Airman First Class Alex Halcomb, 19, of Lenoir City, received the ACE award July 2 during his KC-135 course at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.
The ACE award is considered a prestigious accomplishment among airmen because it requires dedication to the course inside and outside of the classroom, 362nd Training Squadron Staff Sgt. Michael Charlton said.
“It entails getting a 100 percent on every single block test, which is 50 questions each,” Charlton said. “You can’t get any disciplinary actions against you or failed progress checks. That’s all it really takes, but it’s a lot easier said than done, obviously, because it’s 300 questions and you have to get every single one right.”
During the KC-135 course, which focuses on learning the ins-and-outs of how different airplanes work, Halcomb took six block tests and faced multiple progress checks. Halcomb did not have plans to obtain the ACE award until he became aware of his success in the course.
“The intention was, I just got in there and got on the first test and I just got a 100 on it, and I was like, ‘Well, it wasn’t that bad. We can just see how this goes,’” he said. “So then I kept studying and studying and kept going with it and somebody told me about the ACE award. I didn’t even know about it when I first got there. I was like, ‘Hmm, I guess I could try it. I’ve got a 100 on everything else so far, so let’s just go for it. I’ve got nothing else to do.’”
Halcomb’s study regimen became an integral part of his daily routine.
“Lot of group studies, lot of study time alone, putting some hours in just going and visually looking at it, seeing how it works and everything made it very helpful,” he said. “So just a lot of reading the books, memorizing it, flashcards.”
Charlton noted the rarity of the achievement.
“It’s very rare,” he said. “I think it’s been two, three years since one in our squadron has got one. It just shows how hard he really worked and cared about his job and willingness to learn really. It’s just very rare that happens and it’s very impressive to everyone else around, too.”
Beyond excelling in the course load and maintaining good behavior, Charlton admired that Halcomb was willing to help others in his squadron.
“He definitely had the whole airman concept,” Charlton said. “He would help out the fellow wingmen in the class if they needed help. If they needed extra help on a subject that he understood, he would step up and help.”
Halcomb joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Lenoir City High School in 2018 and has embraced the lessons learned from courses and military experiences.
“It’s been a very eye-opening experience,” he said. “I’m the first in my family — I have a grandfather that was in the military — but the first in my family group to go into the military and try it. It was a very cool experience. It’s different than what I was expecting, but it taught me a whole lot and it taught me to be a better person.”