Military News

Saturday, April 25, 2015

McConnell leader earns prestigious award

by Airman 1st Class Tara Fadenrecht
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

4/23/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A McConnell Airman recently won the 2014 Lance P. Sijan U.S. Air Force Leadership Award.

Lt. Col. Stephen Matthews, 22nd Operations Group deputy commander, received the prestigious award for demonstrating excellence in leadership during his time as the 349th Air Refueling Squadron commander.

The award is named after Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Air Force Capt. Lance P. Sijan, a fighter pilot who evaded the North Vietnamese for six weeks after being shot down in November 1967. He was later captured and died as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

The award recognizes the accomplishments of officers and enlisted members who have demonstrated the highest quality of leadership in the performance of their duties and personal lives.

"He's a completely selfless leader," said Col. Jennifer Uptmor, 22nd OG commander. "His attention to the core values that the Air Force embodies; service before self, excellence in all you do, those were the things I first noticed about him."

As the 349th ARS commander, Matthews directed 344 overseas contingency operations, 241 higher headquarters missions and helped lead his team to numerous wing and group-level award wins.

Matthews credits the leaders he's had in his life for helping him get where he is now.

"Everybody from parents and friends to coworkers and mentors [has impacted me]," he said. "I think back to a lot of the squadron and flight commanders I had when I was younger. I can never pay them back for some of the opportunities they gave me, but I can pay it forward."

It's that very philosophy that keeps him motivated to be the best leader possible every day.

"For me, it's about growing people and helping them become more than they think they can be," said Matthews. "It's about helping folks remember that we serve something bigger than ourselves."

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