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AF presents 2014, 2015 Sijan award winners

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A Welsh III and Janine Rozina pose for a photo with the 2014 and 2015 Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award winners following the award ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2016. Rozina is Sijan's sister. Each year, the award is given to a senior and junior officer and a senior and junior enlisted member who demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities. The 2014 winners are: Lt. Col. Stephen Matthews, Capt. John Sullivan, Master Sgt. Janell McGivern and Senior Airman Tristen Windel. The winners for 2015 are: Maj. Patrick Kolesiak, Capt. David Plachno, Senior Master Sgt. Justin Deisch and Tech. Sgt. Kevin Henderson. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A Welsh III and Janine Rozina pose for a photo with the 2014 and 2015 Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award winners following the award ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2016. Rozina is Sijan's sister. Each year, the award is given to a senior and junior officer and a senior and junior enlisted member who demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities. The 2014 winners are: Lt. Col. Stephen Matthews, Capt. John Sullivan, Master Sgt. Janell McGivern and Senior Airman Tristen Windel. The winners for 2015 are: Maj. Patrick Kolesiak, Capt. David Plachno, Senior Master Sgt. Justin Deisch and Tech. Sgt. Kevin Henderson. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A Welsh III gives his remarks before presenting the Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award to the 2014 and 2015 recipients during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2016. The award was named in honor of the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor. Each year it is given to a senior and junior officer and a senior and junior enlisted member who demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A Welsh III gives his remarks before presenting the Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award to the 2014 and 2015 recipients during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2016. The award was named in honor of the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor. Each year it is given to a senior and junior officer and a senior and junior enlisted member who demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A Welsh III talks with the 2014 and 2015 Lance P. Sijan Leadership award winners prior to their award ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2016. Each year, the award is given to a senior and junior officer and a senior and junior enlisted member who demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities throughout the year. The 2014 winners are: Lt. Col. Stephen Matthews, Capt. John Sullivan, Master Sgt. Janell McGivern and Senior Airman Tristen Windel. The winners for 2015 are: Maj. Patrick Kolesiak, Capt. David Plachno, Senior Master Sgt. Justin Deisch and Tech. Sgt. Kevin Henderson. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A Welsh III talks with the 2014 and 2015 Lance P. Sijan Leadership award winners prior to their award ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2016. Each year, the award is given to a senior and junior officer and a senior and junior enlisted member who demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities throughout the year. The 2014 winners are: Lt. Col. Stephen Matthews, Capt. John Sullivan, Master Sgt. Janell McGivern and Senior Airman Tristen Windel. The winners for 2015 are: Maj. Patrick Kolesiak, Capt. David Plachno, Senior Master Sgt. Justin Deisch and Tech. Sgt. Kevin Henderson. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presented the 2014 and 2015 Lance P. Sijan Leadership Awards to eight Airmen in the Airman’s Hall on April 7 at the Pentagon.

The Sijan award, first given in 1981, is named in honor of the first U.S. Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor.

Sijan, a first lieutenant, 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 annual award recognizes the accomplishments of Airmen who have demonstrated the highest quality of leadership in the performance of their duties and their personal lives. Honorees are chosen in senior and junior officer and enlisted categories.

Welsh addressed the award recipients, describing the significant events of Sijan’s capture and what his commitment and sacrifice meant to the Air Force.

“This is an unbelievable award. It’s named after an unbelievable Airman,” Welsh said. “He would be very proud of you. Never forget that you represent him.”

Accompanying Welsh in the ceremony was Sijan’s sister, Janine Sijan Rozina. She also spoke to the award winners about how meaningful and commendable their actions are to the Air Force.

“Heroes are not born, they’re made through life decisions and commitments,” Rozina said.

2015 winners

The senior officer winner was Maj. Patrick J. Kolesiak, the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight commander at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. He led the wing’s largest flight of 438 engineers supporting daily operations of a nearly 1,800-acre base, three weapons storage areas and 15 geographically separated units across four nations.

Capt. David L. Plachno was selected as the junior officer winner. He serves as a C-17A Globemaster III aircraft commander from the 21st Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California. His devotion led to the survival and relocation of 100,000 displaced refugees during the South Sudan civil war and humanitarian Level 3 emergency.

The senior enlisted winner was Senior Master Sgt. Justin R. Deisch, a 5th Bomb Wing material flight chief at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. He coordinated a 40 percent increase in re-entry system movements supporting the 91st Missile Wing’s intercontinental ballistic missile field and overhauled three launch facilities negating any deficiencies to the order alert readiness.

Tech. Sgt. Kevin S. Henderson was chosen for the junior enlisted category. Henderson served as the assistant chief of plan and programs of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron at Osan Air Base, South Korea. His direction helped the flight mitigate more than 700 emergencies that protected the wing’s mission and allowed the wing to generate 9,000 sorties.

2014 winners

Lt. Col. Stephen B. Matthews, the 49th Air Refueling Squadron commander at McConnell AFB, Kansas, was chosen for the senior officer category. Matthews led 92 aviators in Air Mobility Command’s largest tanker wing, ensuring the safe execution of more than 480 sorties and 2,300 flight hours.

The junior officer category winner was Capt. John L. Sullivan, a 509th Bomb Wing operations officer at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. He led the Air Force’s largest nuclear security forces squadron that produced nine superior performers, two superior team awards and assured an “excellent” rating for the wing.

Master Sgt. Janell R. McGivern was selected as the senior enlisted winner. She served as the 832nd Maintenance Squadron lead rotary wing advisor at Nellis AFB, Nevada. McGivern led her team of Air Force advisors in teaching and mentoring 270 Afghan airmen in helicopter maintenance fundamentals and fleet management for 37 aircraft across four mission design series.

The junior enlisted winner was Senior Airman Tristan S. Windle, a 320th Special Tactics Squadron pararescue journeyman at Kadena Air Base, Japan. While on a nighttime raid he came upon a well-coordinated ambush including close-range suicide vest detonations and multiple victim-initiated improvised explosive devices, resulting in 34 casualties. Windle, despite his own wounds, directed security and organized the evacuation of 66 members of U.S. Special Operations Forces, nine Afghans and one military working dog.

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