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News | Aug. 18, 2023

New York Air National Guardsman Wins Air Force-wide Honor

By 1st Lt. Jason Carr, New York National Guard

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. - An Airman assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Attack Wing has been named one of the top 12 Airmen in the 500,000-member total Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Dhruva Poluru, who serves in the wing’s 222nd Command and Control Squadron specializing in space operations, was selected as Enlisted Airman of the Year.

He was the Air National Guard’s top Airman and then competed against winners from the active Air Force and the Air Force Reserve for one of the 12 Airman of the Year awards.

These 12 Airmen were chosen for superior leadership, performance and personal achievements by a board of Air Force leaders, according to the Air Force. The board considered 36 nominations for the awards.

Poluru was the only nominee from the Air National Guard selected for the top honors.

He has been promoted since he was nominated for the award as a senior Airman.

Maj. Gen. Denise Donnell, the commander of the New York Air National Guard, praised his selection by the Air Force.

”Poluru was the first Airman that I coined as the new commander of the New York Air National Guard,” she said, referring to the tradition of recognizing military personnel with a commander’s coin. “He represents the very best of what it means to be an innovative, multi-capable Airman in our Total Force.”

“Even though I’m still processing the news, being selected as the only New York Air National Guard member to have achieved this honor is something I can’t ever be thankful enough for,” Poluru said.

“Being first-generation American after my parents came to this country, it means more than I can express. To see that I’ve had enough of an impact on our focus to protect and defend the nation that gave my family and I so much,” he added.

Poluru’s unit, the 222nd Command and Control Squadron based in Rome, New York, provides personnel to work with the National Reconnaissance Office, which runs America’s space surveillance systems.

The 107th, headquartered at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, also operates the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

Poluru tracks the orbits of American satellites and those of other nations to ensure the security of U.S. space systems.

Poluru lives in Herndon, Virginia, and serves as a mission crew chief and full-time Guardsman at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Virginia.

He is responsible for orbital threat analysis and the command and control of over 85 commercial data providers and orbital analysts who contribute to the U.S. Space Force’s space protection and space defense missions.

Poluru also serves as the primary government representative to a team of 190 military, contractor and international analysts who are geographically dispersed and provide space domain awareness support to the commander, U.S. Space Command.

“Poluru’s selection as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for the Air Force and the Outstanding Airman of the Year for the Air National Guard is an incredible achievement,” said 107th Wing Commander Col. Andrew Carlson.

“Dhruva’s leadership, dedication and ambassadorship is a great reflection of the 107th Attack Wing. We are very fortunate to have phenomenal Airmen such as Staff Sgt. Poluru in the 107th,” he said.

Poluru graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 2022. After attending undergraduate school in Buffalo, he moved to Herndon while assigned to the 222nd Command and Control Squadron.

His awards include the Air and Space Commendation Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Remote Combat Effects Campaign Medal, Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon, the National Defense Service Ribbon, and the Air and Space Achievement Medal.