By Spc. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.July 28, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas -- He's been shot at in combat, he's saved lives on the battlefield and he responded to the wounded victims of the Nov. 5 attack on Fort Hood, and now Staff Sgt. Zackary Filip has been named the Military Times Soldier of the Year.
The award came as a surprise to Filip, who received it earlier this month.
"I found out and I was so surprised," he said. "Everyone in my chain-of-command was in on it."
Filip's unit got a phone call from the Army Times editor-and-chief asking to set up a phone conference with the brigade's leadership so he could announce the news that Filip had been chosen. Filip, however, was not made aware of the news until he walked into the conference and heard from the Army Times firsthand.
After receiving the news, Filip and his wife traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a ceremony with the Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman of the year.
Following the ceremony, the Filips were invited to visit the Pentagon by the Army of Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., where they received a tour of the building and both the Chief of Staff and Sergeant Major of the Army's offices.
"We had a blast," he said. "Being named the Army Times Soldier of the Year was just amazing."
Filip was catapulted to the national spotlight after he helped save the lives of several people during the tragic Nov. 5 shooting on Fort Hood, including a police officer who was shot by the gunman.
Filip had recently returned from deployment to Afghanistan and was getting ready to complete a few post-deployment health assessments at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center when he said he heard what sounded like gunshots.
Running around the side of the building he saw the wounded police officer.
"I grabbed her and pulled her to the side of the building," he said. "I used my belt as a tourniquet."
After stopping the bleeding, Filip said he moved inside the building where he was confronted by something that looked like a "scene from a horror movie."
"I just went into medic mode and started working," he said.
Filip, along with several other medics, treated the victims of the shooting until medical responders arrived on the scene to take over.
Much of the experience Filip used during the shooting he gained while serving in a combat unit in the mountains of Afghanistan.
During one especially memorable mission, Filip's unit was returning from a patrol on Christmas Eve with a group of Marines and Afghan Army soldiers when they started receiving fire from a position above them. Several Afghan soldiers were wounded approximately 500 meters from Filip's position. Under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, Filip moved forward and treated the wounded with the help of Soldiers from his platoon.
"These kinds of experiences, they helped me grow a lot professionally," he said. "You can read all day about how to treat somebody or practice on a dummy or with a Soldier who has fake blood...but when you see all that stuff first had... you learn," he said.
Filip uses this hard-earned experience to train his Soldiers.
Its great having him as a leader, explained Sgt. Michael Garner, a medical section sergeant.
"He tries to spread his knowledge among his NCOs and subordinates," he said. "Most of my NCO skills have come from him."
The Army Times wasn't the first to recognize Filip for outstanding service.
"Staff Sgt. Filip is the epitome of the NCO creed," said 1st Lt. Tyler Garrett, Filip's platoon leader. "He honestly understands the concept behind 'mission first' and taking care of Soldiers. He dedicates his life to taking care of Soldiers."
The recognition Filip garnered from earning the Soldier of the Year Award may be new to him, but the dedication it took to win it wasn't. Filip continues to train himself and his Soldiers regularly so that they're prepared for anything that happens.