Most-decorated Black Hawk pilot honored
October 31, 2012
WASHINGTON -- A UH-60 Black Hawk pilot from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade was honored at a recognition event with military leaders and industry members at the Renaissance Hotel on Oct. 23.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joe Roland, 25th CAB standardization officer, was presented the Sikorsky Combat Flight Award by Team Black Hawk. Roland was being recognized for the number of UH-60 Black Hawk flight hours he has flown so far, which includes 6,507 total flight hours, 2,250 hours of which were flown with night-vision goggles; and 1,700 of which were flown in combat.
"We talk about life taking and life savings skills in our business," Roland said. "I'd like to thank the Black Hawk team for putting together an aircraft and a system that for the last 6,000 hours has allowed me to come home to my family."
Roland served combat tours during Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Before joining the Army, Roland served six years in the Marine Corps as a UH-1N Huey crew chief and AH-1W Cobra repairer.
Roland was joined by his family, friends and peers at the recognition event.
"I've thrown everything at it," Roland said of the Black Hawk, "from brand new students sitting next to me, to the Taliban chasing me around with RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and machine guns. Every single time, it has allowed me to get back home in one piece."
Roland recently returned to the United States from Afghanistan in order to be with his family and accept the award. He will return to Afghanistan in a few days to finish his deployment.
Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation, was the guest speaker at the event where he spoke about the accomplishments of Team Black Hawk and why, no matter how budgets will be affected, the team needs to remain steadfast in their support for the Soldier.
Crosby pulled a message from Col. Frank Tate, 25th CAB commander that read: "Joe Roland is hands down the best warrant officer I have had the honor and the privilege to serve with. He is tactically brilliant, technically without peer, courageous under fire, and a leader that officers, warrant officers and Soldiers enthusiastically follow. He is also a devoted husband, loving father and a cherished friend of all of those fortunate enough to know him. He has found balance in his personal and professional life and that we should all hope to emulate."
"These kinds of notes are what continue to give us acquisition folks that steadfast commitment to get the job done right for the Soldiers we need to be taking care of every day," Crosby said. "This note and what you've just seen and heard should get everybody in this room to give everything you have to make it better for him because he is on the pointy edge of that sword every day doing this for our country, and we owe him everything that we can.
"Passion for the Soldier is what makes all of this work," he said.
The UH-60 Black Hawk has flown more than 452,000 hours in the past year. In light of the current fiscal environment, Crosby reminded the audience that the team has to think in broader perspectives, referring to the foreign military sales program that will become more important as the budgets go down.
"How do we balance that," Crosby said. "This is not new to us. We've been through this before. We manage it by partnering, by openly sharing and communicating, and we as community leaders have to drive those walls down as we work through all these issues. We have to stay on that edge, or we will fail Soldiers like Mr. Roland."
Crosby recognized the team for their accomplishments and told them that although Soldiers may not know who Team Black Hawk is, they know that great Americans are back home working to design, build, test and deliver the aircraft. "When they pull on that collective or when they're being shot it, that airplane does what it is supposed to do. And you should be very, very proud of that," he said.
Utility Helicopters project manager Col. Thomas Todd also spoke at the event and provided a brief update on the status of the UH-60 program. "The UH-60 is truly a multi-service, multi-mission platform," Todd said. "We take a lot of great pride in servicing our customers."