Local Retired Air Force Colonel Wins Lifetime Achievement Award
Retired Colonel Suellyn Wright Novak, the Alaska Veterans Museum Executive Director, was recently awarded the Armed Services Blood Program Lifetime Achievement Award at the Defense Health Agency Headquarters in Falls Church, VA. A Navy compatriot of hers during Operation Desert Storm, Retired Captain Bruce Rutherford was also an awardee.
This award, which consists of a certificate signed by all three Service Surgeons General, and a medal on a purple ribbon, to denote that even though all three services have separate blood programs, they all feed into the Armed Services Blood Program, which indeed is a "purple" office with all branches working together. The nomination and certificate call out Colonel Novak's many contributions to the blood program, and her leadership of same during her 32 year career.
She remains the longest serving Chief of the Air Force Blood Program (6+ years) and was in position during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Under her leadership, the small Air Force Blood Program of only 27 donor centers, pumped more blood into theater than the much larger Navy and Army Blood Programs. Colonel Novak attributes this feat to the caliber of her junior officers and enlisted personnel. The proudest moment of her life, was when she presented all of them with Air Force Blood Program caps for their service.
The second proudest moment of her life was building the frozen blood program for The Republic of Korea. This prepositioned frozen blood was placed close to areas of need and the Transportable Blood Transshipment Center, another of her projects, was able to make this all possible. As senior laboratory and blood program consultant for all of the Pacific theater from 1993-1997, her inspection tours were legendary, as was her mentorship of junior personnel! Colonel Novak served as Squadron Commander for three different medical squadrons at two different bases.
She also assisted at the Armed Services Blood Program Office by documenting the history of the blood programs, standardizing blood activities across the Services, training for disaster response and researching new technologies to care for our wounded warriors.
Since retiring from Active Duty she had remained a prominent leader in her community: serving fellow Veterans by appointment by the Governor of Alaska to his Veterans Advisory Council, and several roles in her local VFW Post 9785. In 2010 Suellyn received the First Lady's Volunteer of the Year Award and in 2012,
The Alaska Governor's Veterans Advocacy Award. She is very active in the Eagle River Presbyterian Church where she sings in the choir and on the Praise Team and was a Deacon and a Sunday School Teacher. Colonel Novak continues to live a life of enthusiasm, can-do attitude and perseverance.
Courtesy Suellyn Wright Novak