Space Force announces 2023 Polaris Award service-level recipients

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The U.S. Space Force has selected the 2023 Polaris Award service-level recipients.

The Polaris Award is an annual awards program, originally established in 2022, that is built from the four Guardian Values of Character, Connection, Commitment and Courage. There are four individual award categories representing each value, and a team excellence category that signifies all four values. 

All military and civilian Guardians were eligible to be nominated for each Polaris Award category. Out of more than 13,800 Guardians, the 2023 recipients showcased excellence in executing their missions and exemplified the Guardian Spirit. 

The service-level Polaris Award recipients and a summary of some of their accomplishments are: 

The Character Award: Tech. Sgt. Isabel F. Childress, 1st Delta Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas 

Childress was selected to become a Military Training Instructor where she personified exceptional character, graduating at the top of her class and becoming the first Guardian to obtain all three prestigious awards – Excellence in Instruction, Commandant Award, and Distinguished Graduate. During her time as an MTI, she designed a website for the instructor schoolhouse, found creative methods to motivate and connect new Guardians and their families, co-hosted an MTI Town Hall for future applicants, and more. 

The Connection Award: Maj. Jessica M. Pratt, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado  

Pratt created new connections between USAFA and the broader Space Force community, integrating the space domain into cadet capstone exercises and including Guardians from across the Space Force to participate in USAFA events. This included growing the inaugural Azimuth cadet summer training program, and mentoring 33 USAFA cadre to train more than 200 cadets from three service academies and Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments on the space domain.  

The Commitment Award: 1st Lt. Jonathan Novak, 3rd Space Operations Squadron, Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado 

Novak showed Commitment to the Guardian Ideal through his outstanding utilization of resources. He conducted research on resilient space architectures, published in an international aerospace engineering journal and presented to 60 STEM educators. He also led the creation of the Space Force’s first space-centric acquisition training, incorporating lessons learned from academia and industry. 

The Courage Award: Capt. Samantha Pereira, 3rd Space Operations Squadron, Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado  

Pereira showed courage building rapport and relationships within her organization as she established the 3rd SOPS’ engineering flight. She empowered her team to show courage to identify system issues and mission challenges, and develop a “get-well plan” to address them. Her vision and conviction ultimately fueled the squadron’s nascent accountability and configuration control process, resulting in the unit’s first security inspection pass rating. Pereira is also respected for cultivating an environment of dignity and respect amongst Guardians. Her approach to creating a team dynamic that fosters innovation and problem-solving resulted in her team winning multiple awards and accolades. 

The Team Excellence Award: 22nd Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana  

The 22 SOPS Detachment 1 is the only Space Force unit in the state of Montana. There, they developed a strong partnership with their community and committed themselves to being ambassadors for the Space Force. Unit members dedicated their time to highlighting the importance of STEM to more than 400 children at 13 DoD STARBASE and Stem2Space events across the Nation. Members were committed to improvements within the unit, implementing a professional development program that included discussions about Space Force structure, the Joint Force, and other topics that broadened members’ professional knowledge. Detachment 1 also enhanced the integration of space and intelligence into its cyber mission; members expanded their knowledge of space operations through Exercise Space Flag and established regular touchpoints to enable intelligence to drive operational decision points. 

Congratulations to the 2023 Polaris Award winners for their embodiment of the Guardian Spirit and representing what it means to be a member of the United States Space Force.