See, Westendorf joined the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing a handful of years ago for reasons like many others – an outlet to pay for college. Spring of 2018 she became a graduate from the College of St. Benedict, a Biology major. Having a little space between graduation and her next step, she opted to attend Airman Leadership School (ALS).
This mandatory schooling proved to be an opportunity for Westendorf to show her wingspan to her active duty counterparts. Out of a class of thirty participants, less than 10% were from the National Guard.
“I think I gained the trust of my active duty peers by sharing the common goal and doing my part to help us achieve that goal,” Westendorf explained, “I always want to do my part, so I helped others when I could. I think in doing that and spending every day in class with them, I formed friendships with some that extended outside the classroom.”
The two-week school proved to be a breeze for Westendorf. Taking home all the highly coveted awards offered for participants of the course, the Commandants Award, Distinguished and Academic Achievement awards. This undertaking is highly unusual for someone to take home all three, Westendorf willing offers words of encouragement to her methods to her National Guard peers that may be soon attending the school.
“I would tell someone to embrace going outside their comfort zone,” she offers “It wasn’t always easy being the only guard member and feeling like an outsider, but in the end, it was worth it and I learned a lot and made great friends. Also, I would tell someone that it isn’t always easy but to stay focused and work hard and they will succeed.”
One would assume that this service member, a National Guardsman, with the gumption and drive to rack up so many accomplishments would come to a long lineage of proud military members. Westendorf, one of five children, is the newest military member in her family, alongside her Army sister.
“I do not come from a military family, so they understand very little about the Air Force and military so far,” said Westendorf. “Regardless, my parents have always been supportive and so proud of what I have done in the military.”
Her parents were unable to witness in person her graduation and crowning achievements of receiving all three awards, but a very important guest was able to attend. Her sister, a new lieutenant in the Army, was proudly sporting her Army Dress Uniform (ADU) – a symbol of pride and support by any military member.
“Having my sister there for my ALS graduation was special too. My parents couldn’t make it, but it was nice having family there. I didn’t tell her I was nominated for any awards so she was more shocked then I was I took home three awards.”
Even beyond the school, with no immediate military members in the family (besides her sister) to gain references from, the Westendorf Family has rallied around Brianna and supported her through her four-year journey in the 148th Fighter Wing.
“One of my favorite memories was when I got off the plane and was finally home for the first time since I left for basic and tech school. My whole family and friends met me off the plane in the Duluth airport holding up a giant “Welcome Home Airman Westendorf” banner. My dad was so proud that he hung the banner up at our cabin for the rest of the summer for all the boats to see when they went around the lake.”
This young bright-eyed brassy hair blonde has left positive marks behind her in just a few short years when she didn’t have to be seen at all. Airmen like her are the troops of tomorrow’s United States Air Force. If her intelligence, ability to adapt and passion for success are any indication of her peers to the right and the left – we are in good hands.
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub (www.didvshub.net). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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