AFSOC 2023 Sijan award winner: Learning to lead

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alysa Calvarese
  • 1st Special Operations Wing

A panicked father ran for his young daughter. She had stopped breathing and he knew had to act quickly.

He began performing CPR - something he had never had to do as a father. Soon after, they rushed to the hospital.

His daughter’s two genetic disorders: Williams and Rett Syndrome, including a diagnosis of epilepsy, apnea and autism, has meant extended hospital stays and many emergency room visits for their family.

The Air Force Special Operations Command 2023 Lance P. Sijan award winner, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Stephan Boczar, draws from his own personal challenges to shape the way he lives his life and leads his Airmen.

“Every day is a fight, but the biggest thing we always say is, ‘you're not defined by your circumstance,'" said Boczar. “You either choose to take what you're given and do something good, or you can feel ‘woe is me.”

Inspired by his daughter to do good, Boczar started the Exceptional Family Member Program network group to make a difference within the community by bringing Hurlburt Field, Florida, EFMP members together, aiming to offer support and assistance to families facing situations similar to his own.

The EFMP works with military and civilian agencies to provide community support, housing, educational, medical and personnel services to military families with special needs.

Additionally, Boczar and his wife collaborate with three nonprofit organizations, extending emotional support to families outside of the EFMP. They actively participate in organizing charity fundraisers with the hope of one day finding a cure.

Along with his community outreach efforts, Boczar serves as the aircraft maintenance division chief and senior enlisted leader of the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron, leading a team of more than 500 Airmen. As a part of his military responsibilities, he oversees maintenance operations across the 1st Special Operations Wing, as well as logistics and installation force protection.

According to Boczar, being humble, credible and approachable are all leadership qualities that he believes he has demonstrated throughout his military career.

“When you have those three qualities, it allows Airmen to be able to come to you,” said Boczar. “Allowing Airmen that you lead, to see that it’s not about the stripes, it’s about understanding that we are all human.”

He stated that, just as his previous and current leaders have made a positive impact on him, he wants to do the same to everyone that he meets, that way they will hopefully have a positive influence on the people they meet.

“I’ve been in for 26 years, and there are still things you can learn from the people around you,” said Chief Master Sgt. Charles Forrest, 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group SEL. “I have learned invaluable lessons from the way that he approaches the job, and how he approaches the way he leads and develops Airmen. I think the Sijan award epitomizes leadership, and that is exactly who Boczar is.”

Looking ahead, Boczar will compete at the Air Force level against other major command award recipients.