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403rd Wing reservist earns Levitow Award

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. Dishau JeanJacques, 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron resource management noncommissioned officer in charge here, earned a distinction only a small percentage of Airmen can lay claim to when, upon her graduation from the Enlisted Professional Military Education Lankford Center’s NCO Academy, she was presented the John L. Levitow Award. 

 “NCOA is a six week course designed to prepare Airmen to become senior NCOs,” said Master Sgt. Justin Rae, NCOA instructor at the EPME Lankford Center.

Going into the course, JeanJacques’ goals and expectations were simple: learn and grow.

“The important thing for me was learning how to be the supervisor I needed when I was an Airman,” she said. “I had those personal, individual goals of performing well and finishing the course as a top performer, but what mattered to me was getting things out of the course that I could bring back to my unit that would make me a better supervisor and a better leader and in turn enable me to mentor my Airmen and fellow NCOs on how to become better leaders.”

Throughout the course, she said she learned a lot about leadership, prioritization, project management, and diversity and inclusion.

“A lot of people have this idea that either you are a natural born leader or you’re not,” she said. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all way to lead. You have to be able to adapt to situations and take the time to get to know your Airmen in order to be an effective leader, and at NCOA that’s what they taught us. We learned the difference between being a leader and being a manager and how important it is to include everyone and assess each individual’s needs in order to be most effective.”

From the beginning of the course, Rae said JeanJacques stood out as extremely outstanding within her peers.

“She was always super professional, super squared away, and just an absolute rock star,” he said. “As the course progressed, it was apparent that she was both very intelligent and very humble. She was also caring, finding time to take care of the people around her. She’s the epitome of a good leader.”

JeanJacques said NCOA didn’t come without its challenges, citing the routine requirement to be able to digest, retain, and regurgitate a lot of information in, often, a short amount of time.

“You really have to buckle down and study throughout the course,” she said. “One day we would cover three or four chapters worth of information, and the next day we would be expected to present on that information as if we were (subject matter experts), so that was challenging and I really had to block out all distractions in order to get through the course.”

She also said there was a lot of teamwork involved in the course which could be daunting, but ultimately rewarding because of the diverse perspectives she was able to listen to and learn from as they navigated assignments.

“I think the most challenging aspect for me was when we would work in groups or have to speak to the class and you have these sharp, mostly active duty, peers evaluating your leadership and communication skills,” she said. “But like with anything, from the start, I embraced the challenges and understood that getting out of my comfort zone was what was going to help me grow and be better.”

By the time graduation rolled around, JeanJacques had already earned one accolade: top performer for her flight. She said she was immensely honored just to have received that as it was largely based on peer input. As the master of ceremonies went through the process of naming award winners, she had her hopes on the Commandant’s award, for which she was named as a runner-up.

“At that point I felt content just being a runner-up. As they were reading the information about the Levitow Award I had no expectations because everybody in my NCOA class was sharp. I figured it would go to a young lady who was there from the Pentagon. It could have gone to anyone, really, and they would have deserved it,” she said. “Then he called my name, and I was just so humbled.”

The John L. Levitow Award is the highest honor awarded to the top 1% of EPME graduates and is based on performance, peer, and instructor evaluations. Its namesake, Levitow, is the lowest ranking U.S. Air Force Airman to receive the Medal of Honor, earning the distinction for heroic actions committed when the Douglas AC-47 Spooky he was aboard came under fire during the Vietnam War.

While the large plaque she received will be a nice addition, JeanJacques said it’s the important lessons on leadership she learned from the course that she’s excited to bring to her office and to the 36th.

“In my experience, one thing I’ve noticed is that often times it’s at the (technical sergeant) rank that people start to lose the mindset that they can make a difference,” said Rae. “But it is apparent that Tech. Sgt. JeanJacques knows she is valuable and can make an impact anywhere she goes. It was a pleasure having her in my class, and I am motivated just by being able to serve with her.”