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Face of Defense: Air Defender Makes History at Basic Leader Course

By Army Staff Sgt. John Healy, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Oct. 14, 2016 — History was made at the Basic Leader Course here last month when the distinguished honor graduate earned both the Leadership Award and the Iron Warrior Award, the three distinctions that soldiers compete for during each iteration.

Army Spc. Jack Stillman, a Patriot system repairer with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, graduated Sept. 15 after being awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his achievements.

Stillman attributed his success to the time he spends increasing his own fitness.

“Being physically fit sets the foundation to be mentally and spiritually fit as well,” he said. “As long as you’re comfortable with yourself, then everything else falls into place: having a positive mindset, always being determined, and not giving up.”

Family Man at an Early Age

Stillman knows a lot about not giving up. He and his wife had their first child when he was a sophomore in high school. They decided to keep the child, and Stillman’s parents disapproved.

“My dad kicked me out of my house,” he recalled. “He said that if I was old enough to take care of a kid that I could live by myself and take care of myself.”

During his junior year, Stillman turned down a college wrestling scholarship offer to take care of his family. He ultimately decided it was necessary to drop out of school to work full-time. “I was working all the time, making sure that they had a place to stay and a roof over their heads,” he said.

Stillman never stopped working to improve his life or the lives of his family. He earned his GED diploma online, and at 20 years old he decided to enlist in the Army. He has already made progress toward earning his bachelor’s degree.

“Family is key to me,” he said. “Me and my wife, we went through a rough time when I was younger. She’s the one that’s stuck by my side through thick and thin.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Evans first met Stillman as an advanced individual training instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Evans has since been reassigned to 3-4 ADAR and now serves as Stillman’s platoon sergeant.

Maturity Noted

“Most people don’t figure out that there’s something bigger than them that early,” Evans said. “It usually takes a few years for them to say, ‘Hey, it’s not all about me.’ When I saw him as a student, he understood that.”

Stillman said his family’s life is much easier now, thanks to the sacrifices he and his wife made at such an early age. When he was younger, he added, he never imagined he would be able to accomplish all that he has so far. “I never gave up,” he said.

Some soldiers tend to lose their drive and initiative, Evans said, but Stillman is still hungry to learn and accomplish things.

During their unit’s upcoming deployment to Jordan, Stillman will serve as his section’s noncommissioned officer in charge.

“He’s very much a part of the team; he’s always pulling everyone together,” Evans said.

Army Capt. Luis Gaitan-Tovar, the commander of Company F, 3-4 ADAR, has encouraged Stillman to progress even further by enrolling in the Green-to-Gold commissioning program or to become a warrant officer.

“He needs to be challenged,” Gaitan-Tovar said. “He’ll do great things wherever he goes, whatever organization he’s a part of.”

For now, Stillman has decided to defer any major career decisions until after he returns from deployment, but that doesn’t mean he plans to stop pushing himself to succeed.

“All great noncommissioned officers never stop progressing,” he said. “Never be satisfied. Always work for that next step.”