By Audrey Hill, 3rd Recruiting BrigadeMay 31, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Captain Thomas C. Billig has a reputation for exemplary leadership -- it is the reason he was selected to command the St. Paul, Minn., Recruiting Company. His demonstrated leadership skills -- in both infantry and recruiting units -- are the reason he was selected to receive the Calendar Year 2012 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
Billig believes leadership is the same whether the subordinates are recruiters or infantry Soldiers.
"If we are going to be the Army's ambassadors, I believe having initiative and integrity are vital to this business. Both of those traits are essential since we typically operate decentralized and far away from any higher headquarters or military installations," said Billig. "I assure you that every single one of the recruiters who work with me are the most professional, honorable and dedicated in this business."
Billig is one of 28 leaders Armywide who received the leadership award during a May 30 ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
"This award recognizes company grade officers who demonstrate the ideals for which General MacArthur stood, specifically duty, honor and country," said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who presented the award with James Wofford of the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation. "You represent not only the best of the total Army -- active, National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve -- but also the very best that our nation has to offer."
"You are the ones who start to build the bedrock of trust that our Profession of Arms rests on: The trust between Soldiers, and the trust between Soldiers and their leaders," Odierno said. "Our Army is an All-Volunteer Force -- that means every Soldier raises their right hand and volunteers to support our constitution of the United States. … The willingness of the American people to give us their sons and daughters depends on how well we take care of them. It is a profound responsibility.
"A Soldier's decision to continue to serve, though, is directly related to the quality of leadership they receive."
Odierno said these leaders demonstrate that the Army and the nation are in good hands for many more years to come, adding that -- of the thousands of Army officers who have come before them -- only 649 others have received this award in its 26-year history.
The previous Minneapolis Recruiting Battalion Commander, Col. John Hinck, nominated Billig for the award.
"From the time he interviewed for the job, Captain Billig demonstrated the hallmarks of great leaders - competence, compassion and charisma," said Hinck, who changed command and retired May 17. "He was extremely successful in combat and brought the same focus to USAREC."
Billig was No. 1 of the eight company commanders in his battalion, according to Hinck.
"He fully embodies the definition of Army Strong - having immense physical, mental and emotional strength to make a difference," Hinck said. "He makes a difference with Soldiers, Families, Schools and Communities. He lives the unit motto of 'Strength and Honor!' and empowers his Soldiers to accomplish great results."
A native of Stillwater, Minn., Billig enlisted in the Army in September 1998. Awarded a Reserve Officer Training Corps Green to Gold Scholarship, he graduated from the University of Tampa with a bachelor's degree in criminology in May 2005 and was commissioned as an infantry officer. He received the Raytheon Award for most outstanding cadet for year group 2005.
He has served as a rifle platoon leader, Ranger platoon leader, assistant personnel officer, assistant operations officer and rifle company commander. Before assuming command of the St. Paul Recruiting Company, he commanded the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team at Fort Campbell, Ky.
A veteran of four combat tours to Afghanistan, Billig returned from his most recent deployment in May 2011. Billig has been awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device and the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
"The selection for this award would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of my subordinates," said Billig.
Throughout his career, Billig said he has had several mentors who contributed greatly to his development as a leader and he owes much of his leadership style and philosophy to them. Familiar with the leadership award, Billig said he knew a couple of officers who had received it, but did not truly understand the significance until he was selected.
"I feel both honored and humbled to be recognized for such a prestigious award. I did not feel worthy enough to receive the award, but I was also very happy to be recognized for such an achievement."