The 6th Squadron, 9th Cav. Regt., 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division is one step closer to being named the Army’s top Large Unit Category winner for the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence.The Army Award for Maintenance Excellence was established in 1982 by the Department of the Army to recognize exceptional accomplishment in maintenance and provide added incentive to the competitive programs of major Army commands.“This was nearly a two year process,” said the Squadron’s executive officer, Maj. Mike Hebert. “All seven battalions have participated in brigade-led maintenance terrain walks, which incorporate all the checks that an AAME inspector will look at. This allowed us to see ourselves and focus our effort on the most critical aspects of our programs. In aggregate, this emphasis increased the capacity of the brigade’s enterprise.”According the Army’s Ordnance Branch web page, “the program is conducted each year to recognize Army units and/or activities that have demonstrated excellence in maintenance operations.”The process begins with building a packet that looks at all facets of the squadron’s maintenance program.According to Capt. Jordan Yano, the Squadron’s maintenance officer, building and refining the packet required a lot of effort. “We had a lot of raw data we had to sift through and analyze and present in a very comprehensive way,” he said.Once completed the packet was submitted to Brigade and then once selected it moved up the ladder through 1st Cavalry Division to III Corps to United States Forces Command at which point it was selected for evaluators to assess.The inspectors visited the squadron while the Brigade was on rotation to Korea. “The inspection was extremely thorough” said Hebert. “And went all the way down to the Soldier level to confirm or deny what we briefed them and what we put in the packet.”“They didn’t want to talk with me,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Hector Lopez, the Squadron’s maintenance tech. “They went down to armament and say a Soldier was working on a gun and they would ask ‘Why are you working on this gun’ and they wanted to see if the Soldier knew exactly why they were working on something and how long it had been in there.”The fact that the inspections were done while the unit was in Korea made it more challenging because of the equipment from the Korea Enduring Equipment Set.“In addition to our own organizational equipment, we had equipment that wasn’t necessarily maintained by prior units to the standard we had set for ourselves and that was included in the inspection,” said Lopez. “But we had spent a lot of time and effort on the KEES equipment and integrated it into our processes and improved the operational readiness from about 50 percent to over 80 percent.”The most important thing was to get buy-in from the Soldiers. The leadership knew that they had to put in place standards and expectations that provided predictability for everyone from the company commander to the newest private.“The very first thing we did at the Squadron-level was build a battle rhythm that incorporated all of the sustainment tasks,” said Hebert. “We standardized operations that provided predictability to our personnel including dispatch procedures, mail, medical, religious service, supply pick-up. It allowed us to see friction points and de-conflict it.”Lopez went on to say that it is about “going back to the fundamentals and ensuring that not only did we have a good program doctrinally on the books, but also on the ground.”Active duty, Army National Guard, Army Reserve units compete separately, and the competition in each component is divided into three categories: Small, Medium and Large, based on number of authorized personnel. The Saber Squadron competed in the Large Unit category and is one of three units selected to compete for the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award.