Combat Controller recognized for leadership on, off battlefield

  • Published
  • By Ashley M. Wright
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
A combat controller with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron recently received Air Force recognition for his leadership in his personal and professional life.

Technical Sgt. Nathaniel Hoag was awarded the Lance P. Sijan Junior Enlisted of the Year Award for 2011.

"I was honored to be nominated," Hoag said. "It was kind of a surprise for me to find out I won."

This award represents the leadership demonstrated by officers and enlisted members in the performance of their duties and their personal lives.

"Technical Sergeant Nate Hoag is an extraordinarily talented combat controller, a fearless yet humble warrior, and an exceptional leader," said Lt. Col. James Hughes, 24th STS commander. "Nate personifies the concept of the special operations 'Quiet Professional.'"

Hoag planned and organized 4,700 care packages for deployed service members at his local church, according to the award citation.

"I guess volunteering has just been ingrained in me. I grew up in a family that has always given their time for others," he said.

In addition, Hoag volunteers at his church nursery while continuing a proud family tradition of volunteerism.

"Finding time is always the hardest thing with my [operations] tempo, but I try to include my family in my volunteer opportunities," Hoag said.

The 8-year veteran continued his leadership through his four deployments to Afghanistan.

Then Staff Sgt. Hoag deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM as an assault force Combat Controller July 2010 thru June 2011, according to the award citation. While deployed, he controlled 384 aircraft on more than 64 combat operations, resulting in the death or capture of 133 enemy combatants. Hoag also led an eight day close air support training course that tested new tactics and technology as well as certified 18 Airmen for combat.

"I love being a combat controller," Hoag said. "I bring assault zone assessment and establishment, air traffic control, command and control, and terminal air control to the ground forces I support."

Joining the career field has always been a dream for the sergeant.

"I wanted a challenge and I grew up loving airplanes," Hoag said. "I knew I would get to work with almost all the airframes in the U.S. military in some fashion."

The Lance P. Sijan U.S. Air Force Leadership Award was first presented in 1981. During his 52nd combat mission, Captain 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 North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

The Air Force is currently accepting nominations for the 2012 Lance P. Sijan U.S. Air Force Leadership Award. To learn more about nominating an individual, click here .