A member of the multi-agency Southwest Enforcement Team has been named the Michigan State Police Trooper of the Year. The announcement came from the MSP headquarters in Lansing, honoring several troopers statewide with major awards.
Trooper of the Year
D/Sgt. Ian Fields, now assigned to the Southwest Enforcement Team, was recognized as the 2023 Trooper of the Year. When nominated and selected, he was serving on the Fifth District (Paw Paw Post) Crime Prevention Squad as a sargeant. The Gerstacker Trooper of the Year Award recognizes the MSP trooper or sergeant who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and a concern for giving back to their community. The late Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker, former chairman of Dow Chemical Company, created the award in 1961.
Though Fields was a supervisor, he took great pride in also being an active member of the team and working to make his community safer. Notably, one traffic stop he conducted netted 20 stolen firearms and other interactions resulted in large seizures of illegal drugs.
His team’s preparedness and mental well-being was always a priority, as was their role in maintaining positive police and community relations.
Fields never missed an opportunity to attend and participate in outreach events like National Night Out, local football and basketball games and Boys & Girls Club gatherings. He led an effort that raised more than $1,000 to purchase and donate school supplies, collected bike helmets for kids in need, and purchased and donated over $500 worth of baseball equipment to the local Little League.
Fields enlisted with the MSP in 2012, graduating as a member of the 123rd Trooper Recruit School. He is assigned to the Southwest Enforcement Team and previously served on the Fifth District Crime Prevention Squad, Fifth District Hometown Security Team and at the Wayland Post as a trooper and canine handler.
Among other awards announced by the MSP was the Valor Award, given to several Troopers for bravery and courage beyond the call of duty.
Sgt. Robert Bilacic, Ret., Sgt. Michael Thomas, Tpr. Maxwell Prince and Tpr. Blaine Stormer, members of the department’s Emergency Support Team (ES Team), were honored with the Valor Award, the department’s highest recognition. The Valor Award is awarded in exceptional circumstances when a member risks their life in performing a hazardous duty so extraordinary that the exposure to peril is above and beyond the call of duty.
On March 10, 2023, while conducting a high-risk search warrant for a felon at a residence in Detroit, members of the ES Team came under heavy gunfire from the suspect. Thomas and Stormer took direct fire with Thomas shot multiple times. Attempting to end the threat and provide cover for his injured teammate, Prince stepped out of cover and began returning fire, drawing the suspect’s attention and harm on him, leading to Prince also being shot multiple times.
When Prince could no longer remain in the line of fire, Bilacic stepped forward to take his place. As the gunfight continued, and knowing Thomas needed immediate medical attention, Stormer used his body to shield Thomas, allowing him to safely evacuate. Every ES Team member was able to successfully exit and render aid to their wounded teammates. Because of the brave and selfless actions of Bilacic, Thomas, Prince and Stormer, every team member survived.