FORT HOOD, Texas -- An Army cavalry squadron that redeployed from Iraq earlier this year received the Defense Department's highest award for maintenance excellence last week.

1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment won the Phoenix Trophy at the 2009 Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards Banquet Oct. 28, in Phoenix, Ariz.

"Tiger Squadron" was chosen as one of two large category winners from a competitive worldwide group of Department of Defense field-level maintenance organizations.

While deployed to the Tigris River Valley in the Ninewah Province of Iraq, the squadron maintained an equipment fleet that was 75 percent larger than what is normally authorized. The unit successfully cross-trained maintenance technicians and maintained a 97-percent operational readiness rate for the year.

The squadron, which returned from deployment in February, was the only Army unit among two Air Force, two Navy and one Marine Corps unit also in contention for the award. The six finalists were selected by a team of senior maintenance leaders from across the military services and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"This is the best recognition you could give to your Soldiers," said Chief Warrant Officer Freddie Jackson, 1st Squadron, 3d ACR maintenance technician. "There was a lot of work getting where we're at, especially maintaining the programs that we had throughout the deployment, but it was all because of the NCO and the Soldiers we had out on the floor every day."

Annually, the Secretary of Defense recognizes excellence in maintenance by awarding the prestigious Phoenix and Robert T. Mason Awards. Six field-level military maintenance organizations are chosen from active and reserve activities that perform unit, or field-level maintenance. One unit is singled out as the "best of the best" and is presented with the Phoenix Award at the annual Maintenance Symposium and Banquet.

Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, U.S. Army Materiel Command's commanding general, said she was proud of the 3rd ACR's win.

"It's a competitive and tough award to win and as busy Soldiers are, it's easy to find reasons not to compete," Dunwoody said during her keynote speech. "The fact that 3rd ACR competed while deployed shows the pride they take in what they do," she said.

The Phoenix Award is named after a mythical bird that is consumed in flames and then rises from its own ashes. Since maintenance organizations have the ability to bestow new sustained life to older, malfunctioning, or damaged equipment and weapons systems, the symposium brochure states it is only fitting to name an award for superior maintenance after the phoenix.

This year marks the Army's sixth win of the Phoenix Trophy, which is a 25-year-old award. The 3rd ACR brought the Trophy back to Fort Hood where it will be displayed in the regimental headquarters for one year.