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Nevada Airman receives Sijan Award for leadership

CARSON CITY -- Guard members strive for leadership roles. Some accomplish that goal, yet others excel at it. Performing the latter, Senior Master Sgt. Gilberto Carrera received the coveted 2012 Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award. He is among four Air Guardsmen named nationwide.
Carrera, an Airman with the 232nd Operations Squadron in Las Vegas, was given the award as a senior enlisted member and cited in a memorandum signed by Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, the director of the Air National Guard.

"I'm overwhelmed, proud and honored to receive this award. It's a culmination of efforts from all who I have served with," said Carrera, who has served in the Air Force for 18 years. "I called my wife, Yolanda. She's proud of me. She's former Air Force, so she understands the magnitude of the award."

Nevada's Adjutant General Brig. Gen Bill Burks called the achievement outstanding. "My congratulations go out not only to Senior Master Sgt. Carrera, but to all of the Nevada Air National Guard. Carrera embodies what we want all of our Airmen to be - outstanding leaders today and in the future."

Carrera, who hails from Ontario, Calif., said he was not a very good student growing up. "I was a product of my environment. My mother immigrated into this country to provide my brother and I an opportunity at a better life," he said. "That was the reason I joined the active duty Air Force in 1994 - to get away from my neighborhood and to take advantage of the opportunity that my mother's sacrifices provided. I love my mom and wanted to make her proud. The Air Force made a man out of me, I have excelled. And then, it just carried over the Nevada Guard, which I joined in 2005. My mother shaped my work ethic, she passed away seven years ago, so on every task I keep in mind that she is watching."

Carrera is currently attending the Senior NCO Academy for a six-week course in Ala.

The Sijan award was created in 1981 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated the highest qualities of leadership in their jobs and in their lives. The award is presented to one individual in each of the four categories, senior officer, junior officer, senior enlisted and junior enlisted. It has become one of the U.S. Air Force's most prestigious awards.

The award was named in honor of Capt. Lance P. Sijan, the first U.S. Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor. Sijan was shot down over Vietnam on Nov. 9, 1967, and evaded capture for 45 days despite severe injuries. He later died while in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp and was presented the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism.

Recipients of the National Guard Lance P. Sijan Award are eligible for the Air Force level award.