Lab chief named 2020 Company Grade Officer of the Year

Captain instrumental in COVID-19 testing at home, abroad

After winning monthly, quarterly and team awards this year, Capt. Stephen LeSage was surprised to hear he had won Company Grade Officer of the Year.

“I was shocked,” he said. “When I heard all the great things my fellow CGOs had done this year, I didn’t think I had a chance. They all did amazing things that went above and beyond, especially with the challenges that COVID-19 added to their daily lives.”

LeSage was recently named CGO of the Year for 2020 during the 88th Air Base Wing’s annual awards ceremony. The event took place virtually Jan. 19.

LeSage is the chief of Core, Microbiology and Central Ops with the 88th Diagnostics and

Therapeutics Squadron. His job there is to oversee seven sections, 56 members and make sure his team has everything it needs to succeed.

The unit’s primary mission right now is running and coordination of COVID-19 testing.

“COVID-19 has been a challenge. A lot of my day-to-day job is focused on COVID testing or manning,” he said. “COVID has caused an increase in workload and a decrease in manning, either due to deployments or COVID-related taskers.”

His job has had to change quite a bit because of COVID-19.

“Before COVID, most of my job was focused on quality management,” he said. “If I wasn’t putting out fires, taking care of my teams or worrying about manning, then I was focusing on making sure my work sections were compliant with our national regulatory agencies.”

Lt. Col. Keye Latimer, Clinical Laboratory Flight commander, praises the “legacy” Lesage developed within 88 DTS.

“Capt. LeSage was deployed when I arrived last August and I did not get to meet him until mid-October,” Latimer said. “The legacy you build speaks volumes about who you are as a person and leader. As I started meeting the lab team at large, his element had nothing but positive input on who Capt. LeSage was as a mentor, laboratorian and a leader.”

Latimer says this win for Lesage is a “point of pride for the flight and further validation of the effort put into taking care of patients in garrison or deployed.”

Last fall, LeSage returned from a deployment to Africa, where he supported COVID-19 operations.

“While in Kenya, I was the lab’s subject-matter expert for COVID and created a walking blood-bank, which is an emergency protocol to ensure an adequate blood supply during a single or mass-casualty incident,” LeSage said. “I also started a blood-storage supply to the base, to have stored blood components in case of attack.”

While on deployment in Kenya, LeSage captured a few other awards for 2020, including: Air Expeditionary Group Company Grade Officer of the Month and Quarter; and his team won AEG Team of the Month. He also earned Squadron CGO of the Quarter and Air Force Medical Service MAJCOM CGO of the Year when he returned to the U.S.

In the past year, LeSage’s individual achievements include:

· Directed three Africa Command labs, led five staff members, processed nearly 4,000 tests and 1,500 patients, and powered 563 missions and 98 sorties.

· Establishedthe wing’s COVIDtestcapabilities at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He validatedfouranalyzers, traineda 27-member team and trimmed turnaround time from 48 hourstoone.

· PilotedCamp Simba’s first walkingblood-bank,coached13personnel, wrotecrisisplan and successfully ran eightdrills.

· Also in Kenya, launched area of responsibility’s first blood-storage depot, coordinated activities with six joint agencies and fueled33special operationsmissions.

LeSage credits the hard work and dedication of his teams at AFRICOM and WPAFB for all the accolades of 2020.

“In Kenya, I worked with a small, dedicated group who killed it every single day,” he said. “They were the definition of professionals. Stateside, I work with a team that is just as amazing.

“Our work here never ends; we have 24/7 ops and never close. I attribute all of my success to my team’s hard work and willingness to get the job done, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

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