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
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."