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  • 28 Soldiers receive the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
  • 28 Soldiers receive the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 18, 2007) - Among the ranks of Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, the Pope and even Osama bin Laden stands Army ranger and combat veteran Capt. Timothy Gittins.

"Time" magazine has put Capt. Gittins on its annual list of the world's most influential people this month. Appearing in the May 14 issue, Capt. Gittins is described as "an apt symbol of the heroism that the U.S.'s pair of lengthening wars have demanded of the roughly 1 million men and women who have fought them."

Joined on the list by only one other military member - Gen. David Petraeus, commander of multinational forces in Iraq - the 31-year-old said he feels much like any other Soldier.

But his leaders have also voted him into the elite General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award alumni. The program recognizes company-grade officers who demonstrate Gen. MacArthur's favored ideals of duty, honor and country.

"Tim is a prototype company commander for the war on terror. He's got all the tools of a great leader," said Maj. Bo Davenport, executive officer for the 101st Airborne Division's Company C, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, at Fort Campbell, Ky. "His ability to direct the appropriate response, to move fire teams and get additional combat support is exceptional, especially under fire, and he's been there on more than one occasion."

While the recognition by "Time" is an honor, Capt. Gittins said one day before the May 16 Pentagon awards ceremony that it's the approval of his peers and leaders that he values most.

"Receiving the MacArthur award says your superiors believe you're doing all the right things," said Capt. Gittins, who was awarded the Bronze Star for valor for a two-hour battle with insurgents outside of Baghdad last year. He also has a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained fighting the Taliban during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002.

Currently commanding Co. C, 1st Sqdn., 61st Cav. Regt., Capt. Gittins will report next month to Fort Benning, Ga., where he'll instruct budding leaders in the Captains Career Course.

"It's awesome; it's one of the highlight jobs as a captain because you're bringing the knowledge you gained through command - and, for me, through combat - to the next group of young company commanders right before they go take the guidon.

"You can have a big impact not only on those captains, but also on the Soldiers they will someday command," he said.

Capt. Gittins' call to leadership came two years after he started college, when an empty bank account sent him to the Reserve Officer Training Corps. As part of his Cadet Troop Leadership Training, Capt. Gittins went to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, stationed along the Korean demilitarized zone.

"I was put in place as an infantry rifle platoon leader in charge of Soldiers, and I instantly knew that was what I wanted to do," he said. "I wanted to be an airborne ranger, leading troops."

"I love leading Soldiers, period. But leading Soldiers in combat is even more exhilarating. It's a responsibility that you can't just go home at night and be done with. You live it; your wife lives it," he said.

Taking charge of a company - he's had two now - tops Capt. Gittins' list of memorable Army moments. But his proudest point, he said, came days after the Aug. 26 killing of one of his Soldiers by an explosively formed projectile.

"Less than 24 hours later we caught the guy, but my Soldiers exercised great restraint, knowing full well that he was the one who ordered the killing of one of their buddies," he said. "I was very proud of my Soldiers that day."

Raised on a farm in Iowa, Capt. Gittins is more comfortable in the trenches with his Soldiers than on the red carpet with celebrities and flashing cameras. He confessed to feeling tongue tied behind the mic at "Time" magazine's gala at the Time Warner Center in New York May 8, although he'd been seasoned by interviews with national reporters during his recent deployments.

"In Iraq we got comfortable talking with reporters. We knew there was a certain way we needed to respond, especially out forward," he said "But it felt more dangerous being on the red carpet and not having a chance to step back and think about what I'm saying."

Shelley Gittins said she rates her husband's leadership abilities a "10." "He's so dedicated to everything he does. To me, he's a hero because he says he does what he does so our kids don't have to," she said.

Of his newfound fame, Capt. Gittins said he's not letting it "get to him."

"You can't do this job alone; you can't take credit all by yourself," he said. "I want people to know that I appreciate what they've done to help me succeed."

Page last updated Thu May 17th, 2007 at 13:32