Thursday, April 22, 2010
Four Airmen receive Sijan award
by Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
4/22/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force's 2009 Capt. Lance P. Sijan Award recipients were honored in a ceremony April 21 in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
The Sijan Award annually recognizes four Airmen who demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities. Officer and enlisted honorees are chosen in senior and junior categories.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz served as host and speaker for the event honoring the recipients and their families. Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the commander of Air Force Space Command; Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command; and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy also attended.
General Schwartz stressed the importance of the award and its namesake to the Air Force.
"Truly, character is at the base of all this," General Schwartz said. "It is the character of Lance Sijan and the character of these four wonderful Air Force leaders who we honor today. "Because of their character, our Air Force remains the reliable and trusted partner that we are for the other members of the joint team. That's what you represent, and it's something very special."
The general also noted the role family members play in supporting the Air Force mission.
"Clearly service in the nation's cloth is a team sport," he said to the spouses, children and other family members present. "We appreciate your contribution, your sacrifices to enable your spouse to accomplish those things for which they're recognized today."
The senior officer recipient is Lt. Col. Roger Sherman, who is assigned to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. While deployed as an electronic warfare officer, Colonel Sherman led the 82nd Airborne Division's first electronic attack missions in Iraq against enemy forces. Additionally, he controlled and detected early warning networks that led to the prevention of five rocket attacks against coalition forces. He also created a key leader engagement strategy for two Iraqi provinces, to include building partnerships and increasing security, that completely eliminated rocket and militia attacks.
The junior officer recipient is Capt. Rachel Phillips, who is assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Det. 502 at Sembach Annex, Germany. She developed, planned and executed strategic-level counter-intelligence operations to neutralize hostile intelligence and terrorist groups. During her last deployment, Captain Phillips led more than 50 missions into hostile territory in Afghanistan that resulted in the elimination of seven Taliban extremists from the battlefield.
She was unable to attend the ceremony due to air travel delays caused by volcanic ash, so her brother accepted the award in her stead.
The senior enlisted recipient is Senior Master Sgt. Jesse Schraner, a vehicle operations superintendent assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla. While deployed, he led 223 convoy missions in Iraq and Kuwait that safely transported 300,000 tons of supplies over 4 million miles, providing war-making and life-sustaining material to approximately 100,000 warfighters. He also prevented battlefield complacency through hands-on leadership that resulted in no Airmen killed or wounded despite 17 small-arms insurgent attacks.
The junior enlisted recipient is Staff Sgt. Gino Kahaunaele, who is assigned to Pope AFB, N.C. As a special operations force pararescueman, Sergeant Kahaunaele's heroism and bravery in the midst of direct and accurate enemy fire resulted in eight American lives being saved. With total disregard for his own safety, he sprinted into a hail of gunfire to drag a pinned-down, wounded teammate to safety where he used his advanced trauma medical skills to stabilize and save the operator's life. Additionally, Sergeant Kahaunaele led a combat search and rescue team through 45 combat sorties over the world's most hostile terrain.
Sergeant Kahaunaele shared his reaction to the award.
"There's really no fathoming this; it's incredible to be here," he said. "My teammates and I always said to ourselves, 'Just show up and be better than the enemy.'"
The Lance P. Sijan award was first presented in 1981. It is 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 Nov. 9, 1967, and evaded capture for 45 days despite severe injuries. He later died while in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroism.