Savannah Johnson, a junior at the University of St. Thomas majoring in mechanical engineering and a cadet in Air Force ROTC Detachment 410, has been selected for three prestigious national-level awards.

“Through the ROTC program here at the University St. Thomas, I have been able to connect my passion for helping others while having an environment to actively understand my leadership style,” Johnson said. “A people-oriented leadership style works well to inspire those following to make ethical decisions. I am honored to have received these national awards. It has encouraged me to show my passion for Detachment 410 and hold others accountable to make ethical decisions inside and outside of the ROTC program.”

Lt. Col. Mark Madaus, the commander of Detachment 410, said, “The Air Force ROTC program has deep roots at the University of St. Thomas, going back to when Detachment 410 was established here in 1948. Thanks to the high quality of our students and the outstanding support we receive from St. Thomas, our detachment has been consistently ranked in the top 10 percent of the 145 Air Force ROTC detachments nationwide. Cadet Johnson’s accomplishments take this performance to a whole new level, and we are extremely proud of her well-deserved recognition.”

Cadet Savannah Johnson '20

Cadet Savannah Johnson ’20

First, Cadet Johnson was selected ahead of more than 17,000 Air Force ROTC and Officer Training School cadets nationwide for the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award in the cadet category. This award is the Air Force’s most prestigious award for student leadership, honoring those who display exemplary leadership, character and ethical behavior. The award is presented annually to one student from Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, Squadron Officer School, and the Air Force Senior NCO Academy. A new category was added this year for cadets from Air Force ROTC or the Officer Training School. The competition in the cadet category was intense, and Johnson was the first-ever recipient. The award will be formally presented in mid-May by the secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Heather Wilson, the head of the Department of the Air Force, at a ceremony in Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Second, Cadet Johnson was selected ahead of more than 2,400 third-year Air Force ROTC cadets nationwide for the Air Force Association (AFA) Outstanding Cadet of the Year Award for 2019, which recognizes cadets with outstanding academic performance, strong personal attributes, high ethical standards and demonstrated officer potential. Only one cadet per year is selected for this award at the national level. The award will be formally presented in mid-September by the chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein, the senior uniformed Air Force officer, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., near the Pentagon. This is the second time in four years that a cadet from the University of St. Thomas has won this award at the national level.

“The Cadet of the Year award was a step-by-step process,” Johnson said. “Seeing my name connected with Detachment 410’s name climb from the local level to the national level made me feel a sense of pride to be part of the program at the University of St. Thomas. There is definitely a culture of excellence and high standards that have been forming in me to become a great leader from day one.”

Finally, Cadet Johnson was one of only 20 third-year Air Force ROTC cadets selected nationwide for the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Award of Merit, which recognizes outstanding cadets enrolled in engineering majors. The award will be presented by School of Engineering dean Don Weinkauf during the Detachment 410 award ceremony in early May. This is the second year in a row a cadet from St. Thomas has won the SAME Award of Merit at the national level.

“I think Cadet Johnson is a wonderful example of the ‘magic’ provided by the unique academic culture at the University of St. Thomas,” Madaus said. “She has one foot in the School of Engineering where she majors in mechanical engineering, but her other foot is in the College of Arts and Sciences where she minors in aerospace studies, and the results are amazing. Clearly, the national-level award selection committees recognized the value of the rich hands-on and service-oriented education she is receiving, which reflects positively on the university and will definitely pay dividends for her in the future, both as a military officer and as a citizen of her community.”

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