Capt. Brian Gilbert, from Boise, Idaho, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, speaks with a local leader following a security meeting in Tameem, Iraq, March 2. Gilbert will receive the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership award in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon on May 13.
By Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Capt. Brian Gilbert, the commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership award in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon on May 13.
The award is given annually to the top company-grade officers who demonstrate the ideals of duty, honor and service to country. Gilbert, a native of Boise, Idaho, is one of 14 active duty officers who will receive the award.
“I was extremely surprised when I found out I would be receiving the award,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t think I had a chance. It is very humbling to be one of the recipients.”
As surprised as Gilbert is to receive the award, his subordinates are not.
“I think he is very deserving of the award,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Bell, executive officer of Company D. “He is a great commander. He never loses his cool and is very knowledgeable. He is one of the most technically and tactically proficient officers I’ve ever been around.”
Bell, from San Antonio, Texas, credits Gilbert with many of the lessons he has learned during his current deployment.
“He has always been available when I have had questions,” Bell said. “When he went home on leave, I had to try and fill his shoes; ‘try’ being the key word. I never realized how hard he worked until I had to do it. I have the utmost respect for him.”
First Sgt. James Woody, from Portsmouth, Va., has worked side by side with Gilbert since he took over Company D in September.
“When I found out I was coming to Company D, I was excited,” he said.
“Everyone I talked to told me how lucky I was to have him as a commander and they were right. We talk about everything and line up our plans. He is great about giving all his leaders the task and purpose, and letting them make their decisions.”
Woody described how Gilbert directed his company on March 26 in Jisr Diyala, when they were ambushed during a combat patrol.
“He was on the ground with his troops within 15 minutes of them being ambushed,” Woody said. “He was directing five different elements at one time. To listen to it over the radio was amazing. It says something to your troops when their commander is there with them on the ground.”
For six hours, Gilbert and his men fought criminals through the streets of Jisr Diyala. At the end of the engagement, 11 enemy fighters were dead and 24 were detained. Three of Gilbert’s men sustained minor injuries and returned to duty.
“In my opinion, if you have troops in contact, your place as a commander is out there with them,” Gilbert said. “That is really the only way you can assess what is going on.”
Bell chuckled when he heard Gilbert’s explanation.
“Capt. Gilbert is born for this fight,” he said.
Woody said what makes his commander stand out is his ability to listen.
“He is very low-key person, but he has the ability to listen and take in information,” he said. “He has been very successful with the local leaders here. He says what he means and means what he says. He never makes promises he can’t keep ... He is just as effective dealing with local leaders as he is in a kinetic operation.”
Bell said all the Company D Soldiers like and respect Gilbert.
“Everyone loves him,” Bell said. “He has proven to them time and time again that he will make the right decision. He has always been fair when making decisions on rewards and punishments. “
That respect and admiration has translated into performance, said Woody.
“Our Soldiers have remained professional throughout this deployment,” Woody said. “The locals know we are operating in Jisr Diyala. We treat people with respect. The Soldiers have carried themselves like the professionals they are at all times when we have gone outside the wire. All of local leaders have noticed that. Capt. Gilbert is constantly complimented by them for that.”
In turn, Gilbert credited his Soldiers’ performance for the award.
“Your men make you who you are as a leader,” he said. “It really isn’t hard to be a company commander when you have Soldiers like we do.”
Gilbert’s commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, congratulated him on winning the award. Grigsby won the same award in 1987.
“He told me he was proud of me,” Gilbert said. “It meant a lot coming from him. As a former winner of the award, it helped set him up for success. I hope I can emulate him and his success.”
Grigsby said Gilbert is deserving of the award.
“Brian Gilbert is a combat leader, who always leads from the front and has the mental toughness to deal with the complexities of a COIN (counterinsurgency) fight,” Grigsby said. “Simply put, he is the best.”
The 1-15 Inf. Regt., currently attached to the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.