HomeMediaArticle Display

Wisconsin Air Guard member first recipient of Thomas E. Wortham IV Achievement Award

MADISON, Wis. -- A seven-year veteran of the Wisconsin Air National Guard is the first recipient of the Thomas E. Wortham IV Achievement Award.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Garrelts, a mechanic with the 128th Air Control Squadron at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, received the award during a Dec. 2 ceremony at Joint Force Headquarters here.

The award recognizes Wisconsin National Guard member accomplishments off duty. It is named for 1st Lt. Thomas Wortham IV, a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Troop A, 105th Cavalry as well as a member of the Chicago Police Department. Worthman was murdered outside of his parents' Chicago home May 19, 2010 when four men attempted to steal his motorcycle. The Bronze Star recipient and veteran of two Iraq deployments as well as a tour of duty performing airport security as part of Operation Noble Eagle joined the Chicago Police Department in 2007.

Garrelts, who joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1987 and served in various units as well as the Army Reserve before joining the 128th ACS, struggled to express what receiving the Thomas E. Wortham IV Achievement Award meant to him.

"I really wish I could have gotten the chance to meet Thomas and serve with him," Garrelts said.

Garrelts is active with the Sparta Boys and Girls Club, serving as an executive board member and helped the organization raise $40,000 by volunteering for the club's annual haunted house fundraiser.

"I've seen numerous kids grow up in that house," he said, explaining that he works with Boys and Girls Club members for months constructing the new haunted house interior. Some youth appreciate the adult mentorship, while others learn how to use tools or build walls for the first time, he said.

Garrelts volunteers for the Sparta Fire Department, where he serves as the training officer and fire inspector for a 284-square-mile area of responsibility.

"I grew up around it," Garrelts said. "My dad was a firefighter - he still is. My brother is in a fire department. It's a family thing."

He noted that he has missed some holiday meals answering fire calls.

"I'd rather protect and save life," he said. "Who else is going to do it?"

He also volunteers with the Monroe County Hazardous Materials Team, and had volunteered with the Camp Douglas Ambulance from 2008-2010.

Garrelts has been a member of the Volk Field color guard team the past three years, and said every veteran deserves military honors at their funeral. He is also an executive committee member for the Wisconsin National Guard Youth Camp, where he serves as assistant security director.

The award recognizes off-duty achievements and those of Wortham were not known by his fellow Soldier till after his death.

"As impressive as his uniformed contributions were to nation, state and community, they don't paint the entire picture," said Army Capt. Matthew MacDonald, Wortham's commander in Troop A.

Wortham served as president of the Cole Park Advisory Council in Chatham, and worked to make the neighborhood safe for children to play in area parks as a youth mentor and community watch coordinator.

"In a way, Tom's humility is the genesis of this achievement award," MacDonald said. "Tom represents the best traditions of the colonial militias going back to the days of America's founding. His embodiment of the warrior ethos is enhanced and made all the more impressive by his spirited embrace of what it means to be a citizen in the fullest sense."

Wortham's father, retired Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham III, was on hand to help present the award, and thanked the Wisconsin National Guard for developing the award.

"It is a great honor to my son and my family and I," he said. "It's truly something that we never expected, and we're truly grateful to all of you for doing this. I think this will keep my son alive forever. Giving this award out every year, young people not even born yet will know who he was and what he stood for. And for that, I thank you."

MacDonald agreed.

"This is Tommy's award," he said. "I'm confident that, long after everyone in this room is gone, the Wisconsin National Guard will continue to find and recognize Soldiers and Airmen in our ranks worthy of his legacy."

The Thomas E. Wortham IV Achievement Award was announced last year during a halftime ceremony at Soldier Field, part of a Sept. 27 Monday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. The Chicago Police Department developed their own version of the Wortham Award, given to police officers.

Garrelts said the award lets the public know how Guard members give back to their communities.

"I'm going to do my best to get the word out about this award," he said.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Department of the Air Force does not exercise any responsibility or oversight of the content at external link destination.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of linked web sites or the information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided consistent with the mission of this web site.