The Soldiers of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade deployed in January 2011 with one thing on their minds – the mission.
The hard work of the Soldiers paid off May 2 when the Department of the Army announced the brigade as the recipient of the Deployment Excellence Award for the large active unit category.
The Deployment Excellence Award, commonly referred to as the DEA, is awarded by the Chief of Staff of the Army and managed by the Transportation Corps. It is presented to units with the ability to deploy and redeploy units effectively while meeting or, as in the 159th’s case, exceeding the deployment standard. The second part of the criteria is coming up with more efficient ways to deploy and sharing those ideas to continue improving the force.
The Thunder Brigade had two major keys to success – planning and teamwork, said Maj. Jason M. Kahne, the executive officer for the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion and formerly the brigade’s support operations officer.
“We started the planning process immediately upon redeployment of the [159th’s] previous deployment [in late 2009],” Kahne said. “We knew we were replacing 101 CAB even before they deployed.”
The planning process included linking up with 101st CAB’s support operations officer and backward planning based off their timelines for deployment.”
Armed with the 101st CAB’s movement plans, Kahne and other key members of the 159th CAB scheduled a pre-deployment site survey and conference in Rota, Spain, which would serve as a key location for the deployment process. The visit was carefully timed to coincide with the movement of the 4th CAB out of Fort Hood, Texas.
Kahne said this allowed his team to observe the obstacles a combat aviation brigade faced when moving equipment in a multi-model fashion and come up with possible solutions well before the 159th began moving its equipment.
During the planning phase, the second key to success was established – teamwork.
“It was an enormous team effort, said Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Thom, the 159th CAB’s command sergeant major. “Every unit played a part, and I’m very, very proud of all we’ve accomplished.”
As a result of the planning and teamwork, the 159th CAB seamlessly deployed nearly 100 aircraft and more than 250 sensitive and command critical items containers by ship. Concurrently, it pushed 40 C-5 airplanes loaded with equipment through three aerial ports, multiple refueling stations, and two seaports.
All of this was synchronized with the 101st CAB’s redeployment more than 100 aircraft and associated sensitive and command critical items containers. None of this movement caused a degradation of combat power or aviation support to Regional Command South in Afghanistan.
While the DEA is the highest award the unit has received thus far for its efforts, it’s far from the only.
The 159th CAB, its subordinate units and its Soldiers have also received the following accolades as a result of the brigade’s most recent deployment:
• 563rd ASB was named the 2011 AAAA Outstanding Logistic Unit of the Year, Lt. Gen. Ellis D. Parker
Award for Overall Best Combat Support Battalion and Aviation Battalion of the Year, and the U.S. Army Forces Command First Runner-Up Award for Maintenance Excellence
• Company C (MEDEVAC), 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, was awarded the Capt. William J. Kossler award for the greatest achievement in practical application or operation of rotary wing aircraft
• 159th Soldiers were also recognized individually with the following awards: Aviation Soldier of the Year, Avionics Award, Trainer of the Year, Aviation Medicine Award, Aircraft Survivability Equipment Award and Air Traffic Control Maintenance Technician of the Year
“This is the first unit I’ve ever been in that has been recognized multiple times by multiple organizations
for multiple awards,” said Kahne. He attributed these distinctions to the leadership provided within the unit.
The DEA is scheduled to be presented to the 159th CAB at the Combined Logistics Excellence awards banquet in Washington, D.C., in June.