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Barksdale Airman saves a life and takes home a trophy

Waugaman was put up for the Patriot Award for her life-saving efforts on a Bomber Task Force deployment at the beginning of 2021 where she saved the life of a drowning snorkeler

Senior Airman Mikhayla Waugaman, 2d Communications Squadron executive communications technician, poses for a photo with the 2021 Patriot of the Year trophy at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Sept. 28, 2021. Waugaman was put up for the Patriot Award for her life-saving efforts on a Bomber Task Force deployment at the beginning of 2021 where she saved the life of a drowning snorkeler. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jovante Johnson)


The world is filled with people who are concerned with human welfare or concerned with seeking out things to make human welfare better, that is the definition of a humanitarian; But it can be rare that a situation falls upon someone and that humanitarian act turns into a matter of life and death.

The Patriot Award is an award that mirrors a humanitarian award in the sense that it celebrates people who have done great things because it is the right thing to do. Not only are first responders such as policemen, emergency medical services, and firefighters put up for the award, but also others who have made a similar impact in their community and went above and beyond the call of duty.

Senior Airman Mikhayla Waugaman, 2d Communications Squadron executive communications technician, was put up for the Patriot Award for her life-saving efforts on a Bomber Task Force deployment at the beginning of 2021 where she saved the life of a drowning snorkeler.

“While on a BTF in Guam this past Spring, myself, as well as about seven others, witnessed an unconscious snorkeler while we were swimming in the Ocean,” said Waugaman. “I immediately swam to help the guy and with the help of his friend who was snorkeling with him, we swam him about 60 yards to shore.”

Because of her heroic act, Waugaman was nominated for the award. However, Waugaman's life-saving efforts were only a single deed amidst many that earned her the nomination.

“Since Waugaman entered the Air Force she has been an outstanding Airman, she stands out without trying and puts forth her best effort in everything she does,” said Tech. Sgt. Darcy Mixon, 2d CS Non-commissioned officer in-charge of mission defense team. “From her leading many volunteer opportunities off base to help clean up the lakes and communities surrounding her, to her making Senior Airman Below The Zone, Waugaman was nominated for this award because she deserves it.”

Mixon was the NCO to nominate Waugaman for the Patriot Award but according to Mixon, the suggestion came from a higher source.
“Chief Master Sgt. Brent Chadick, 2nd Bomb Wing command chief, informed me of his interest in putting in a package for Waugaman to be a Patriot Award nominee,” said Mixon. “A request like that coming from that high up let me know Waugaman isn’t just making a great impression on those around her on a daily basis, but even those not surrounding her every day.”

The Patriot Award ceremony has been held annually since 2019 at different venues each year.

The ceremony was held at the Margaritaville Casino and Resort on Sept. 9, 2021. It consisted of military members and civilian first responders gathering together to hear stories presented to the audience by WBRZ-TV Channel 2 News. The stories highlighted the nominees and explained the reasons they were selected for the award. There were three categories in total, split up into law enforcement, fire protection, and Reserve/Guard/Active Duty military categories. One award was received per category.

Going up against four other people in her category, Waugaman expressed her disbelief when she found out she won.

“Sitting in the crowd and hearing all those stories of people risking their lives to save someone else had me thinking what I had done wasn’t that big of a deal,” said Waugaman. “I don’t look at myself as a hero so when I heard my name called I thought it was a joke. I felt honored to be around those heroes and I will continue to do what I can to make an impact in the world.”

Through all the praise and awards, Waugaman makes sure to give praise and thanks to others that helped her get to this position in her journey.
“I give praise to my leadership for taking care of me and preparing me as best as they can,” said Waugaman. “If I can give advice to anyone who reads this I would encourage them that if they are shy, quiet, and don’t enjoy the spotlight, much like myself, to recognize when it is needed for them to step up and take charge because it can potentially mean the difference between life or death.”

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