HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Vilt from Delta Company, 326 Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne", 101st Airborne Division earned top honors as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Soldier of the Year.
The Army Aviation Association of America presented the award to Vilt for his excellence during the Joseph P. Cribbins Aviation Product Sustainment Symposium Nov. 20.
Presenting Vilt with the award was Quad A president, retired Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Schloesser, Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Todd, from PEO Aviation and Mr. Don Cattell, president of General Atomics sponsoring the event.
Vilt was filled with honor to receive such an award from so many high ranking officials and was extremely grateful to be present at the entire symposium.
"It is truly an honor to be here receiving this award," said Vilt. "I would like to thank my Soldiers and my command team. I especially want to thank my platoon leader 1st Lt. Lila Garner and Chief Warrant Officer Ryan Hallett."
Vilt was recommended for this prestigious award because he is an extraordinary Soldier and extremely selfless.
During Vilt's third combat deployment he lost his leg and was eligible to medically retire. He chose to continue the fight and lead Soldiers. Just 8 months later he volunteered to join his current unit and deploy 9 months to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Through his enforcement of standards, he turned his maintenance section into the very best within the 101st Airborne Division. His unit achieved over 3,500 combat flight hours with a 97% operational readiness rate in 7 months of operations in Iraq. Targeting ISIS within Iraq and Syria he was instrumental in extending communications for ground forces in support of the enduring defeat of the enemy.
Capt. Kyle Millard, commander of Delta Company, 326 Brigade Engineer Battalion, enjoys Vilt's work ethic and is astounded by his consistency.
"It has truly been a pleasure to work with Sgt. 1st Class Vilt," says Millard. "He's a constant motivator to everyone he works with, both inside the company and out. He is a model non-commissioned officer and epitomizes a subject matter expert in his field."
Though Vilt is honored by Quad 3, his battalion commander is one of the proudest people in the nation.
"It is an honor to have Sgt. 1st Class Vilt as a part of our battalion," said Lt. Col. Christopher Burkhart, commander of 326 Brigade Engineer Battalion. "For him to receive top honors across the Army in his profession shows his dedication to duty, the caliber of Soldiers we have in the BEB and the sacrifices he has made to protect this nation and our Soldiers."
Vilt is more than a professional and subject matter expert. He is a leader who knows how to inspire his Soldiers with his infectious attitude and personality.
Sgt. 1st Class Vilt showed up ready to deploy to Iraq with all of his gear on his back, to include an extra prosthetic leg on the side of his pack, blasting Taylor Swift songs from a speaker. This is just one of the many hilarious examples of how Vilt is always focused on those around him, their well-being and their morale during difficult times.
Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Brown, command sergeant major of 326 Brigade Engineer Battalion, is a living testament to Vilt's unwavering style of leadership.
"Sgt. 1st Class Vilt is the very embodiment of what you want in an NCO," said Brown. "He is a consummate professional and he lives the creed of the NCO. I'm honored to have him within our unit and I am definitely glad that he is the subject matter expert instructing UAS operators at the company level."
Vilt is a leader the Army can emulate and will continue to make every Soldier around him better.