Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Rein Schuerger, recipient of the 2013 Edmund L. Gruber Award, at the grand opening of the FOB Artillery Training Center with members of the 205th Afghan National Army inaugural class on Dec. 30, 2013. The Gruber Award recognizes outstanding active Field Artillery Soldier service results in significant contributions to or enhancement of the Field Artillery's warfighting capabilities, morale, readiness and maintenance. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE DIX LAKEHURST, N.J. -- A First Army Division East Soldier said he was 'stoked' to learn he was the recipient of the 2013 Gruber award, given for outstanding achievement in the Field Artillery Corps.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Rein Schuerger, a Los Angeles, Calif., native, is currently deployed as the brigade fires noncommissioned advisor for 3rd Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps in Afghanistan. He is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 314th Field Artillery Regiment, 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, and attached to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

"The Gruber Award rewards the type of innovative thought necessary to be an artilleryman," Schuerger said. "This is all pretty awesome. Because I am currently deployed, my family gave me high-fives me over the phone. Overall, I am stoked to have won."

Established in 2002, the Gruber Award is named for Brig. Gen. Edmund L. Gruber, who wrote "The Caisson Song," which was later developed into "The Army Goes Rolling Along." The Gruber Award is presented to an individual artillery Soldier each year in recognition of 'excellence, outstanding contribution, and achievement' in the Field Artillery Corps.

Schuerger received the award for developing the first sustainable and effective Afghan National Army Independent Clearance of Fires Procedures and developing a D-30 122mm Cannon Maintainers Course and Program for Afghan Artillerymen.

"I wanted to develop a way to ensure that the Afghan National Army was able to communicate with military and civilian aircraft, as well as communicate with the local Operations Coordination Center to ensure that Afghan National Security Forces steer clear of impact areas," Schuerger said. "Through trial and error, I developed a completely Afghan National Security Forces independent way for the firing unit to work through their higher level operations centers to clear military and civilian airspace, as well as coordinate with the Afghan police to clear the ground."

As a result of Schuerger's diligence, the 3/205 is the only brigade to independently clear artillery fires. The process has also become the Afghan National Army Corps standard and will be taught to all officers and artillerymen throughout the Afghan National Army.

Schuerger's chain-of-command was not surprised by his success.

"It was not a surprise that he was selected," said Command Sgt. Maj. Berkeley Parsons, 72nd FA Bde senior enlisted advisor. "The innovation, initiative, and competence demonstrated by Field Artillery soldiers is humbling and competition for these awards can be very tight. Having witnessed his level of professionalism, experience, and ability within the brigade, he exemplifies those attributes needed to be successful."

"I was already very appreciative, simply for having been nominated," said Schuerger. "Winning was beyond my wildest expectations. It's one of the highest accomplishments of my military career."

A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Schuerger is confident that any disciplined and motivated artilleryman, with a knack for out-of-the-ordinary thinking should be considered for the award.

"Those that think outside-the-box ideas should not hold their ideas back," he said. "Instead, they should propose their ideas and see where it takes them."

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