LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — The Air Force announced Maj. Matthew Hoyt, 54th Fighter Group F-16 chief instructor pilot and 54th Operations Support Squadron chief of weapons and tactics, was nominated for the Lance P. Sijan Air Force Leadership Award.
Hoyt was responsible for leading 192 pilots and 72 instructors as chief instructor accounting for 55 percent of the Air Force’s new F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots. Additionally, he led a project that brought life-saving auto-collision avoidance to the F-16 leading to an upgrade on a fleet of 56 aircraft and orchestrated a rescue mission of a downed pilot, which resulted in the pilot’s safe return to base in less than two hours.
“I am honored to represent the 56th Fighter Wing at the 19th Air Force level and know that our accomplishments as a team will compete well at the MAJCOM level,” Hoyt said. “I am humbled to be considered and am incredibly proud of our fighter wing for training warrior fighter pilots for our combat Air Force. Whatever you do in our wing, you contribute to the making of an F-16 or F-35 pilot who stands ready to defend our nation.”
The Lance P. Sijan Award is given annually and recognizes Airmen who have demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities.
On Nov. 9, 1967, Capt. Lance Sijan was shot down over Vietnam sustaining several injuries. Unfortunately, after evading capture for 45 days, he was caught. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered one of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length.
During his interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner, Lt. Col. Robert Craner. During Sijan’s intermittent periods of consciousness and until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Due to his extreme weakness, adverse living conditions, insufficient clothing, and an inadequate diet, Sijan contracted pneumonia on Jan. 18, 1968. Removed from his cell on Jan. 21, 1968, he died at the Hoa Lo prison camp, as reported by his Vietnamese captors.
He was presented the Medal of Honor posthumously. Sijan was the first Air Force Academy graduate to have received the MOH.
The first of the Sijan awards was presented in 1981 and has continued to be awarded every year to an Airman who has demonstrated his or her leadership abilities to be worthy of the award.
Hoyt will now compete at the major command level.
“This award, one of the most prestigious in the Air Force, recognizes Airmen who have demonstrated the highest qualities of leadership in the performance of their duties and the conduct of their lives,” said Col. David Shoemaker, 56th Fighter Wing vice commander. “The quality of all nominees is very high, and the competition fierce and the 56th Fighter Wing is proud of this recognition of Major Hoyt’s outstanding leadership, and we wish him luck as he competes at the MAJCOM level.”