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PO2 Wilkes Receives Naval Recognition

Submitted by Kerri Ellen Wilder

George L. S. Wilkes, Petty Officer Second Class (PO2), United States Navy, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Wilkes of Lanesboro, was one of eight awardees recently recognized at the Naval Helicopter Association (NHA) Region Four Awards Luncheon, held at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, May 31, 2019. Region Four, headquartered in Norfolk and encompassing the geographic area of Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, is one of six regional divisions of the NHA each sponsoring professional and social functions pertaining to the rotary wing community of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.

Annually, each NHA region recognizes and selects service members whose distinguished performance merits specific recognition. Each region then funnels its selections to the national organization, which in turn selects from the pool of regional winners.

Petty Officer Wilkes, whose formal title (rating) is AWS2(NAC/AW) Wilkes, deciphered to mean Naval Aircrewman Helicopter 2nd Class (Navy Aircrew/ Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist), was recognized as Region Four Award Winner in two categories: Rescue Swimmer of the Year (2018); Aircrewman of the Year (2018) – a feat heretofore unprecedented in NHA awards competition.

PO2 Wilkes was nominated for the prestigious Region Four Awards by the Commanding Officer of HSC-11 (Helicopter Combat Squadron 11), to which Wilkes was assigned during 2018 and which was embarked in USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75) for deployment to Syria, the Arctic Ocean, and the vast oceanic expanses under the purview of the US Sixth Fleet and the Navy's Second Fleet. Petty Officer Wilkes had been recognized previously as his command's Aircrewman of the Year for 2018, as well as receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his heroism as a Rescue Swimmer.

In awarding AWS2(NAC/AW) Wilkes the 2018 NHA Region Four Aircrewman of the Year Award and the 2018 NHA Region Four Rescue Swimmer of the Year Award Commander K. P. Zayac, US Navy, and NHA Region Four President, briefly summarized Wilkes' accomplishments and heroics. His citations read, in part, "His [Wilkes'] keen attention to detail resulted in the completion of 579 ground training events and 377 Air Combat Training Continuum training sorties increasing combat readiness and yielding 32 Air Combat Training Continuum qualification upgrades. On April 27, 2018 while embarked aboard USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75), he successfully rescued a Sailor who had fallen overboard during the Strait of Gibraltar transit." Commander Zayac went on to note, "Petty Officer Wilkes' professionalism and devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Navy and the Naval Helicopter Association."

Petty Officer Wilkes, who enlisted in the Navy in August 2012, was recently rotated to stateside shore duty in the Tidewater Virginia area. His parents, George and Colleen Y. Wilkes of Lanesboro, were guests of the Naval Helicopter Association and present for 2018 NHA Region Four Awards Ceremony at Naval Station, Norfolk, Virginia.

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