JINSA’s 2016 Grateful Nation Award

Staff Sergeant Jared Gabriel, USA

Staff Sergeant Jared Gabriel, USA

Staff Sergeant Jared Gabriel is a highly decorated and accomplished soldier. He has held many positions during his 11-year career including Rifleman, Team Leader, Squad Leader, and Drill Sergeant counseling and mentoring over 1000 initial entry soldiers. Sergeant Gabriel is also one of the best marksman in the Army, winning a bronze medal in an Army wide marksmanship competition at Fort Benning last year. In his current position as a Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Gabriel is responsible for an Air Assault Platoon capable of world-wide deployment with 72 hours notification. His advice and recommendations were instrumental in forging a new vision of this team. During his service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Staff Sergeant Gabriel was in charge of base operations. His outstanding dedication to security across Kandahar Airfield contributed to the overwhelming success of the mission. For his exceptional service during these operations, he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Gunnery Sergeant Craig J. Wilcox, USMC

Gunnery Sergeant Craig J. Wilcox joined the Marine Corps following the attacks on September 11, 2001 and his been deployed seven times during his 15 year service. In 2004 after patrolling deep in the mountains of Konar Province Afghanistan, his platoon’s patrol base was attacked at night by enemy fighters armed with rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, and small arms. Then Lance Corporal Wilcox’s situational awareness allowed him to direct fire and repel the enemy attack, saving the patrol base from being overrun. While participating in Operation “Steel Curtain” in western Iraq, Gunnery Sergeant Wilcox endured 17 days of direct and indirect fire. Despite immense fatigue, he maneuvered his squad and exposed himself to enemy fire to provide cover and helped protect an exposed convoy train carrying vital resupply. Additionally, while deployed in Afghanistan in 2010, Gunnery Sergeant Wilcox courageously sprinted into a violent crowd and used his body to shield a handicapped Afghan boy who was caught in the middle of a riot and carried his to safety. Gunnery Sergeant Wilcox’s initiative, courage under fire, and devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself and uphold the highest traditions of the Marine Corps.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Benny M. Flores, USN

Senior Chief Petty Officer Benny M. Flores is an exceptional sailor who has served in the United States Navy for the past 15 years. Throughout his diverse career, he has excelled in all of his leadership roles including the boots-on-the-ground environment. While assigned as an instructor at the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute, he provided life saving training to over 3500 heath care professionals from all branches of the military as well as international medical officers. In March of 2013 while on a peacekeeping mission in the city of Zaranj on the border of Afghanistan and Iran, Senior Chief Flores was in a four-vehicle convoy when a suicide bomber detonated an IED, which struck his vehicle. Despite being wounded, he jumped into action assessing casualties and providing first aid at which time his team came under enemy fire. Disregarding his personal safety, he moved across enemy fire to assess and treat casualties. Senior Chief Flores has received many awards during his career and for his actions that day, he was awarded the Silver Star.

Lieutenant Commander Jonathan I. Schafler, USCG

Lieutenant Commander Jonathan I. Schafler deployed to Iraq with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia from November 2010 to August 2011 in support of Operation New Dawn and distinguished himself through coordination with the U.S. Army USD-S, 36th Infantry Division. As the team leader the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia he led the development and execution of the first training and advisory mission supporting the Iraqi Coastal Border Guard in a combat zone while under irregular rocket fire attacks. Lieutenant Commander Schafler’s 16-member team assessed, trained, and increased the Iraqi Coastal Boarder Guard’s maritime security force capabilities through 47 training missions along the Iranian border giving the Iraqi Coastal Border Guard the ability to protect their homeland, deter contraband smuggling and piracy, and secure key ports and rivers vital to the Iraqi economy and security. In recognition of his work, Lieutenant Commander Schafler was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.

Senior Master Sergeant Michael G. Becker, USAF

Senior Master Sergeant Michael G. Becker distinguished himself as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Leader and Flight Chief in various Air Force units during four combat deployments from February 2005 to August 2015. Sergeant Becker expertly led teams of Airmen through hundreds of combat operations in support of the United States and her allies’ operations during the Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a liaison with Australian Special Forces, he tracked a terror cell and cleared a compound, neutralizing 17 enemy combatants. Sergeant Becker’s dedication to duty saved the lives of two Army soldiers after a car bomb explosion by rendering first aid and evacuating casualties. He also devoted himself to modernizing the force, advising industry and fielding new state-of-the-art robotics systems. The distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Becker reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Captain Randy S. Buckley, USAF – Representing U.S. Special Operations Command

Captain Randy S. Buckley distinguished himself through heroism and valor as an AC-130W Evaluator Combat Systems Officer, 16th Special Operations Squadron for 307 days in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve. During this period, Captain Buckley flew over 74 combat missions, protected the lives of over 2000 Coalition Forces and led the charge against violent extremism by destroying 54 enemy vehicles, 24 fortified enemy structures, and eliminating 59 enemy fighters from the battlefield. Captain Buckley’s expertise was also vital to the success of the $6.5 billion AC-130 modernization effort. The distinctive accomplishments of Captain Buckley reflect great credit upon him, the United States Air Force, and the United States Special Operations Command.