Two Airmen Receive Scholarship Honoring Former Wingman

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Della Creech
  • 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 315th Airlift Wing’s Top 3 organization named two recipients of the  George Counts Scholarship Aug. 9, at JB Charleston.

To pursue higher education, both Tech. Sgt. Steven Smith, with the 315th Security Forces Squadron, and Master Sgt. Matthew Skvarna, with the 317th Airlift Squadron here received the $5,000 Senior Master Sgt. George Counts Scholarship, created in memory of the late loadmaster from the 317th Airlift Squadron

Skvarna, who served alongside the late loadmaster, is pursuing a degree in nursing and was humbled to receive the scholarship after a second year of application in the steep competition for deserving students. All career paths and all degrees were considered by the 315 AW Top 3 board.

Smith is able to contribute the scholarship towards his Doctorate in Criminal Justice from St. Leo University. 

After working with Counts, and now with his scholarship recipients, Senior Master Sgt. Tracy Johnson, first sergeant of the 317th Airlift Squadron said, “honoring such a good human being by furthering the education of others makes me grateful to be a part of the 315th AW.” 

With education as a pillar in the 315 AW Top 3 organization, this is the second year that the scholarship was awarded to deserving college degree candidates. 

“As a father of three, I signed my 9/11 education benefits over to their futures,” said Smith. “I’m grateful to receive assistance for my doctorate. This will help strengthen my contribution as a reservist and an air reserve technician with the 315th SFS.”

The 315th AW applicants were asked to submit letters of recommendation as well as a paper that explains their goals for using their education here at JB Charleston and at home. The 315th AW Top 3 hopes to balance the challenges that Airmen face with the price and value of college education, said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Craig, president of the 315th AW Top 3 here.

“With the price of college growing 5% over the last 10 years, it is always on the rise and everything counts,” said recent college graduate Master Sgt. Melanie Fredricks. “It’s a wonderful opportunity that we can support one another within our squadrons here at JB Charleston and honor a fellow Airman.” 

From our future caregivers to criminal justice experts, the Senior Master Sgt. George Counts Scholarship breaks down the barrier of college debt and builds the airmen of the 315th AW through honoring the memory of Counts, said Craig.

For more information about contributing to this scholarship please contact the 315 AW Top 3 organization at