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Outstanding ISR Airmen nominated for top leadership award

The Sijan award, first presented in 1981, was named in honor of the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Congressional 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 though out the year.

The Sijan award, first presented in 1981, was named in honor of the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Congressional 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 though out the year.


Four outstanding 25th Air Force Airmen have made the cut to be considered for the 2017 Lance P. Sijan Award.


The Lance P. Sijan U.S. Air Force Leadership Award is named in honor of the late Capt. Lance P. Sijan, an Air Force Academy graduate and combat pilot, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageousness while evading capture by the North Vietnamese and during his subsequent captivity as a prisoner of war. 


The award recognizes the accomplishments of officers and enlisted leaders who demonstrate the highest qualities of leadership in the performance of their duties and in their lives.


In the Junior Enlisted Category, the 25th Air Force nominee is Tech. Sgt. Jolene, 22nd Intelligence Squadron, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, who was recently promoted to master sergeant.


Jolene’s selection can be attributed to her superb leadership abilities and community involvement.


“(Jolene) has proven her leadership abilities in all aspects of her life, from her role in the work center to her extensive community involvement,” said Lt. Col. Dan Newton, commander, 22nd IS. “As the NSA (National Security Agency) deputy division chief, she led 50 Joint service members at three NSA sites supporting global special operations. She leads by example and truly cares about her Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines.”


The commander said this outstanding Airman was also a phenomenal volunteer while assigned to the 22nd IS.


“In addition to her normal duties, she volunteered as a Master Resiliency Trainer where she led Squadron and Wing Comprehensive Airmen Fitness events,” he said. “Her impact on the squadron is evidenced in the number of individual, team and unit awards that we have earned over the past year.”


Outside of work, Jolene is a highly involved community leader, Newton said.


“As the Parent Teacher Student Association secretary, she led seven events, raised $6,000 for the organization and awarded $3,000 in scholarships to aspiring college students. She also chaired the Intelligence Community’s Women’s Leadership Symposium where she mentored 220 women, developing their leadership skills,” he said. “Furthermore, she chaired the National Women Veterans Program, the NSA Women’s Resource Group and established the Military Women in STEM Focus Group.”


Newton said Jolene is a premier leader, committed to the mission and, most importantly, to people. 


“She is the type of proactive leader the Air Force needs to ensure our next generation is ready to tackle the challenges we will face in the complex global security environment," he said.


The 22nd IS superintendent, Chief Master Sgt. Heath Jennings, echoed Newton’s praises.


“(Jolene) is a true leader, both on and off-duty. On-duty, she consistently punches above her grade as flight chief and senior enlisted leader within the National Security Agency, where she leads 60 Airmen and 50 joint-service personnel daily,” he said.


“The most defining leadership characteristic of Master Sgt. (Jolene) is how much she truly cares about Airmen,” Jennings said.


The Numbered Air Force’s nominee in the senior enlisted category is Master Sgt. Alison, 29th IS, 70th ISRW.


Alison, who has since moved to a new duty location, was the senior enlisted leader for over 140 joint military members. She created a flight Leadership course that developed 70 ISRW flight commanders and flight chiefs into stronger leaders and advocates for their flights, Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Bench said. The course was subsequently adopted by the NAF.


The Airman not only paved the way for future squadron leaders and managed a counterterrorism mission which halted an attack on a U.S. embassy, she also published a Mock Force Distribution Panel to educate all Airmen on the promotion recommendation process, Bench said.


“(Alison) is a visible leader who is constantly working to help improve our Air Force through continual mentorship,” she said.


Alison was overwhelmed by the nomination and appreciates the recognition, something ISR Airmen rarely see.


“It is truly an honor to be nominated by 25th Air Force for the Lance P. Sijan Award,” she said. “I was humbled by the nomination from my supervisor and squadron, and continue to be thankful for each level of nomination along the way.”


The Airman realizes this award could be a noteworthy milestone in her Air Force career. 


“In my opinion, the Lance P. Sijan Award is the most significant award a SNCO (senior non-commissioned officer) can receive.  It stands for and symbolizes servant leadership at its core, which is something I whole-heartedly believe in and work on continuously,” she said.


Alison also recognizes the Airmen around her contributed to the selection.


“I received the nomination at a time when I was surrounded by incredible people,” she said. “The team of Airmen I worked with on Raven Flight in the 29th Intelligence Squadron constantly inspired me and drove me to work as hard for them as they do for this country. My squadron leadership and chief at the time believed in empowering their SNCOs and encouraged me to take risks and lean in to every challenge I faced.  I am so grateful and honored to serve with them and also to be recognized by the nomination from 25th Air Force for this award.”


For the category of Junior Officer Category, 25th Air Force nominated Capt. Josef N. Kallevig, 9th Civil Engineering Squadron, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California.


Maj. Marc Johansen, Operations Flight commander, 9th CES, said Kallevig is an exemplary officer and Wingman.


“Most notably, Capt. Kallevig stepped up to be the squadron commander for a month while the assigned commander was out for a medical emergency,” Johansen said. “Then, he led the 244-person Operations Flight, the largest flight in the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, for four months while I was deployed.”


Kallevig also lead Airmen through several major life changes.


“He kept the squadron steady during the turmoil of leadership change and guiding them through record flooding on- and off-base,” Johansen said. “Additionally, he tackled our Wing Commander's vision to modernize Beale's facilities, developing a long-range plan to upgrade infrastructure to support cutting-edge high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance into the 21st century.”


Johansen said Kallevig is an exemplary leader and motivator, driving his team to generate innovations, create new processes to sustain base infrastructure and earn three "Best Practices" from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center,” Johansen said.


The final Lance P. Sijan nominee from 25th Air Force is in the Senior Officer Category, Maj. Michael, 691st ISRG, 70th ISRW.


“In the past year, Mike has both deployed for over six months supporting real-world operations against ISIS and has tirelessly worked at home-station as our group director of operations helping to advance and revolutionize the means by which SIGINT (signals intelligence) supports the air component,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Cooper, vice commander, 691st ISRG. "With all that, he still sets aside time to devote to his family and community, coaching soccer and supporting numerous programs in his church. I can think of no one more deserving of being the 25th Air Force’s nominee for the Sijan Award. He is in great company and has earned his spot in this distinguished group.”


Michael is currently serving as the group director of operations for the 691th ISRG at Fort Meade, Maryland. He oversees operations for three squadrons and over 900 Airmen.


In that capacity, Cooper said the major has revolutionized the means by which SIGINT support is provided for Air Force bomber missions in support of six Combatant Commands.


“He also transformed National-Tactical Integration’s support to the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, significantly advancing the Combined Air Operations Center’s ability to provide SIGINT for Operation Inherent Resolve,” Cooper said.


Additionally, while Michael was deployed he directed intelligence support for over 50 named operations encompassing over 5,000 airstrikes, Cooper said. “He supported 27 ISR platforms executing over 85,000 hours of coverage enabling action on 350 targets and leading to over 17,000 enemies engaged.”


This nominee also orchestrated the ISR support plan, coordinating eight air assets, leading to the recovery of a downed U.S. pilot in under 96 hours, Cooper said.


The senior officer also contributed significantly to the community and his family after hours.


“In his off-duty time, (Mike) has tirelessly supported his church, leading a hunger drive and supporting a marriage conference, as well as coaching a girls’ soccer team through 36 games,” his commander said. “With his tireless devotion to duty, leadership and his community, (Michael) epitomizes the spirit of the Lance P. Sijan Award.”