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    1-13th NCO receives battalion’s first SPC 5 Fujii Award

    Geneva Visit

    Photo By Kelly Morris | Staff Sgt. Janai Thomas, training management NCO at 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation...... read more read more



    Story by Kelly Morris    

    U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence

    FORT NOVOSEL, Ala. — The 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment honored one of its own with the unit’s new Specialist 5 Fujii Award in a ceremony on Soldier On Field on Dec. 15, 2023.

    Staff Sgt. Janai Thomas, training management noncommissioned officer at 1-13th Aviation, received the award for embodying the traits of selfless service and dedication to fellow Soldiers that was exemplified on the battlefield by Specialist 5 Dennis M. Fujii, a Medal of Honor recipient and his distinguished service as a crew chief aboard a helicopter ambulance during rescue operations in Laos and the Republic of Vietnam in February of 1971.

    While Fujii served with the 237th Medical Detachment, 61st Medical Battalion, 67th Medical Group, evacuating seriously wounded Vietnamese military personnel during intense fighting, his aircraft was badly damaged and crashed.

    Fujii was injured, but waved off a helicopter that rescued his fellow aircrew members rather than endanger the lives aboard the helicopter, and he remained under fire. The lone American on the ground, he treated South Vietnamese troops for injuries throughout the night and following day. Then for 17 hours, he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire, leaving the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and direct airstrikes against them using a radio he had secured.

    He continued to protect and defend the friendly encampment until an American helicopter could attempt to airlift him from the area. That helicopter was shot down, and it was too more days before a helicopter could fly him to Phau Bai for medical assistance.

    Drawing from his extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, the battalion decided on the type of Soldier traits they wanted to recognize with the new quarterly award.

    Lt. Col. Jeramy Norland, 1-13th Aviation commander, said their battalion is the “enlisted lead” on Fort Novosel, considering their number of junior enlisted Soldiers.

    “(The award) is our way of recognizing the enlisted portion and increasing pride in that,” he said. “We have all these criteria — this the culture we want to grow.”

    Thomas received an Army Commendation Medal and SPC 5 Fujii Award.

    “They get an obelisk, a free parking pass — anywhere on our footprint, they can be like, ‘the sergeant major’s spot is now my spot’. It trumps everybody in the battalion,” he said.

    The award is based on a packet that includes a letter of recommendation, standard board packet material (ACFT score, weapons qualification, etc.), and a grading sheet created using the NCO leadership attributes and competencies, providing a holistic look at the Soldier. Competencies and attributes include their MOS competency, volunteerism, servant leader, character, presence, intellect, leads, develops, and achieves.

    “I’m trying not to get choked up about this,” said Command Sgt. Maj. McAvoy, 1-13th Aviation command sergeant major, as he spoke during the award presentation.

    “Staff Sgt. Thomas’ demonstration of trustworthiness and dependability emulate the characteristics that SPC 5 Fujii displayed during the Vietnam War in 1971. Her performance is above that of her peers and sets the bar for others to strive for both in and out of uniform. Staff Sgt. Thomas’ competence and commitment are continually displayed throughout her time as the assistant S3 NCOIC,” he said.

    “She is a true professional and servant leader in the 1-13th Aviation Regiment and the 1st Aviation Brigade,” McAvoy said.

    Thomas said she wasn’t expecting the award.

    “I just want to say thank you. It’s an honor to receive this award. I just want to give a shoutout to my S-3 shop, because you guys have molded me, and have been a huge help in the process. Thank you to my NCOIC and my mentor Sgt. 1st Class (Ashley) Hogge, and thank you to the command team for even thinking I’m deserving of this award,” Thomas said.

    Also present at the ceremony were Mayor David B. Hayes of Geneva, and other key civic leaders who represented the unit’s partner city, who had just participated in an all-day Meet Your Army event focused largely on the mission of 1-13th Aviation.



    Date Taken: 12.19.2023
    Date Posted: 12.20.2023 09:37
    Story ID: 460385
    Location: FORT NOVOSEL, AL, US

    Web Views: 45
    Downloads: 0