The selection of the new commander for Washington State's largest Guard unit must have been a slam dunk for Brig. Gen. Lee S. Legowik, Commander of the Washington National Guard. "I've known COL Oscar B. Hilman for about 15 years... extremely hardworking, exceptionally competent, superb intelligence. Never starts a project until he has thoroughly studied every aspect of it, so he knows how to implement it. A superb leader, a soldier's soldier, a dirt-boot general."
COL Hilman was promoted to Brigadier General on 27 Aug 03. Evergreen Magazine obtained a candid interview with the states newest General Officer... click here!
The 81st Infantry Brigade (Mechanized, Separate) represents the bulk of the combat power of the Washington Army National Guard. In fact, it even has a battalion of Infantry in San Bernardino, CA. So it is no surprise that the commander for this unit is chosen with great deliberation.
Brigadier General Legowik recently selected COL Oscar Hilman to head up this important organization.
"He's got the skill to sit down with a soldier and ask the right questions. The reason he does this is because he has been a soldier from the ground up. He was a non-commissioned officer (NCO), and worked his way through the ranks. He understands what's like to be on the ground and to be ignored. He doesn't ignore people, he challenges them."
COL Hilman is focused on, "Safety, soldiers and standards." Which has helped the 81st Brigade face shortcoming and stand ready to rotate to the Army's National Training Center in the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, CA. Even active duty units often fall in the intensity and scrutiny of this training pressure cooker.
"I've been surrounded by great mentors and great leaders," said COL Hilman. "There are two things I have always believed in; first, soldiers... second, service. Each night I ask commanders what activities they have their troops involved in and what force protection measures are in place to mitigate risks and hazards."
Military service runs strong in his family. Born in a small village outside Luzon, Philippines, COL Hilman's family suffered a great loss when his grandfather and uncle perished in the Bataan Death March. COL Hilman was filled with such profound respect for his father, A U.S. Navy Master Chief, the he wanted to join the military as well. After joining a Philippine military academy, he received a draft notice and decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. As a 27-year-old Sergeant First Class, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant at the Washington Military Academy and has held nearly every job at some point on his 25-year climb to the top.
Coincidentally, across Interstate 5, a fellow countryman is poised to take the reins of Fort Lewis. Major General Edward Soriano is currently the U.S. Joint Forces Homeland Security Director and is the first Philippine-born general in the U.S. Army.
Looking forward to the challenges of his new job, COL Hilman said "I think that I have been successful by giving my bosses and soldiers what they expect, this is the best country in the world for opportunity."