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Deployed Reservist receives 2014 Sijan Award

Maj. Chad Carlton, a fighter pilot from the 442d Fighter Wing, was selected for the 2014 AFRC Sijan Award. He is currently deployed as a weapons officer in Afghanistan. Maj. Carlton will go on to compete for the Air Force-wide Sijan Award. (Photo submitted by Lt. Col. Virga Ramos)

Maj. Chad Carlton, a fighter pilot from the 442d Fighter Wing, was selected for the 2014 AFRC Sijan Award. He is currently deployed as a weapons officer in Afghanistan. Maj. Carlton will go on to compete for the Air Force-wide Sijan Award. (Photo submitted by Lt. Col. Virga Ramos)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- A few months ago, Maj. Chad Carlton was excited as he stood in the deployment line to catch his flight to Afghanistan. Carlton's wing commander, Col. Hubie Hegtvedt, shook hands with each Reservist from the 442d Fighter Wing as they departed, but he paused as he shook Carlton's hand.

"You look too happy to be in this line." Hegtvedt recalled saying to Carlton.

"Sir, deployments like this are the reason I joined the Air Force!" Carlton replied.
The Air Force Reserve recognized Carlton's outstanding leadership and has awarded him the 2014 Sijan Award. He now moves up for consideration to receive the Air Force-wide level Sijan Award.

Carlton, a pilot and weapons officer with the 303d Fighter Squadron, is currently deployed to Afghanistan and is tasked with improving close air support tactics. He works to overcome challenges unique to the location. For example, the missions often involve Afghans who do not speak fluent English and face a language barrier.

"We are constantly striving to improve close air support while simultaneously keeping Afghan civilians and their surroundings safe," said Carlton.

His first job pairs an analysis of technical data with the nuanced understanding of the role of a fighter pilot in order to clearly articulate and solve tactical puzzles. The second is to communicate those solutions.

Carlton's goal is to "better the learning of the squadron and foster open-minded thinkers," he said. "Always instruct through expert execution and honestly address your mistakes."

So far, he's been tremendously successful.

"The Sijan Award is an affirmation of leadership ability," said Hegtvedt. "It's always a pleasure to be able to recognize one of the many talented Airmen from the 442d Fighter Wing."

The award recognizes Airmen each year who have demonstrated leadership in their personal and professional lives. It is named for the first Air Force Academy graduate, Capt. Lance Sijan, who received the Medal of Honor. Sijan was a pilot who was shot down in Vietnam, evaded capture for 45 days despite several injuries, and died as a prisoner of war.

"The whole reason we train is to be ready to deploy and to be tested in combat," said Carlton. "I am thankful to have the opportunity to be the squadron's weapons officer during a combat deployment."