For the past two years, Kirtland has had at its helm the top wing commander-and-spouse duo in the Air Force.
Col. Eric Froehlich, former 377th Air Base Wing commander, and his wife, Stephanie, were recently awarded the Air Force 2017 Gen. and Mrs. Jerome O’Malley Award.
The O’Malley Award is given to the wing commander and spouse whose contributions to the nation, Air Force and local community best exemplify the highest ideals and positive leadership of a military couple serving in a key Air Force position.
“We have a lot of great commanders in the Air Force, and to win this award is monumental,” said Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. “This is a big deal and it’s something the base should be incredibly proud of. What the Froehlichs have done the past two years has been simply spectacular.”
According to the citation, the Froehlichs “capitalized on providing first-class mentorship to all Airmen in regards to physical, mental, social and spiritual resiliency to ensure mission-focused Airmen during support of nuclear operations.”
In a recent briefing to Team Kirtland, Maj. Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, 20th Air Force commander, congratulated the Froehlichs and praised their accomplishment.
“They are the No. 1 wing commander-and-wife team in the Air Force,” Cotton said.
The couple served as role models for not only the 377th Air Base Wing, but also for employees and family members of more than 100 mission partners on the installation, while presenting a united Air Force message to local civic and congressional leaders.
The commander envisioned the base’s 75th anniversary celebration, directing multiple base and community events, including a major 1940s-themed banquet. He also led Kirtland’s first air show in five years and re-energized the Honorary Commanders Program, which inducted 54 community leaders, the most ever.
Together, the Froehlichs started a multitude of new programs, including a Kirtland speaker series that brought in high-profile guests, such as former Vietnam prisoner of war Col. Lee Ellis, University of New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie and former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. The series also included local speakers who aimed to motivate and uplift Team Kirtland members.
They started 15 heritage cultural events that celebrated diversity and fortified respect. Through multiple visits and conversations, they strengthened pueblo relations and signed an agreement between the Air Force and Native American leaders in New Mexico, improving communications over mutual concerns.
Froehlich thanked Team Kirtland members for their hard work and said receiving the award would not have been possible without them.
“This is not just our award. This is a team award and it’s special to be able to share it with you,” he said. “Together we’ve forged amazing partnerships, not just within our base community but also between our civic, congressional and pueblo leaders. We have worked hard to build relationships of trust among those we’ve sworn to defend.”
The O’Malley Award is given annually and is in its 31st year. O’Malley and his wife, Diane, were known for their leadership and contributions to Air Force families and the communities surrounding them.
The couple died in April 1985 in an airplane crash. Their children decided their efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed, so they established the Gen. and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award.
The Froehlichs have left Kirtland to serve at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where Col. Froehlich will be the vice commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center. They will be invited to Washington, D.C., later this year to officially accept the award.