Two Sijan winners, one squadron

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing

For the first time in Air Mobility Command history, the noncommissioned officer and senior noncommissioned officer Lance P. Sijan U.S. Air Force Leadership Award winners have come from a single squadron, let alone a single wing, the 621st Contingency Response Wing.

Tech. Sgt. Ronald Weaver and Master Sgt. Michael Compean, 921st Contingency Response Squadron stationed at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., were announced as the winners of the award Aug. 29. The award recognizes officers and enlisted leaders who demonstrate the highest qualities of leadership in the performance of their duties and conduct of their lives.

“I'm not sure if words can truly explain how proud I am to even be recognized for such a prestigious award,” Weaver said. “To even be considered is a monumental moment in my career and I'm just glad that my squadron leadership believed in me enough to put me in for it.”

“To be a great leader is finding the right ingredients to separate yourself from your peers,” Compean said. “Doesn't mean you're better, but finding those key nuggets on developing yourself persistently and having the ability to make those tough choices when no one appreciates your decisions.” 

Weaver credits his past mentors and leaders for his success in winning the Sijan Award.

 “I was once told by my old flight commander while stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, that I should be the change I want to see,” Weaver said. “Those words have stuck with me since and I've tried to incorporate it in all of my decisions and actions.”

 Sijan was a fighter pilot who crashed in North Vietnamese territory in 1967 during the Vietnamese War. Despite the serious injuries he suffered from the crash, he was able to avoid capture for more than six weeks. Eventually, after being overwhelmed with exhaustion, he was found collapsed on a road by North Vietnamese Soldiers.

 Just days after capture, he was able to escape but was recaptured and taken to Hanoi Hilton where he was tortured, and eventually died due to pneumonia. After American prisoners of war were released in 1973, his fellow POWs recommended him for the Medal of Honor for his courageous continuous resistance until his death.

 “When I was an Airman, my flight chief explained to the flight who Capt. Sijan was and his actions,” Weaver said. “It has been so humbling to receive an award named after him.”

 "What makes a great leader?” asked Compean. “This question will never be fully answered. But more important than finding the right answer is our daily obligation doing the right thing every day, developing your Airmen and NCOs to be future leaders, and the understanding that the world is an endlessly complex place that requires leaders at all levels, to lead in the front and by example.”