NASIC scientist wins AF 2021 Blacks in Government award

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nathan Maysonet

The 2021 U.S. Air Force Blacks in Government Meritorious Service Award was awarded to a data scientist with the Plans and Operations Directorate, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in June.

Melody M. Finister, who has worked at NASIC since 2016 and was the first data scientist hired at the center, was selected by NASIC to compete for the highly competitive 2021 BIG award at the Air Force level earlier this year.

“I feel truly honored to be the recipient of this award,” said Melody. “To me, the award represents excelling in the Whole Airman Concept ; leadership and job performance, significant self-improvement and base or community involvement. My work in the community means a lot to me and I strive each day to be a role model that others would be eager to follow.”

The BIG Meritorious Service Award honors both military and Defense Department civilians who have supported the DOD mission and overseas contingency operations, and whose attributes best epitomize the qualities and core values of their respective service or component.

In the Air Force’s case: Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

“Melody is an exceptional person,” said Michael Sherry , the NASIC Plans and Operations director. “She is an outstanding leader, role model and mentor for all Defense Department personnel.”

Finister donates her personal time to improving the Dayton, Ohio, community and surrounding area. She has led, or was a key part in, several charitable events to include: Community Refugee and Immigration Services programs, Friends of the House of the People, and other local organizations that have aided refugees and other humanitarian immigrants.

“I love helping in the community and giving back in a meaningful way,” Melody said. “I was introduced to the refugee community through my sorority and other community organizations that established Refugee programs in the area that do an amazing job of shedding light on the plight many families go through when they arrive. Being involved with the refugee families reminded me of a time when I needed a little extra help and someone was compassionate enough to help me out.”

She has also worked to procure 700 literacy books for refugees, collected 1,000 pairs of shoes in a community initiative to stomp out poverty, organized and distributed 500 pairs of eye glasses for local families, and led a 300 member campaign that distributed 75,000 bottles of water to local women’s shelters and underserved community food banks.

These are just a few examples of Finister’s dedication to eliminating barriers and creating opportunities for minorities and women in her community.

“Her work with local colleges and NASIC to promote diversity and equity, while working to eliminate discrimination in the recruitment and workforce, is amazing,” said Sherry . “We are extremely proud of Ms. Finister on her recognition and all the great work that she does for NASIC and the local community.”

As important as her community outreach is, Finister’s skills have also paved the way for improving NASIC missions such as enabling new analysis capabilities center-wide that have helped predict adversary activity with 95 percent accuracy; and using her expertise in machine learning and knowledge of imagery science to modernize NASIC’s imagery exploitation process by creating algorithms that increased imagery analyst efficacy by 70 percent.

“The passion I have for my work is merely a reflection of the gratitude I have for the sacrifices made by all service members,” said Finister. “My greatest honor is serving alongside them and making sure they are safe and well-informed.”