137th SOW honors legacy, awards first “top cop”
By Senior Airman Brigette Waltermire, 137th Special Operations Wing
/ Published April 11, 2018
WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. -- The 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron honored one of their Airmen with the newly-created Defender of the Year Award, Feb. 3, 2018, at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City.
The award, dedicated to Tech. Sgt. La Don Carnez Johnson, was given to Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. James Lunsford after he was nominated and selected by his peers in the squadron as “top cop.”
“I didn’t expect the award,” Lunsford said. “They told me to show up in blues because I was handing it to the recipient.”
The award was named for Johnson, a member of the 137th SOSFS, because the squadron wanted to “pick a name with meaning.” He had more than 30 years of highly decorated combined service between the U.S. Army and Air Force and was selected for his outstanding mentorship and dedication during his time in the security forces squadron.
“He basically took a father figure role for me when I joined,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Andresen, 137th SOSFS noncommissioned officer in charge of operations. “He had grit. That guy would operate through anything. He got me through my first deployment.”
The award is important to the squadron since it is specific to their roles as cops – protecting and defending air bases, aircraft and fellow service members around the world.
“The 137th SOSFS Defender of the Year represents the history and legacy of the defenders who have served in the 137th SOSFS,” said Capt. Joshua Odquist, 137th SOSFS commander. “Many great defenders have served in this squadron, and we wanted a way to represent them. Additionally, we want to pass on the great history of this squadron to the next generation of defenders.”
Johnson’s family was in attendance and received a replication of the award during the ceremony.
“La Don was a man who probably would not want this recognition, but he would be so proud,” said Johnson’s widow, Phyllis Johnson. “He took pride in everything the military stood for. He prided himself in organization and structure, and he took pride in the uniform. He loved the camaraderie. He did it because he loved it, not for accolades.”
The Airman selected for the award is chosen on the basis of integrity, job knowledge, volunteerism and involvement, and job performance. These qualities are the embodiment of the character of Johnson and his legacy for the squadron.
“It’s very humbling, and makes me think about the people who guided me toward success,” Lunsford said.