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Captain Stephen Tangen '08

Nininger Award Recipient 2012

Valor. n. “Courage and boldness, as in battle.” Valor is a concept the West Point community comprehends well. Many have lived it; all appreciate it. So when an officer receives an award with “valor” in the title, West Point understands the sacrifice behind the award. Such is the case with Captain Stephen R. Tangen ’08, who the West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) presented with the 2012 Alexander R. Nininger Award for Valor at Arms for his actions as Platoon Leader of 1st Platoon, HHC, 2-327, 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan on June 27, 2010. (Coincidentally, this is the same unit in which the 2009 Nininger recipient, First Lieutenant Nicholas Eslinger ’07, served, and Tangen’s first assignment was to take the lead of a rifle platoon from Eslinger). For 18 hours during one of the hottest days of the year in Afghanistan, then-Lieutenant Tangen placed himself in the line of devastating fire multiple times as he maneuvered his platoon, the spearhead of an assault through its objective area, against 250 or so Taliban insurgents. Addressing the Corps of Cadets in Washington Hall, Tangen focused on three themes in his acceptance speech: 1) most choices are out of the junior officer’s hands, but one should embrace his or her “rendezvous with destiny” (the motto of the 101st); 2) recognize and appreciate the incredible soldiers you will lead (“your strength as a junior officer will come from the men and women serving around you”); and 3) remember the sacrifices of the fallen (“their names must never be forgotten”). The Nininger Award is named for Second Lieutenant Alexander R. Nininger ’41, who fought the enemy to his death during the Battle of Bataan in January 1942 and posthumously received the first Medal of Honor in WWII, and the Nininger Award is endowed by E. Douglas Kenna ’45 and Jean Kenna. In addition to recognizing the recipient for his or her bravery as an individual, WPAOG regards the recipient as a given year’s representative for all West Point-commissioned officers who have heroically led soldiers in combat.