FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - The U.S. military has stepped up to recognize musical excellence in its ranks with the Col. Finley R. Hamilton Outstanding Military Musician Award and a U.S. Army Alaska Soldier is one of the first to receive the honor.

The award recognizes U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard enlisted musicians who exhibit outstanding musical and leadership excellence.

U.S. Army Alaska Commander Brig. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo presented the award to Staff Sgt. Robert Leatherbee of the 9th Army Band Mar. 2 at Fort Wainwright.

"When you look at the seal of the US Army on our flag you will find a drum and two drumsticks. This signifies the importance of past Army musicians to move troops on the battlefield and our importance today to sustain and motivate our Soldiers," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeffrey Price, the band's commander.

"We are the commanding general's number one weapon of peace," Price said.

Leatherbee, a native of Carver, Mass., is one of only 12 awardees selected to receive the award.
With more than 4,000 members in the Army bands and several more thousand in the sister-service bands, this is quite an accomplishment, according to Price.

All of the applicants had to meet the criteria including musical talent, outstanding leadership and continuing leadership potential.

Leatherbee has had a long relationship with music and performing. He has played the trumpet since the 4th grade.

Since joining the Army he has become a singer for the band as well, something he said he never thought he would do. He even joked that he would have run away screaming had he known that up front.

His peers nominated him for the award because he not only meets the criteria, he exceeds it.

"[Leatherbee] has earned the Charlie-1 additional skill identifier, placing him amongst the top 10 percent of his peers in the field," said 1st Sgt. Miles Griffiths, 9th Army Band. "He is always learning."

Since joining the Army in 2006, Leatherbee's accomplishments have extended well beyond music. He has completed the Army Modern Combatives Level I Course, Cold Weather Leader's Course, Basic Mountaineering Course with an "E" special qualification identifier, and is a member of the Order of the Silver Spur.

"Staff Sgt. Leatherbee is a complete Soldier," Griffiths said. "It is my hope that he continues to be a model Soldier and musician.