AAAA recognizes Tomahawks, Aviators
December 13, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 13, 2012) -- Fort Rucker honored several Aviators at the Landing for exceptional performance at the Army Aviation Association of America social Dec. 6. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment were recognized for their hard work in organizing the annual Chili 5k and Cook-off and two Soldiers were bestowed the Order of St. Michael award in silver and bronze.
The honors were given by Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, Fort Rucker and U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence commanding general, and those in attendance recognized the achievements made by all of the awardees, according to Col. Kevin Christensen, president of the Army Aviation Center chapter of AAAA.
"We recognized the accomplishments of a couple of key individuals with the prestigious Order of Saint Michael award as well as giving the Tomahawks over at Hanchey a needed congratulations," he said.
The Order of Saint Michael-Silver was awarded to retired Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Laidlaw and a bronze was awarded to retired CW4 Harold Coghlan. Coghlan was also recognized for his accomplishment of surpassing 20,000 flight hours.
"The Order of St. Michael is an award that recognizes people who have made significant contributions to Army Aviation," said Christensen. "It is not a military award… but it recognizes people who have done things to move or make things better for the Aviation Branch.
"The bronze award is given to a person who has a made a significant contribution on a local level. A person who has earned silver has improved Aviation at several instillations and has made a lasting contribution," he said.
"There is a gold level," he added, "but it is very rare. It is for someone who has truly made an unprecedented, exceptional level of achievement. Someone who has made a lifetime contribution to Army Aviation and someone, I would say, who is clearly recognized as a leader in the field."
To receive an Order of St. Michael, an individual must be nominated by an AAAA member. Once nominated, the record is reviewed and voted on by a board of AAAA members either locally or nationally.
"It is not a competition against others but against oneself. It's a mark of individual accomplishment. The board is very tough--maybe 1 percent of the people here will ever earn this award," said Christensen.
The board looks for many personal qualities and professional deeds, according to the AAAA local chapter president.
"One of the things the board will expect is to see a person who is a recognized professional; they have professional standards and live by the code of conduct. They are representing the best of Army Aviation," he said. "So, it's a person with the highest moral ethics and is a person who clearly represents the ideal of what we want in Army Aviation."
Coghlan, who is a flight instructor in the Spanish flight training company at Shell Army Airfield, was surprised to receive the Order of St. Michael award; he was only expecting to be recognized for his flight hours.
"I did not expect this at all. I am honored to receive this and it is an honor to teach here at Fort Rucker. I started here at Fort Rucker and it's great to be back -- I love it," he said.
Reaching 20,000 flight hours is unprecedented, according to Christensen and Mangum.
"I have never even heard of anyone ever getting close to 20,000. He is a person where every time there was an opportunity to fly and support his country in whatever way he was able he took it," said Christensen.
After honoring Coghlan, Christensen and Mangum presented Laidlaw with the silver medal.
"There are people in the [Aviation] Branch that have shaped the lives of many Aviators. Patrick Laidlaw is one of those people. With his leadership development and his way of moving forward the professionalism of not only the NCO Corps, but our officers in general, he has greatly improved the Aviation Branch," said Christensen.
Laidlaw, who was once the command sergeant major of the U.S. Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was greatly honored by the recognition.
"For once in my life I am really speechless. This award is not my award, it is your award. It is the embodiment of what this community and this professional organization does for the community and the nation, and I couldn't have been a part of it without everyone [who has served] and I appreciate that," he said.
Mangum said he was honored and humbled to stand and help recognize the two Aviators.
"These two Americans have done so much for Army Aviation. Both have served over three decades and continue to make a difference inside our ranks. Thanks for helping us deliver professionals and making a difference for commanders on the ground," he said.
Mangum and Christensen also recognized the team from 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment for their hard work in organizing the Chili 5K event.
"They made our Chili 5K event such a tremendous success this year. We were able to award a record number of Families in our community with scholarships," said Christensen.
The event raised $12,600 for the AAAA scholarship fund, which is a record for AAAA.
"This event is a great way for us to give back to the people who have done great things. We've never given as many scholarships away as we were able to give this year. We gave more away than any other chapter in the Army, anywhere," said Christensen, adding that it is a privilege to give back to the Fort Rucker community.
More chili teams participated this year than ever before, according to Christensen, with 26 chili recipes that ranged from nuclear hot to sweet.
"The chili was fantastic. It was a pleasure being able to be one of the judges and eat all that chili," said Mangum, "but I tell you what, I was combat ineffective the rest of the afternoon I was so full. It was definitely a first-class cook-off."