First Sergeant of Year known for ‘tenacity, openness and kindness’

Seekell gives help to those in 88th Medical Group who need it

It’s not that often the following is written: “_______________ is, without a doubt, the finest _______________ I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” but that’s exactly what has been said about Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Seekell, the 88th Air Base Wing’s 2020 First Sergeant of the Year.

Col. Jason Musser, the 88th Medical Group’s deputy commander, noted that Seekell served as his first sergeant for most of last year. He worked with Air Force Medical Service’s largest squadron – about 650 people – ensuring all personnel issues and discipline were handled in a timely and transparent manner.

Seekell made certain members needing help were taken care of and followed to ensure no other issues.

“In addition, we would talk on a daily basis on issues affecting the squadron to ensure that I was kept up to date,” Musser said. “These daily discussions also allowed the unit to ensure all issues affecting our Airmen were thoroughly examined prior to engaging and working the issue.”

Seekell’s influence extended beyond the 88th Health-Care Operations Squadron to the group and wing level.

“His tenacity, openness and kindness made him approachable by all Airmen in need,” Musser added. “He helped ensure a high morale across the unit and is, without a doubt, the finest first sergeant I’ve had the opportunity to work with through my 23 years.”

Seekell was honored during the wing’s 2020 annual awards ceremony, hosted virtually through a CVR Teams live event Jan. 19 by Col. Patrick Miller, 88 ABW commander, and other Wright-Patterson Air Force Base leaders.

His 2020 achievements also earned him the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s 2020 First Sergeant of the Year Award. He will now go on to compete at Air Force Materiel Command’s annual awards.

Highlights of Seekell’s leadership and job performance include:

· He was selected as one of the U.S. training leadersfor Ukraine’sfirst military sport-recovery program. While there, he mentored 10 coaches and 46 athletes on the benefits of adaptive sport recovery and provided guidance on the pathway to physical and mental wellness. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs for Ukraine ended up adopting this model to use with its armed forces.

· Under his leadership and with the help of junior enlisted Airmen, 88 HCOS stood up its first functioning squadron booster club in years. Elections were held, providing leadership opportunities. Airmen and NCOs raised funds for morale/welfare events.

· The pandemic came with a host of challenges. Throughout 2020 and with his proven leadership Seekell established multiple courses of action and procedures that both protected personnel and provided an avenue for them to continue executing at a high level despite the restrictions. The team was stretched to the limit but developed a “bend, don’t break” mentality that served it well.

· 88 HCOS won 88 ABW Squadron of the Year and AFMC Hospital of the Year, with Seekell as first sergeant steering hundreds of personnel, eight flights and six graduate medical education programs.

· He worked on AFMC’s Agile Patriot project, a platform to educate, mentor and develop the total force by equipping attendees with the knowledge they need to become leaders, not just within AFMC but across the Air Force. He spoke to hundreds of people on resilience, helping AFMC invest in its human capital.

Now serving from a deployed location in Iraq with the 321st Air Expeditionary Group as the only Air Force first sergeant in the entire country, Seekell is assisting with a variety of mission capabilities in a health care operations squadron. His is one of 26 different career specialties there, he said by email. His duties are identical to what he was doing stateside.

“That’s what I love about being a first sergeant – it doesn’t matter where I am, I’m just there to help my people. What I enjoy the most is the ‘feel’ of what we’re doing here. This is what we all train for,” he noted. “This is where all our skills and training come to fruition, and we’re able to take those capabilities to an austere environment and make airpower happen.”

Seekell said he is proudest of his WPAFB unit receiving the 88 ABW 2020 Squadron of the Year Award.

“My ultimate goal as a first sergeant is to make sure my team members are taken care of and have the tools they need to accomplish the mission,” he said. “I would say mission accomplished! They were nothing short of outstanding and accomplished so much despite unprecedented times.”

Seekell looks forward to reintegrating with his wife, Meagan, and four children when he returns from deployment.

“They will be making many sacrifices while I’m gone; investing time back into them is what I’m looking forward to most,” he admitted.

Wright-Patt has become Seekell’s favorite assignment yet, he continued.

“Great mission, great people and my family loves it here,” he said. “The family piece is probably the best aspect – there is so much for our family to see and do here.”

He ended his email by thanking not only his family for their support, but his “team at the 88th Medical Group – the real heroes of this story,” he said. “You guys are the best! Is there a medic in the house? You know the rest. …”

First sergeant overcomes severe wound with resilience

In December 2004, Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Seekell joined the Air Force in Security Forces as a military working dog handler.

In 2011, during his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Seekell was conducting a routine foot patrol mission outside Bagram Airfield when he and his German shepherd patrol dog, Charlie, stepped on a landmine, blowing them both in the air.

His first reaction was to attend to his team, including Charlie. Charlie had multiple shrapnel wounds to his hind quarters, and his eardrums had burst during the explosion, but the MWD made a full recovery.

Seekell recovered, too, developing a new set of goals and striving for excellence.

After recovering from multiple surgeries to remove his left leg below the knee, the Charlestown, Rhode Island, native dedicated four to five hours every day to physical therapy and getting fit for a prosthesis. He returned to active duty and concentrated on cycling, shooting, track and field, and basketball to maintain fitness.

His prowess brought about qualification for Warriors Games 2015, where he earned two bronze medals, and Invictus Games 2016, earning one gold and two silver medals.

Seekell was then selected to be Air Force team co-captain at Warrior Games 2017, where he won gold medals in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter runs. Later that year, he won gold for the

U.S. in the 400-meter run and as a member of the wheelchair basketball team in Toronto’s Invictus Games.

“My injury and the experiences I’ve had on my road to recovery have given me invaluable perspective and also a platform to share those lessons learned with those around me,” Seekell said via email from his deployed location in Iraq. “I’ve tried my best to be a good steward of that platform.

“I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to fulfill many roles during my time in service. Ten years ago, I would have never guessed that my journey would take me to where I am now. But when opportunity knocks, you have two choices – stand at the door or throw it wide open and jump through. I haven’t always known how it was going to work out, but I did know that I wanted to be able to make a difference in people’s lives.

His Air Force awards include a Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Achievement Medal.

“When you let people in, some amazing things can happen,” he added. “So, I went from working the streets as a dog handler to having the privilege to lead and inspire from a higher level. And for that I am forever thankful for that fateful day that allowed me to go down that path and be placed in a position to impact so many. My life is richer for it.”

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