Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Steven Petibone - 42 Combat Aviation Brigade
Dated: Thu, Jun 18, 2009
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For their outstanding achievements while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, Soldiers of Detachment 1, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment have earned the title of Army Aviation Association’s Army National Guard Aviation Unit of the Year for 2008.
The accomplishments of the “Kong” during their tour in Afghanistan can best be described by their successes in mission execution, adaptability and maintenance, according to Army Aviation Association of America, Inc. magazine.
“An award of this caliber is something that makes you take a step back to realize the immense accomplishments and daily tests of adversity that were made by the Soldiers of this company.” said Capt. Chris Gagliardo, executive officer for Co. B. “When you’re immersed in the daily events of flying combat missions in the most extreme environments the world has to offer, you almost become desensitized toward the magnitude of your actions.”
With their 12 CH-47 Chinook aircraft, Co. B conducted operations throughout Afghanistan from three separate locations: Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bagram, Salerno and Kandahar, at a distance of more than 400 miles apart. They flew in excess of 5,500 flight hours, moving 16,714 passengers and more than 5.8 million pounds of internal cargo and 2.3 million pounds of equipment by external sling loads throughout the area of operations.
The “Kong” took the lead on the largest air assault mission in Afghanistan since the 2002 Operation Anaconda, helping to capture 13 high value targets. Company B also provided critical continuity during the transfer of authority between the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne Divisions by conducting on-going missions during the two week transition period.
At each of their forward operating bases, they adapted to the situation and established maintenance teams and flight operations, ensuring the supported ground commanders received mission critical supplies only accessible by helicopter, while pushing their aircraft to the limits against challenging environmental conditions.
Company B was the first unit to establish a CH-47 phase team at FOB Salerno. The quickest and most efficient CH-47 phases were completed by the “Kong” and they demonstrated their ability to complete 400-hour phases in only 9 days, 15 days less than the in-theater standard.
Gagliardo went on to say that since taking command of Det. 1, Co. B in September 2006, he has been a part of a unit that has always placed the mission first no matter what they were called to do. Be it hurricane relief in the Gulf, or flood relief within New York State our Soldiers go where and when they are needed without question. This award is a public acknowledgement of all these missions, with the culminating event being the incredible contribution these soldiers made during Operation Enduring Freedom.