan has an “old school” Airmen’s mentality, he said. “She is not a ‘9 to 5’ Airman; for her it’s a lifestyle.”

It may come as a surprise that Mahan has only been in her current career field for just over three years. However, serving in the legal office is the continuation of a journey that began before she enlisted.

Having a military background – her father is a now-retired U.S. Army veteran, who met her German mother during an overseas assignment – Mahan began considering a military career during high school.

“I participated in JROTC in high school and then attended college for one and a half years, later deciding to join the Air Force,” she said.

She enlisted at age 19 in 2014 after completing three semesters of college classes, working towards a criminal justice degree. However, her first Air Force career field turned out to be Security Forces.

“My recruiter said Security Forces said was ‘close’ to legal,” Mahan said.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio was her first duty station, and she was tasked to deploy just six months after her arrival. She initially deployed to Saudi Arabia, transitioned to Qatar, and finally forward deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, where her unit gained combat experience.

“Having the team that we did made the hard times okay,” she said.

Off-duty, Mahan found time to volunteer at the hospital and Airman’s Attic, receiving a volunteer service medal following the deployment.

“Since I’ve been in the Air Force, I’ve sought out opportunities to be involved on base and in the community,” she said.

Mahan deployed again as a SFS Defender from Wright-Patterson for eight months in 2018. In her free time, she continued taking classes towards her bachelor’s degree and volunteered in several “Rising 6” organization positions.

In 2019, she received Permanent Change of Station orders and relocated to Eglin AFB, Fla. There, she applied to join the Air Force paralegal career field through the Noncommissioned Officer Retraining Program and was selected to retrain in June 2020.

After retraining, Mahan PCS’d to Robins AFB for a humanitarian assignment – and joined her first legal office – due to a family medical situation.

“Being in a smaller unit and a smaller career field was challenging, she said. “I didn’t have anyone to supervise, so I started looking outside the office for opportunities to lead and mentor Airmen.”

She started as a Robins “5/6” organization trustee in April 2021 and had moved up to president by November 2021. In this position, she was able to build relationships across units and implement changes to benefit NCOs, such as holding monthly record reviews for staff and technical Sergeants, partnering with SNCOs to “forge paths to the next stripe.”

Mahan also devoted time to NCO Airman Leadership School panels, helped the Airman Committed to Excellence council host Below-the-Zone panels and mock boards, and volunteered at numerous local community events. Additionally, she would periodically fill in for the Wing Staff Agencies First Sergeant and Law Office Superintendent .

“She does not give up on anything and she does not give up on the people under her,” Moomaw said. “She pushes them, she empowers them and makes them want to be better.”

Mahan began 2022 at Robins with a win as the top first quarter NCO at the group-level. During the second quarter, while on a Temporary Duty Assignment to the paralegal 7-level craftsman course, she was named Top Graduate. She then went on to win third quarter NCO at the at the wing level, and was nominated for the Lance P. Sijan award.

When Moomaw arrived at the 78th ABW/JA office in March 2022, Mahan was working as the NCOIC of military justice as a 5-level cross-trainee, he said.

“After a week or two of observing the military section and how Sergeant Mahan worked, I was confused,” he said. “I noticed the other paralegals and officers would usually go to her for guidance instead of the other, more experienced technical sergeants.”

Mahan displays a natural leadership personality, Moomaw said.

“She draws people to her and makes them want to work for her; she’s tough and stands her ground,” he said. “She hit it hard, immediately improving office policies and creating courses of action to make the military justice section thrive.”

While attending the NCO Academy, she was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate and received the Commandant Award. She was then selected as the fourth quarter group-level NCO for and was nominated as the 2022 NCO of the Year. She proceeded to win at the group, wing, Numbered Air Force, and major command (Air Forces Material Command) levels, culminating with her Outstanding Airman of the Year selection.

“Sergeant Mahan spent almost four months out of the office TDY to our paralegal 7-level school and NCOA,” Moomaw said. “She made sure the people under her had knowledge and direction to keep the military justice section in the same running condition it was when she was out.”

Moomaw and Mahan worked together on her award nominations in 2022, and collaboration was critical.

“Learn how to write,” Moomaw said. “Sergeant Mahan brainstormed with me for every 1206 we sent up… we went back and forth over and over and over.”

Her last EPR from here was not a surprise either, he said, because they wrote it together.

“If there was something she didn’t want in her EPR then I supported that; Teams messaging is amazing for this… shoot a bullet to your member, tell them it needs improvement and ask for help,” Moomaw said. “The next thing you know, they send you something back, then you pass it back and forth and in 10 minutes, you have a strong bullet that neither one of you would have come up with by yourself.”

Despite her achievements, Mahan isn’t one to seek the spotlight.

“It was never one of my goals to be one of the 12 [Outstanding Airman of the Year],” she said.

“I was surprised at every level, and I received support and encouragement from our wing leadership and really everywhere,” Mahan said. “Never give up and always believe in yourself.”

Mahan completed her bachelor’s degree in investigative forensics and is now a master sergeant-select.

“You’re always going to be busy, but I was able to prioritize my time to reach my goals and develop personally and professionally,” she said.

Mahan volunteered for a short tour at Osan in November 2022. When she arrived this year, she achieved another long-term goal.

“I’d been trying to go overseas my entire career. I didn’t know much about Osan as I’d only been stationed at AFMC bases,” she said.

While stationed here, Mahan wants to travel as much as possible and learn Korean. She also assists the 7th AF Booster Club and volunteers at the Osan Homeward Bound Animal Shelter.

“Find the things you’re passionate about,” she said. “Seek out others with similar goals and values to support you along the way who will push you to succeed.”

She concluded, “Stay true to yourself and make sure that you’re genuine, and things will come to you.”