Staff Sgt. Danielle Kerfeld named Alaska Airman of the Year for 2022

Inside the Gates
Staff Sgt. Danielle Kerfeld named Alaska Airman of the Year for 2022
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 4:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Joining the U.S. Air Force was a dream Staff Sgt. Danielle Kerfeld had for years.

Now, at 24 years old, they have taken the leap and enlisted after serving as a police officer in Minnesota.

Since being a part of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Kerfeld has left waves of admiration across the base for how true they are to themselves in addition to how they perform as a law enforcement officer.

“Dannie is very humble, passionate about the things she does across law enforcement,” Senior Master Sgt. Sarah Colwell said.

In February, Kerfeld was recognized as the Alaska Airman of the Year as one of 12 select junior enlisted service members to be recognized as the Alaska Service member of the year award by ASYMCA of Alaska.

“I knew right away once I read the requirements that Dannie was a prime candidate,” Colwell said.

But Kerfeld said the recognition came as a surprise.

“I knew the package was submitted. I was completely blindsided,” Kerfeld said. “It was actually the most emotion I felt from receiving some recognition of that sort.”

Kerfeld was recognized for the work they’ve done fostering relationships between law enforcement and the community, their high character and excelling in their role.

“(They have) read with schoolchildren, and just shown that police are caring individuals and presence,” Colwell said. “And then in the local community of Anchorage, she’s done summer safety days and also done Shop With A Cop around Christmas time.”

However, the real legacy Kerfeld might just be leaving behind is their ability to be true to themselves.

“I can honestly say, I’ve served the last four years just being myself. And without sacrificing who I am,” Kerfeld said. “I was a kind person. I was a good person. I was a professional.”

Being themselves has been a personal mission, according to Kerfeld. Being in the military can often encourage people to sacrifice parts of their personality — but Kerfeld was determined to be themselves while helping inspire others and being a voice for other LGBTQ individuals.

Officials say that Kerfeld has been an active advocate for gender and LGBTQ equality on base, and an educator in helping the Department of Defense recognize the need for inclusion.

Kerfeld also hopes they can be a voice of support to others who are fearful of joining the military.

“I want to people able to send that message that you can be successful, and be different and be outside of the norm,” Kerfeld said.