FORT RILEY, Kan. – Fort Riley’s aviation brigade recognized nine volunteers for their contributions to the unit and its families in an award ceremony April 26 on Marshal Army Airfield.
The Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, returned from Iraq this March, and its volunteers played an integral role in the success of its tour and return, said Col. Frank Muth, the brigade’s commander.
“It’s important that we take the time to recognize the effort, the passion, the energy that our volunteers put into taking care of our soldiers and families,” said Muth.
“Our volunteers helped redeploy over 3,000 soldiers,” said Muth. “You can see directly the impact they have on the unit, the team.”
The volunteers, who ranged from spouses to service members, were given certificates with personalized messages of gratitude from the unit.
“This is a very small token of our appreciation, but I can tell you it comes from the heart of the aviation brigade to you,” said Muth.
Staff Sgt. Richard Perkins from the brigade’s 601st Aviation Support Battalion was among the volunteers. Perkins did not deploy with his unit, but instead served with the 601st ASB’s rear detachment.
The only soldier in the group, Perkins was recognized for his work with the rear detachment, as well as his volunteer work with the unit’s Family Readiness Group.
“Doing whatever needed to be done, contacting spouses, getting things ready for the unit to come back,” he said. “Helping out back here, I felt I was helping out my deployed brothers.”
Perkins said his favorite part of volunteering was contacting the unit’s families to let them know when their soldiers were headed home.
Michelle Wilkerson, the FRG leader for the brigade’s D Troop, 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment was also recognized. Wilkerson, whose husband serves in the squadron as a helicopter crew chief, volunteered her time to keep the squadron’s families informed during the deployment.
“A lot of family members feel isolated during the deployments,” said Wilkerson. “It’s our job to try to make them feel welcome, address their issues, concerns.”
Wilkerson said a lot of her work went into keeping family members up to date with particulars about the unit’s return last month.
“We had a lot of people coming back, and families from out of town, around here, everyone had to know the details about the return ceremonies, etc.,” she said, “lots of work, lots of changes.”
Like any volunteer though, Wilkerson was modest about her work with the FRG.
“There was lots of help here, definitely a good atmosphere back here, everyone wanting to help get the troops home,” she said.
With its soldiers now home, the brigade’s volunteers and FRGs are shifting their efforts toward fundraisers and family events.