2003 Soldier of the Year
Captain Wheeler Manning
TAEGU, South Korea - Captain Wheeler R. Manning has consistently shown himself to be a dedicated and inspirational leader who makes going above and beyond an everyday part of his job. While serving as commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 194th Maintenance Battalion, in South Korea, CPT Manning’s unit received a no-notice deployment order to recover a crashed 2nd Infantry Division AH-64 helicopter on a dangerous Korean mountainside. He had his unit quickly assess the mission, secure the necessary mountaineering equipment and deploy immediately. Within hours he and his team were at the crash site. CPT Manning’s comrades say his cool-headed leadership was vital to the success of the mission. CPT Manning asked not to be recognized, but to only recognize the outstanding efforts of his recovery team. “Amid the chaos and stress that comes with the unhappy task of recovering lost comrades, CPT Manning lived up to his reputation for being the steady hand on the rudder in rough seas,” said one senior officer. “He motivated his soldiers, stayed attuned to the difficult situation, listened to their recommendations and concerns, and ensured mission success. For a young officer, he shows remarkable selflessness, poise and maturity.”
CPT Manning’s soldiers know him to be a compassionate yet firm leader who always has time to listen and help with their problems. When one soldier experienced financial difficulty, CPT Manning initiated a campaign to raise funds for the soldier’s family. In addition to writing letters of support to collect contributions, he doubled the amount donated with his own personal contribution. “This is love in action, a secret, heroic act. Nobody knew what he did for the family,” said one junior officer. “It is an honor to serve with him.”
Knowing how important it is to help South Koreans understand the U.S. mission in their country, CPT Manning makes community outreach a regular part of his life, both on and off duty. Despite his demanding work schedule, he has championed programs to build bridges between the U.S. military and South Korean communities. For instance, CPT Manning organized language lessons between his unit and soldiers with the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army. Through the lessons, his soldiers were able to study the local dialect while the Korean Augmentation soldiers were able to learn English.
CPT Manning is admired by his colleagues up and down the command chain for his positive attitude and commitment to those around him. “CPT Manning is an extraordinary officer. He is everything that our country expects in a commissioned officer. He’s bright, articulate, fit and passionate about soldiers. He makes me a better officer just by my being around him every single day,” said one senior commander. “CPT Manning exemplifies the core values of the U.S. Army both on and off duty,” said one NCO.“If I had the authority, I would promote him.” One junior officer who served under him said, “He is an inspiration. I want to work for him again, for a long time.” “It would be an honor to work for CPT Manning again, I have learned so much from him,” said an NCO from his former unit. “He is the type of leader that goes out of his way to make sure his soldier is taken care of. He takes pride in everything he does, even the small things.” One civilian employee says, “The way he cares for all his subordinates, the way he puts their needs above his own, the way he stands by them when they make mistakes and guides them back on course … CPT Wheeler R. Manning is a great soldier and he is also a great human being.”