By Sgt. Christopher CalvertFebruary 28, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas - A 1st Air Cavalry Brigade unit is in the running for an Army-level maintenance award to be decided this spring.
The real story, however, is how they got there.
"I've witnessed a 180-degree turn around," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marvin Crews, maintenance technician for Company E, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. "When I got here in August 2012, a lot of techniques needed polishing, and a lot of soldiers needed training. Now, we've grown together, and every day we're learning something new to better our unit and ourselves."
Vehicle maintainers with Company E, 2nd Battalion and with the 615th Aviation Support Battalion, both with 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, placed first in the medium unit and large unit categories respectively at the division-level to win the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence in the fall of 2013, with the 615th ASB also taking first place in the large unit category at the U.S. Forces Command-level.
Additionally, Company E advanced to the Department of the Army-level competition in the medium unit category and is awaiting an on-site inspection in April to continue evaluation.
Crews said he attributes the unit's effectiveness not only to senior leaders, but also to team leaders and junior enlisted soldiers who strived for excellence.
"We have NCOs teaching junior soldiers on a daily basis, ensuring everyone is familiar with our standing operating procedures," said Crews, a Berlin, Germany, native. "We've collectively added a lot of attention to detail. Our growth has been like peeling an onion, as every time we peel a layer back, we discover something new to refine and perfect."
"Our soldiers did it all," Crews added. "We have internal trackers in place now that accurately measure all of our resources. Everything we've implemented is working for us, and we will benefit from having not only stronger troops now, but more effective leaders in the future."
The road to AAME victory was much the same for the 615th ASB, as they spent two years constantly improving their operations.
"When the 615th ASB redeployed in June 2012, they failed every initial maintenance inspection - every single one," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marshall Goodman, the 615th ASB battalion maintenance technician. "This was due to the transition to garrison operations and a loss of key personnel. However, we worked together as a team to overcome these deficiencies, and ultimately have become the best maintenance battalion in FORSCOM."
Goodman said the evaluation procedures began with a 20-page narrative of the battalion's maintenance management program, followed by on-site assessments of the unit's maintenance standing operating procedures, training, quality control, and resource management programs.
"I started writing the [award submission] book to submit for the battalion in May 2013, and it took eight drafts to get it right," said Goodman, an O'Fallon, Ill., native. "We started this program literally from scratch when I arrived here. It was worth it, because I knew we were improving our motor pool operations, and I felt we were worthy of competing. Winning the award shows we truly have become the best."
Assessments of each unit in the categories of attitude and effective leadership are rated against a benchmark of past winners, and the principles of exceptional maintenance processes are then validated and ranked, according to the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, under whose purview all the wheeled vehicle mechanics fall
Winning was only possible because of the maintainers working behind the scenes, said Goodman.
"The soldiers are the ones who truly made this happen," he said. "All of our accomplishments are due to their hard work and long hours. They're the ones who put the work in; I just wrote the book and made sure we exceeded the standards specified in it."
Although the 615th ASB won at the FORSCOM level, they came shy of placing in the top three at the Department of the Army level this year.
Goodman said he's convinced his battalion will take first place at the Army level in 2015, improving upon what they've learned since revamping their operations as maintainers.
"We're going to keep getting better and continue competing," Goodman said. "I know we're a great battalion, and I think we have a great chance of winning it all next year."