by Rachel Arroyo
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
1/10/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Three
Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen at the tip of the spear
received one of the Air Force's most prestigious awards, the 2012 Lance
P. Sijan USAF leadership award.
The award recognizes Airmen who exemplify the highest forms of
leadership not only at work but in the community and their personal
This is the first time AFSOC Airmen have been selected in three of four categories.
Lt. Col. Nathan Green, commander of the 4th Special Operations Squadron,
Hurlburt Field, Fla., is the recipient in the senior officer category.
Captain Blake Luttrell, a special tactics officer assigned to the 21st
Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, NC, is the recipient in the junior
Senior Master Sgt. Davide Keaton, a pararescuemen assigned to the 720th
Operations Support Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., is the recipient in
the senior enlisted category.
The award requires candidates demonstrate leadership through scope of
responsibility, professional leadership, leadership image and community
All three Airmen have something in common when it comes to leadership -people are their priority.
Green commanded AFSOC's largest, manned flying squadron containing AC-130Us.
He also led the integration of seven Emirati special operations forces
airframes into coalition operations, according to the award citation.
Green said he is extremely grateful to be honored with this award. He
credits his leaders, mentors and family for shaping and supporting him
throughout his Air Force career.
"I am speechless and very humbled to be able to lead our Airmen,
especially in AFSOC," he said. "This award is a testament to them."
Communication is central to his leadership style. The Airmen have great
capabilities to put the commander's intent in action so long as that
intent is conveyed clearly, he said.
"There are many facets to leadership - sometimes you have to be a coach,
sometimes a teacher," Green said. "You have to lead by example, and you
have to trust your people."
Luttrell was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest combat
decoration, in January 2012 for gallantry in combat. He pulled his
wounded team medic from a cave while under intense enemy fire and
administered immediate medical treatment.
As the only Airman on an Army special operations forces team, he engaged
in combat operations spanning 150 days including 25 high-risk missions
resulting in 29 enemy combatants eliminated, according to the award
He also instructed Afghan Army and local police force members on close
quarter battle, assisting the transition effort in Afghanistan.
Luttrell says he learns just as much if not more from his people than they do from him.
"A leader is someone who is willing to listen to input, but isn't afraid to make tough decisions," he said.
Keaton, who completed his own tenth Global War on Terror deployment in
2012, also guided 14 deployments across four theaters that resulted in
3,023 combat operations and 568 enemy combatants eliminated, according
to the award citation.
While stateside, he also saved a 74-year-old woman from drowning in a
submerged car when an automobile accident caused her to run off the road
into a lake. An onlooker appeared with a hammer, Keaton said. He
grabbed it, broke the window and removed her from the vehicle.
Like Green, Keaton, who characterizes himself as a really down-to-earth
guy, said he is also humbled to be selected for the Sijan award.
Keaton credits the special tactics career field for emphasizing the
importance of getting the job done and encouraging Airmen to test their
limitations, like Sijan was called to do.
To Keaton, leadership means taking care of your people.
"The most critical part of any project you work on are the people," he said.
The Lance P. Sijan USAF leadership award bears the namesake of the Medal
of Honor recipient who was shot down in his F-4C Phantom fighter jet
over Vietnam in 1967.
For 45 days, Sijan evaded enemy forces, and when he was captured and
tortured, he refused to divulge any information beyond what is
permissible by the Geneva Conventions until he died in the Hanoi Hilton,