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137th SOW honors legacy, awards first “top cop”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Lunsford, 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, stands beside the La Don Johnson award after receiving the honor at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Feb. 3, 2018. The La Don Johnson award is given by fellow security forces airmen for continued excellence during everyday duties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caroline Essex)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Lunsford, 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, stands beside the La Don Johnson award after receiving the honor at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Feb. 3, 2018. The La Don Johnson award is given by fellow security forces airmen for continued excellence during everyday duties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caroline Essex)

Two military families come together during the La Don Johnson award ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Feb. 3, 2018. La Don Johnson's family as well as the family of Staff Sgt. James Lunsford, award recipient and 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron Airman, were present for the Defender of the Year Award ceremony. The La Don Johnson award is an honor given by fellow security forces airmen for continued excellence during every day duties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caroline Essex)

Two military families come together during the La Don Johnson award ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Feb. 3, 2018. La Don Johnson's family as well as the family of Staff Sgt. James Lunsford, award recipient and 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron Airman, were present for the Defender of the Year Award ceremony. The La Don Johnson award is an honor given by fellow security forces airmen for continued excellence during every day duties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caroline Essex)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Lunsford, 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, poses with Phyllis Johnson, La Don Johnson's widow, after receiving the La Don Johnson Award during the first annual defender of the year award ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Feb. 3, 2018. The recipient of the award is chosen by peers of the 137 SOSFS Airmen for continued excellence in everyday duties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caroline Essex)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Lunsford, 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, poses with Phyllis Johnson, La Don Johnson's widow, after receiving the La Don Johnson Award during the first annual defender of the year award ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Feb. 3, 2018. The recipient of the award is chosen by peers of the 137 SOSFS Airmen for continued excellence in everyday duties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caroline Essex)

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.