News: VMAQ-1 receives coveted Phoenix Award
Story by Lance Cpl. Glen Santy
FORT WORTH, Texas -- For the past year Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 has set itself apart within the Department of Defense maintenance field. VMAQ-1 received the coveted Phoenix Maintenance Award, the highest of six annual maintenance honors presented by the secretary of defense.
“I can’t think of a reason why they wouldn’t deserve it,” said Master Sgt. Gary Ewell, the avionics chief at Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14, and one of three recipients who accepted the award for VMAQ-1 while the squadron is still deployed in Afghanistan. “Everyone in the unit put forth a lot of effort and a lot of time.”
“What sets them apart is their maintenance mentality,” said Master Sgt. Charles Brice an aircraft maintenance chief with MALS-14 that was previously assigned to VMAQ-1, and the second Marine to accept the award on VMAQ-1’s behalf. “The Marine Corps is always ‘get the job done at any cost’ but for VMAQ-1 it’s always by the book and they combined both of those mentalities to get the job done while making sure they crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s while having the flexibility to get it done fast.”
According to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards Program recognizes outstanding achievements by field-level units engaged in military equipment and weapon system maintenance within the DOD.
During 2011, VMAQ-1 supported 590 combat missions totaling 2,293 combat flight hours. The squadron had a 99.8 percent mission completion rate and increased the number of flight hours by 340 percent. Throughout its deployment the unit maintained an 84.9 percent mission capability rate, exceeding all previous deployment records.
“I’ve never been in a better unit in my career. I’m absolutely floored and honored to have been part of the squadron for the two years I was with them,” said Maj. Brandon C. Brooks, an assistant operations officer with Marine Aircraft Group 14, the last of three to accept the award for VMAQ-1. “It’s not my award, it’s not the commanding officer’s award, it’s the Marines’ award. They worked for countless hours, in miserable weather and doing thankless tasks.”
Lastly, VMAQ-1 halved the regular annual cost of ordered components from $11 million to $5.8 million.
“They’ve always set the standards high from the time I joined them in 2006 to the time I left,” said Brice. “They always set themselves apart from the other ‘Q’ squadrons. This kind of emphasizes or reinforces the fact that the Marines of VMAQ-1 are a breed apart from the rest of the VMAQ units.”
“I can’t be prouder to accept this award for VMAQ-1,” said Ewell. “If you ask any Marine at Cherry Point about VMAQ-1 they’ll tell you, VMAQ-1 has always been at the top, no matter how many years pass and how much the command changes.”