Civilian Air Force Tech Wins Technician of the Year

Feb. 9, 2024
Alaska-based tech ace recognized by AEMP for excellence.

Paul Kelly Smith II, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic for the U.S. Air Force based in Alaska, was recently awarded AEMP’s Technician of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere.

Smith was feted during dual recognition events both at AEMPs Equipment Shift fall conference and by John Deere.

“He’s one the smartest mechanics I’ve had the opportunity to work with, and he doesn’t keep all the information to himself,” said his nominator, Sgt. Brian S. Yerger. “When he sees something broken, he doesn’t just fix it, he figures out why and how it broke in order to prevent premature failure and repairs, whether that be [from] an operator error or mechanical issue.”

Smith, a civilian, has served as a heavy equipment technician for eight years. Before that, he was an automotive technician.

"I knew from a young age I was going to be a mechanic," Smith said. "My dad was a mechanic and as a kid I used to spend hours watching him work on vehicles. Watching my dad work and be able to fix complex issues was a big motivator to me to follow in his footsteps."

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Yerger has been especially impressed with Smith’s knack for passing along his knowledge to young airmen and women.

“He’s currently training the next generation of technicians for the Air Force here in Alaska,” Yerger said. “He loves seeing others progress and succeed.”

Yerger noted that if someone comes to Smith with a problem they can’t figure out, Smith will take his break time or lunch time to help them find a solution.

"I like the ability I have to positively impact the fleet and the personnel," Smith said. "I enjoy working with the airmen. I enjoy teaching what I know to others and helping others to be successful. Even though we don't get to keep the airmen at our facility, they go on to other bases with a greater skillset and can be more effective technicians."

Since coming to the Air Force, Smith has had the opportunity to work on all types of equipment, from wheel loaders to tractors to massive Oshkosh trucks for snow removal.

Snow removal is a top priority for Alaskan bases, as the Air Force can’t always cancel or delay crucial flights. “He has a good understanding of the larger mission-based work that he supports while working at an airfield base,” Yerger said.

“The three finalists’ submissions were very close in terms of final judge scoring, but Smith’s won due to his exceptional ratings for Innovation, Image and Professional Presence, Safety and Education, and Certifications and Credentials,” said Michael Battaglia, AEMP’s CEO.

The Technician of the Year Award is given to skilled technicians whose invaluable dedication, to their teams and the heavy equipment industry, deserves a celebration. Experienced technicians from both public and private fleets are acknowledged for merits including innovation and demonstrated leadership within their community and across the heavy equipment industry.

In recognizing technicians who are models of excellence within the profession, AEMP cites two goals: elevating the stature of the career and bringing awareness to the critical issue of the crippling technician shortage found across the entire industry.

Technician of the Year nominations are typically accepted starting in May, and due in June. Visit for details.

This wasn’t the first time the U.S. Air Force has been recognized by AEMP. In 2012 and 2014, the U.S. Air Force Europe & Asia won the Construction Equipment/AEMP Fleet Masters Award.

About the Author

Frank Raczon

Raczon’s writing career spans nearly 25 years, including magazine publishing and public relations work with some of the industry’s major equipment manufacturers. He has won numerous awards in his career, including nods from the Construction Writers Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and BtoB magazine. He is responsible for the magazine's Buying Files.