News: 1-52 Aviation Receives National Award for Pakistan Mission
Story by Spc. Reese Von Rogatsz
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – Soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade were presented earlier this month with the American Helicopter Society’s prestigious Capt. William J. Kossler Award for their role in Task Force Denali’s operations supporting 2010 flood relief efforts in Pakistan.
“To be recognized for duty and service is humbling in all respects,” said Lt. Col. John Knightstep, commander, 1-52nd, 16th CAB, who accepted the award on behalf of the unit at the AHS Forum in Virginia Beach, Va., May 4. “It is better to give than to receive and we were blessed to have the opportunity to help the people of Pakistan.”
The “Sugar Bears,” as the Soldiers of B Company are known, used the heavy lift and movement capabilities of ten CH-47 Chinook helicopters to deliver 10 million pounds of relief supplies and provided humanitarian airlift for more than 19,000 people in the flood-affected regions of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. These figures represent two-thirds to three-quarters of the totals posted by TF Denali for operations ending Nov. 30, 2010.
“It was amazing to see the soldiers in action, they did a phenomenal job,” Knightstep said. “From brigade to battalion, all the way down to squad level, it was a team effort and I want the soldiers of the 16th CAB to know that it is really their award, too.”
The unit’s helicopters were ideally suited to the mission, according to Capt. Travis Easterling, “Sugar Bears” commander. The enormous scale of damage to the infrastructure ensured that no other vehicle was going to reach the remote locales of Swat and Kohistan valleys.
“We were green when we went over there, we really were,” Easterling said. “Many soldiers on the maintenance team were young. I had young pilots, I had young crew members. That was one of our concerns.”
“But all the moving pieces came together,” he said. “Not to take anything away from the accomplishments of my guys, but it started from the top down. Brigade pushed out elements to ensure success. They had key individuals placed throughout the theater and coordination behind the scenes really made it work.”
Knightstep echoed that praise for the 16th CAB’s support.
“The leadership defined and made the mission the success it was,” he said. “We had the right people at the right time and in the right place.”
Established in 1951, the Capt. William J. Kossler Award honors the memory of a U.S. Coast Guard airman, aeronautical engineer, and early advocate of helicopters in Coast Guard and Navy rescue and military operations. It is given for the greatest achievement in practical application or operation of rotary wing aircraft, the value of which has been demonstrated by actual service during the preceding year.
“We are grateful for the award,” Knightstep said, “but the biggest reward was just doing the mission -- what we got in terms of our own self-discovery and learning.”
According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, the catastrophic floods of the 2010 monsoon season placed approximately one-fifth of the country’s land area under water and exceeded the magnitude of all recent disasters there in terms of size of the affected population and damage.
AHS International – The Vertical Flight Society is a professional and technical society founded in 1943 and dedicated to the advancement of a global rotorcraft industry marked by rapid technical developments, expanding military capabilities and commercial applications. The Awards Program was initiated in 1944 and over the years has paid tribute to the outstanding leaders of the vertical flight industry.