Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. - A Thunderbolt Brigade soldier was named the recipient of the 2016 Gruber Award Feb. 9 by the U.S. Army Field Artillery Proponent.
Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Wilkerson, a Dallas, Texas native, with A Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade is this year's awardee.
Wilkerson was selected in part because of his contributions while deployed to Iraq during Operation Inherent Resolve last year. He served as a platoon sergeant while the unit provided timely and accurate fire support to maneuvering Iraqi Security Forces.
"[Our mission] was really a team effort and involved every soldier in the unit," said Wilkerson. Wilkerson said he looks at the Gruber award as more of a reflection of the team than his personal performance and contributions.
Established in 2002, the Gruber Award is named for Brig. Gen. Edmund L. Gruber, the composer of "The Caisson Song," which later became "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.
"Wilkerson is an absolute hero!" said Lt. Col. Frank M. Buchheit. "Before A Battery's deployment, we really talked about setting conditions and the ability to maintain a certain mindset at a remote firing point. Wilkerson was the pick to go to Al Asad and he ran an absolute stellar firing point from a discipline and mission accomplishment perspective."
Wilkerson's dedication to his soldiers and the mission exceeded all expectations, Buchheit continued. He was a big part of why A Battery was recognized at Fort Sill, Okla., the home of the artillery, for their support to OIR.
"I would like to thank my platoon leaders for their help with major tasks in the day to day operations and my battery leadership for allowing me to do my thing, which is a testament to good mission command," said Wilkerson.
While deployed, Wilkerson was responsible for a significant amount of planning and coordination with other elements of Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve. He has continued to receive accolades from senior leaders about his performance and professionalism.
"Wilkerson made sure the soldiers were mentally, physically, and spiritually ready to fight and win every single day," said Buchheit. "His professionalism is without question and he sets the example for what a successful sergeant first class should look like in the United States Army."