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July 09, 2009


WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today praises SSgt Mercedes Kimble Crossland of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, stationed at Altus Air Force Base, for being named the Air Force Times’ 2009 Airman of the Year.
“I am so proud of the many service men and women who courageously serve our nation in the United States military, but I am especially proud of those like SSgt Crossland whose honor, commitment and dedication are an inspiration to us all,” Senator Inhofe said. “Her courage has helped to preserve our freedom and I am sincerely grateful.”

“SSgt Crossland serves as an inspiration to those who want to do more with their lives. She joined the Air Force to better herself and stand as an example of how to strive for greater things in life. . . . SSgt Crossland’s tenacity and heart will continue to take her to new heights and successes, and she will do her best to take others along with her,” said GS-11 Supervisor (USAF-Ret.)
Army Times Publishing Company began the Military Times Service Members of the Year award in 2001 to recognize an outstanding service member for each service as an “everyday hero”.  The initial program highlighted exemplary achievement by a soldier, airman, sailor or Marine beyond the call of duty.  In 2003, a member of the Coast Guard was added to the list of honorees and the criteria has been expanded to encompass the following:
•  professionalism
•  compassion/concern for their fellow service members,
•  and self-sacrifice/commitment to community service

The awards will be presented at a reception in the Cannon House Office Building’s Caucus Room, Room 345, in Washington, DC on July 9, 2009 at 5:00PM EST

BACKGROUND – SSgt Crossland:
SSgt Mercedes Kimble Crossland, a native of New York, joined the Air Force because her religious and moral values have always led her to do more in life and to help and guide others. During 2008, she was assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., as a photographer. She later volunteered for a yearlong deployment to Iraq as a member of the Army weapons intelligence team member. She understood she was volunteering to put herself in harm’s way, and in preparation for her mission, she exceeded expectations in weapons training scores. She carried a rifle throughout her tour, but it was her life-saving work with her camera that led SSgt Crossland to receive the Combat Commander’s Coin.
Assigned to an Army explosive ordnance disposal unit, SSgt Crossland’s primary duty was to photograph unexploded improvised explosive devices to provide intelligence on tactics and techniques. Photographs from her 120 missions—45 of which she led—helped create an intelligence database on IEDs, saving countless lives during combat operations. The photographic documentation was so comprehensive that it was implemented as a national-level intelligence product. And, her photography directly contributed to the prosecution and detention of nine terrorists. During her deployment, SSgt Crossland also assisted an intelligence unit in tracking detainees by mapping position and location patterns to predict possible insurgent targets.
While stationed at Altus Air Force Base, SSgt Crossland worked at the multimedia center—in lieu of an assigned section Master Sergeant—managing the photography show as it transitioned from the Communications Squadron to the Public Affairs Office.
SSgt Crossland is now stationed at 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs, Aviano Air Base, Italy, serving as an Assistant NCOIC of the Photo Section.

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