AF officials announce Lance P. Sijan Award winners

  • Published
  • By Gloria Kwizera
  • Air Force Personnel, Service and Manpower Public Affairs
Air Force officials recently announced the winners of the 2011 Lance P. Sijan Air Force Leadership Award.

The Lance P. Sijan Air Force Leadership Award recognizes Airmen who have demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities.

The senior officer category winner is Maj. Laura Dejong, who is assigned to Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. As an Air Force Office of Special Investigations commander deployed to Iraq in 2010, DeJong led a joint 21-person team overseeing 205 missions conducting offensive counterintelligence in northern Iraq. While at Patrick AFB, her leadership ensured unparalleled investigative effort to 13 Operation Wingspan investigations into counterfeit KC-135 Stratotanker/E-3 Sentry aircraft parts, resulting in six guilty pleas. Her accomplishments led to her
selection as the 8th Field Investigations Region's Field Grade Officer of the Year, and the Women in Federal Law Enforcement's 2010 Outstanding Federal Law Enforcement Agent of the Year.

The junior officer category winner is Capt. Gilbert Wyche II, who is assigned to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom. While deployed to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Wyche took command of a perimeter sector during a three-hour complex ground attack. He placed his team into defensive positions and stayed on the line directing their actions during the fight. Despite being wounded from an enemy hand grenade, he displayed heroic action, engaging 19 enemy forces with small arms fire at extreme close quarters. His team is credited with killing nine enemy forces and quelling the main enemy assault.

The senior enlisted category winner is Master Sgt. Timothy Sterner, who is assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Sterner led explosive ordnance disposal teams in the successful completion of more than 600 combat missions. He managed more than $20 million in vehicles and equipment as his teams supported joint and coalition forces across a 100-square-mile area of operation in southern Afghanistan. His commitment to excellence and leadership of teams, often at extreme risk to himself, enabled the clearance of more than 200 improvised explosive devices without a single Air Force loss in this historically lethal area.

The junior enlisted category winner is Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Hoag, who is assigned to Pope Field, N.C. Hoag deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as an assault force combat controller. While deployed, Hoag controlled 384 aircraft over 64 combat operations, resulting in the death or capture of 133 enemy combatants. He also led an eight-day close-air-support training course testing new tactics and technology as well as certifying 18 Airmen for combat. Hoag also planned and organized 4,700 care packages for deployed service members at his local church.

The Lance P. Sijan award was first given in 1981. It was named in honor of the first U.S. Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor. Captain Sijan was shot down over Vietnam on Nov. 9, 1967, and evaded capture for 45 days despite severe injuries. He later died while in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp and was presented the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism.

The awards will be presented to this year's recipients at a later date.