WASHINGTON — The 37th annual Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award ceremony was held Nov. 3, in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C.
Cmdr. Brian M. Drechsler, the Pacific Fleet recipient, and Cmdr. Eric M. Sager, the Fleet Forces recipient, received the award.
The two recipients were nominated by their peers, who were also eligible for the award, and chosen from among eight finalists.
The award is presented annually to two commissioned officers on active duty in the grade of commander or below who are serving in command of a single unit, and who serve as examples of excellence in leadership and conspicuous contribution to the improvement of leadership in the Navy.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson served as guest speaker at the ceremony and presented the awards to the winners. Richardson received the award in 2001.
"These two leaders distinguished themselves amongst their peers to the point that their fellows felt motivated to stand them out," said Richardson. "That in and of itself is a true testament to just the quality of this award."
Drechsler is the former commanding officer of Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team 5.
"Any leader is only as good as his teammates and the Sailors that they serve and any successes are the result of the collective actions of the unit." said Drechsler. "I was absolutely blessed to have a phenomenal crew of people and we were well resourced. The greatest honor that an officer can ever be given is permitted the privilege and responsibility of the command. To the officers, chiefs and petty officers of SEAL Team 5, thank you. This is your award as you truly made my job easy."
Sager is the former commanding officer of USS California (SSN 781).
"I am unbelievably humbled to be here in the Hall of Heroes and share this honor with a classmate and an incredible combat leader," Sager said. "It is really an honor to be recognized with Stockdale's name. My California team are the true deserving recipients. Their dedication, their perseverance, their drive and their ingenuity inspire me every single day. The recognition of this award belongs to them."
Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale, for whom the Stockdale Award is named, articulated five roles for a leader – moralist, jurist, teacher, steward and philosopher.
A Naval Academy graduate and pilot, Stockdale ejected from his A-4E Skyhawk over North Vietnam in September 1965 and was held prisoner and frequently tortured until February 1973. He received the Medal of Honor in 1976 and served as president of the Naval War College from October 1977 until August 1979.
He died in 2005 and is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He is survived by his three sons and eight grandchildren.