Roo Wins Major Award from Missouri Air National Guard

Student Colton Elliott Stands Out Amongst 3,500 Missouri Guardsmen
Colton Elliott selected for Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year award from the Missouri Air National Guard

Being selected as the Missouri Air National Guard’s Non-commissioned Officer of the Year was a “huge surprise” to studio art junior and photojournalist Colton Elliott, but for his supervisor, Lt. Traci Howells, it was not.

When it came time to submit nominations for who would receive the award, Howells said she knew right away that she wanted to nominate Elliott.

“Colton is absolutely one of the best. It’s not easy to balance civilian and military life and give your best in both capacities, but Colton does just that,” Howells said.

There are roughly 3,500 Air National Guardsmen stationed between the state’s three Air Force bases – 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, where Elliott is located, 139th Airlift Wing in St. Joseph, and State Headquarters located in Jefferson City. To get a major award like Officer of the Year means guardsmen have to stand out amongst the slew of other officers in Missouri.

Every year, each base nominates their top performers for the Officer of the Year award and candidates are judged in five categories: leadership, job performance, significant self-improvement activities, military or civilian awards and representation in the community.

“Being named the Non-commissioned Officer of the Year for my wing was a huge accomplishment on its own, but also being named Officer of the Year for the state has left me speechless,” Elliott said.

Elliott spent six months deployed in the Middle East last year and flew on more than 20 combat missions over Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, documenting these events for historical and intelligence purposes. During his deployment he also served on multiple high-visibility international projects, including the Dubai airshow, for which he coordinated the creation of media credentials with the embassy and then served as a media escort for the event.

That’s not the extent of Elliott’s talent, though. The resident photo-expert, as he is affectionately called on base, is also a self-taught graphic artist. He’s worked on multiple marketing projects for the Missouri National Guard headquarters and his work has been displayed in high schools throughout the state to aid in recruitment campaigns.

“It is an extreme honor to work with Colton. He’s overcome a great deal of adversity in his life and has worked hard to get to where he is today. I’m inspired by his work ethic, his quiet leadership and humility,” Howells said.

“Although this is an individual award, I know that it can’t be achieved alone. Without the help from my team and leadership I wouldn't be where I am today,” Elliott said.

Howells is proud to serve with him at the 131st Bomb Wing.

"I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Colton and have no doubt he will be very successful in all he does,” she said.

UMKC is proud of its military and veteran students and alumni. Learn more about UMKC Veteran and Military Resources.

Published: Jan 24, 2019

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