The next step: Grissom Airmen earn stripes though exceptional performers program

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

Merit, hard work and dedication has paid off for five Grissom Airmen who were recently announced as the Wing’s newest Step II selectees.

Stripes for Exceptional Performers, or STEP II, is a commanders program designed to promote deserving Airmen, especially those who are blocked from promotion due to lack of position vacancies common in reserve units.

“It’s an honor to be selected and it shows that you are one of the best in the Air Force Reserve,” said Chief Master Sgt. Wes Marion, 434th Air Refueling Wing command chief. “These Airmen have shown that they are ready for that next level of promotion and committed themselves to professional development.”

Air Force Reserve Command recently released the names of Grissom’s selectees.

To senior master sergeant:

Angelique L. Hall, 434th Civil Engineer Squadron

To master sergeant:

Russell P. Fernald, 434th Operations Support Squadron

Michael D. Ziadeh, 434th Force Support Squadron

To technical sergeant:

Sabastian B. Anderson, 434th Logistics Readiness Squadron

Jayci W. Cloutier, 434th Aerospace Medicine Squadron


The Step II program is a highly competitive one, which promotes Airmen E-6 through E-9 to one grade above their authorized position.

Not all Airmen who apply are selected, but Marion encourages those who were not to try again.

“Our Airmen do such great work that everyone we submitted should have been selected,” he said.  

“Don’t give up and don’t lose heart. It is an extremely competitive process, especially for senior and chief stripes. Trying again is worth it and in the end, the payoff is tremendous.”

Master Sgt. Ben Mota, 434th public affairs superintendent, was selected in 2018. He said the process was a lot of hard work but has been invaluable to his career.

“It’s given me opportunities to transition into leadership roles that I normally wouldn’t have been able to step into,” said Mota.

He added, “It’s a really long and extremely detail-oriented process. So those individuals who are thinking about applying should start the process early.”

“If you try to do it last minute, it’s going to be extremely difficult. Now’s the time to start preparing for next year,” said Marion.

Marion said that it’s also possible to be promoted through Step II more than once, but the basics are the same: start early and submit a competitive package.

 “Obviously you need to meet all minimum eligibility requirements,” he said.

But he said it doesn’t end there. 

He added, “Look for those optional professional development opportunities that help set you apart. It helps show that you’re committed to professional development and shows that you’re committed to becoming a better leader and mentor.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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