Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General, announces the recent reenlistment of members of the State National Guard in recognition of their continuing commitment to serve community, state and nation as part of the Army National Guard.
Sergeant First Class Harold Quezada, from Great Bend, PA reenlisted to continue service with the Headquarters, 53rd troop Command.
"It's great to see Soldiers staying in the Army and continuing to serve their State and Nation in the New York Army National Guard," Shields said. "The most important Army asset we have is the individual Soldier. The dedication, skills, and leadership traits they bring to our community and their employers are invaluable."
"By choosing to stay in the Army National Guard they directly contribute to our nation's security and to the governor's ability to respond to disasters, all while building a bright future for their family through the Guard's retirement, education, and health insurance programs," Shields said.
The date: April 27, 2018. The place: Atlantic Ocean near the Strait of Gibraltar. The emergency: "Man-Overboard". The Hero: Lanesboro's own, Petty Officer Second Class George L. S. Wilkes, United States Navy.
How had George come to find himself in the above-described sea rescue? George had enlisted in the US Navy on August 12, 2012. Making his way up the promotion ladder to the level of Petty Officer Second Class (paygrade E-5), Wilkes was most recently assigned to HSC-11 (Helicopter Combat Squadron 11), known by their nickname as the "Dragonslayers".
The Slayers, as the only helicopter component of the eight squadrons attached to Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1), were embarked in USS HARRY S. TRUMAN during the aircraft carrier battle group's deployment from April 11 to December 16, 2018. That deployment marked "the first-ever implementation of the Navy's Dynamic Force Employment (DFE)", a strategy designed to keep America's adversaries off-balance. During the course of the battle group's eight-moth unprecedented deployment, the TRUMAN operated in and as part of the US Second, Fifth, and Sixth Fleets, with service against ISIS in the Syrian theater of operations, cold-water operations in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, and a mid-cruise working port call to its own home port, Norfolk, Virginia.
As a matter of record, the HSC-11 Dragonslayers flew 3,015 hours during 1,039 sorties supporting the carrier battle group. Over the course of deployment, the Slayers made land-fall in Cyprus, Turkey, Italy, Montenegro, Spain, France, Iceland, Scotland, England, Norway, and Portugal, and trained with military units of Germany, Norway, and Canada. With the entire squadron operating north of the Arctic Circle for cold-water exercises, all Slayers earned coveted membership in the "Order of the Blue Nose", otherwise known as the "Northern Domain of the Polar Bear".
Commanding Officer Matt Wellman (right) presents 2018 Aircrewman of the Year Award to PO2 George L. S. Wilkes (left)
Within this context, our local hero, Petty Officer Wilkes was called upon to rescue a man-overboard. The Secretary of the Navy's citation for his heroism and awarding of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal reads, in part, as follows: "[F]or professional achievement in the superior performance of his duties while serving as search and rescue swimmer... onboard USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75) on 27 April 2018. Petty Officer Wilkes rapidly responded and dressed for immediate water entry for the search and rescue of a sailor who went overboard into the Atlantic Ocean near the Strait of Gibraltar. The 66 degree Fahrenheit water and seven foot seas were no match for his dedication, bravery, and tireless efforts in the expeditious and successful recovery of the sailor..."
In addition to the Secretary of the Navy's afore-mentioned award, presented by the Commanding Officer of the HARRY S. TRUMAN, Captain Nick Dienna, a second citation was also presented to Petty Officer Wilkes: the Sikorsky Aircraft Rescue Award, "For skill and courage while participating in a lifesaving mission with a Sikorsky Helicopter".
Petty Officer Wilkes' formal title (rating) is AWS2 (NAC/AW), and that "shorthand" is deciphered to mean Naval Aircrewman Helicopter 2nd Class (Navy Aircrew/Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist). Those qualifications, attained only by the most highly motivated, trained, and professional, were key predicates to PO2 Wilkes' life-saving rescue and sustained superior performance during the Slayers' 2018 deployment in HARRY S. TRUMAN. Not surprisingly then, AWS2 (NAC/AW) George L. S. Wilkes was recognized as HSC-11's 2018 Aircrewman of the Year. And as if to put a cherry on top of his storied exploits, Petty Officer Wilkes recently shipped over for four more years.
Family and friends look forward to his continued successes, and America sleeps soundly at night knowing the likes of George L. S. Wilkes have watch over the seas, land, and air vital to the nation's security and well-being.