He displayed his tough side by diving in turbulent waters off the coast of Georgia last summer and rescuing a soldier’s spouse who lost consciousness in a swell.
But it is not just Rutkowski’s daring that motivated fellow soldiers to nominate him for Army Times Soldier of the Year. It’s his compassion.
He helped “countless” soldiers through difficult times in 2011, guiding soldiers through divorces and money problems and even talking down one from suicide, his nominators wrote.
“SGT Ski always has time for any soldier, whether they belong to him or not. I’ve never seen him turn someone away,” Spc. Bradley Burnum wrote in nominating Rutkowski. Those actions haven’t gone unnoticed. Last year’s staff sergeant promotion board picked him up as soon as he was eligible, and his leadership selected him over peers for a job slotted for a soldier of higher rank. His battalion also named him noncommissioned officer of the month in May for outstanding performance.
His good deeds in 2011 didn’t end with the Army. Rutkowski volunteered at his local fire department, helped set up a new church and organized a Thanksgiving |dinner for the Boys and Girls Club of America.
In November, Rutkowksi, originally of Wilmington, Del., even suited up for the All-Army rugby team at the Armed Forces Championship at Fort Benning, Ga.
“No one NCO has inspired me to be a soldier more than him,” Burnum wrote.
At initial infantry training, drill sergeants selected Tate as a platoon guide, and he spent 16 weeks mentoring younger fellow recruits.
Company leaders at Fort Hood, Texas, immediately noticed the new soldier’s potential and charged Tate with upkeep of the nuclear, biological and chemical equipment room. Soon after, Tate was promoted to infantry rifle team leader, a role normally reserved for sergeants.
As a soldier, Tate applied many skills he honed while helping found and teach at an inner-city school, the Chicago Math and Science Academy.
“He is a natural-born leader, an extraordinary teacher and a true mentor to all those around him,” wrote Capt. Kevin Beasley, Tate’s company commander, in nominating the specialist for Army Times Soldier of the Year.
Off duty, Tate volunteered at the Cedar Valley Elementary School in Killeen and assisted a family readiness group with preparing barracks rooms in anticipation of soldiers redeploying from combat zones.
Tate built kitchens and sports fields in Haiti and visited orphanages and cooked meals for villagers in the Dominican Republic during trips through his church.
Despite that, he still made time for athletics, playing on a regimental basketball team. “He is the epitome of what the core values of the military stand for,” said friend Cynthia Miles in her nomination.