Tiger wins Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexandria Byrd
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

During the years of the Vietnam war, when the world watched closely, countless acts of heroism unfolded on the battlefield. One such hero was Capt. Lance P. Sijan, an Air Force Academy graduate and combat pilot. During a combat mission in Laos, Sijan ejected from his disabled F-4C Phantom and evaded capture for more than six weeks.

Eventually, he was captured by the North Vietnamese military, but he did not go down without a fight. He was able to overpower one of his guards and made an escape before he was unfortunately captured again. He was tortured by his captors, but remained loyal to the U.S. and refused to give up any information. Capt. Sijan later died in Hanoi Hilton prison in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Sijan was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford in recognition of his heroism and courage that went above and beyond the call of duty. The Air Force then created the Lance P. Sijan USAF Leadership Award to further honor his legacy in 1991.

Staff Sgt. Samantha Furtaw, 391st Fighter Generation Squadron weapons expediter, was recently awarded the Lance P. Sijan Leadership award from Air Combat Command. Her recognition serves as a resounding testament to the enduring values of diligence, resilience and unwavering dedication.

“I was at a loss of words when my leadership notified me that I won,” said Furtaw. “It means the world to be recognized all the way up to ACC. It feels surreal.”

Furtaw’s journey embodies her determination and adaptability. Arriving in Mountain Home November, 2022 with no prior experience with the F-15E Strike Eagle, she embraced the challenge wholeheartedly, demonstrating resilience while mastering the intricacies of the airframe.

“When I got here I hit the ground running. I wanted to learn my job. I wanted to learn everything,” said Furtaw. “Out here on the flightline, we can’t get these jets in the air unless we are all putting forth our best effort. It is not just weapons, it’s the crew chiefs and specialist sections making sure that we maintain our jets well.”

Staff Sgt. Furtaw was previously assigned to the B-52H Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base and was determined to learn about the F-15E in order to better lead her team.

“Being humble enough to know I am not the subject matter expert, but to get all the subject matter experts to teach me their knowledge definitely helped me lead my crew,” said Furtaw. “Teamwork is what got me here, they helped me achieve the mission.”

As a leader, Furtaw places immense value on accountability and feedback from both her leadership and her team. Her dedication and exemplary work have not gone unnoticed.

“You are the role model I wish I had as an Airman,” said Master Sgt. Amanda Cannon, Air Combat Command command armament IT manager.. “Your achievements, outstanding work ethic and commitment to excellence epitomize what it means to be a leader in the United States Air Force. You are the example every female Airman can aspire towards.”

Furtaw is a motivated leader. She plans on retiring in the Air Force, but for now she is determined to make an impact in her squadron and those around her.

“Get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” said Furtaw. “No one is going to care more about your career more than you, so put the work in.”

In the footsteps of Capt. Lance P. Sijan, whose valor and leadership remained etched in military history, Staff Sgt. Samantha Furtaw carries forward a legacy of unwavering commitment, resilience and relentless pursuit of excellence.