Debbie Gaddy, chair of the Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors' Advisory Committee, was selected from more than 85,000 individuals across 12 Air Education and Training Command bases to receive the inaugural AETC International Student Support Award, presented by Lt. Gen. David Fadok, Air University commander and president, Tuesday during a ceremony at the Maxwell Club. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
Maxwell and AETC recognize Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors

by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz
Air University Public Affairs

2/1/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -  -- One of the 12 United States Air Force core functions is building partnerships, which was celebrated Tuesday when Maxwell Air Force Base highlighted the importance of international partnerships during its 35th annual Alabama Goodwill Ambassador Appreciation Night, held at the Maxwell Club.

Hosted by Lt. Gen. David Fadok, Air University commander and president, the event recognized sponsors for their service to AGA by presenting plaques for the number of AU classes in which they have sponsored international officers.

This year's award presentation was unique, however, when a new award was presented during the ceremony.

During various meetings last year, Air Education and Training Command, along with the secretary of the Air Force international affairs leadership, decided it was vital to formally recognize those deserving individuals who selflessly give themselves to support the international training and education mission.

Debbie Gaddy, chair of the AGA Advisory Committee, was selected from more than 85,000 individuals across 12 AETC bases. Increasing the spectrum, award considerations were widened to include non-U.S. citizens for the inaugural AETC International Student Support Award.

Gaddy was the ambassador for two families in 2012, and has been an ambassador for more than 14 years, covering 25 Squadron Officer School, Air War College and Air Command and Staff College classes. She also volunteered with the international family orientation program and was an international dependent English course instructor.

Recently, she visited three international alumni abroad, including personally bringing football equipment to Sarajevo ensuring her former student's team could continue to play organized sports.

Winning the award was a surprise for Gaddy, as she was not told prior to the event that she would be the one receiving it.

"Words cannot express how I am feeling right now," she said. "I didn't even know I had a chance to win this prestigious award. I don't help out the students and dedicate my time to win awards. I do this because I love spending my time helping other people and doing what I can to make a difference."

The main purpose of the AGA program is to foster goodwill between the militaries of the United States and its allies. The program provides opportunities for ambassadors and international officers and their families to enjoy a rich sharing of cultures and enlightenment about each other's countries.

The program began in 1966 as a collaboration between the Air University and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. The AGA Appreciation Night is sponsored annually by the Air University and was first held in 1978.

More than 300 people, including approximately 45 AGA sponsors and more than 200 international officers from 80 countries, attended this year's event.

Clarence and Lelar Wilson, AGA sponsors since 1984 and recipients of a 50-class plaque, said hosting the students every year is always an eye-opening experience and allows them to learn about the culture of the international students.

"We enjoy hosting the foreign officers," said Lelar Wilson. "It is a two-way street, being a sponsor. This year we hosted students from Nigeria and Kenya and we learn from them almost more than they learn from us. We are just appreciative that we have the opportunity to teach and be ambassadors."

Of the 25 plaque recipients, three were recognized for hosting more than 50 classes. Fadok also recognized and thanked all ambassadors, including first-time ambassadors.