FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Aviation Branch leaders recognized a Fort Rucker unit and Soldier for their 2009 achievements during the Aviation Senior Leaders Dinner and annual Army Aviation Association of America Awards Presentation at The Landing Jan. 28.

First Sgt. Charles Bodner, 597th Ordnance (Maintenance) Company, and the 1-58th Airfield Operations Battalion "Guardian Eagles" garnered Air Traffic Control Maintenance Technician of the Year and ATC Company of the Year awards, respectively.

The annual ceremony, a part of the 2010 Aviation Senior Leaders Conference, recognized 10 Aviation Soldiers and units for "outstanding" performances, according to Capt. Jesse Blanton, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment commander, whose unit falls under the 110th Aviation Brigade, the event's sponsor.

Bodner was recognized for his work as Multi National Corps-Iraq Theater ATC senior maintenance adviser during his deployment last year. He credited his award to fellow unit members and said the whole company deserved praise.

"We had some great Soldiers in key positions (who) were excellently qualified, and we fed off each other's expertise," he said. "(My leaders) let me interact with the Soldiers on a personal level, getting out of the office, getting down with Soldiers and making sure maintenance (was) performed in accord with Army doctrine. It (was) a whole team effort that got this award."

Company Commander Maj. Leonard Jack Stewart, who nominated Bodner for the award, complimented his fellow Soldier's excellent work ethics. He said the 597th is the only unit of its kind, and called his troops the "ATS (air traffic service) maintenance backbone" of the Army. He noted Bodner and the team provided "continuity for the MOS (military occupational specialty)" through their work in the Middle East.

"He's the man when it comes to ATS maintenance," Stewart said. "He was the reason the equipment was always top-notch. This guy looked at the full spectrum of operations. He kept the ball rolling."

Guardian Eagles has only been activated since June 2007 and was the Army's first AOB to deploy to combat, helping them win the award, according to the unit's senior noncommissioned officer, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Bolden.

"As we are the first AOB to stand up and deploy as a team, and be successful on the deployment in Iraq and Kuwait, we all deserve that award. We deployed a whole battalion and were successful in all missions and controlled over 500,000 aircraft movements," Bolden said.

This number is exceptionally high, he said, and he attributed the small unit's success to their tactical experience here and overseas.

Before distributing the awards, Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), Fort Sam Houston, Texas, addressed attendees. He challenged Aviation Branch leaders to excel and reach for higher standards.

"It's all about the interpersonal relationships, the mentorship. It's all about leaders at all levels getting involved with Soldiers, and that's what makes Army Aviation great," he said.

Wiggins recognized the challenges Aviators face and encouraged young Soldiers to keep defying obstacles.

"We stand in the face of a persistent conflict that has spanned over eight years. Our Aviators and maintainers are indisputably operating in the most grueling environments and have the most demanding operational tempos we've seen in a long time," Wiggins said. "At a time our nation has needed them to succeed, our Aviators have performed impeccably. It is our young Soldiers who have built the credibility of the 21st century Aviation voice."

He also thanked pilots and ATCs for hard work and noted the true focus of Army Aviation is not on the pilots themselves, but the people they serve.

"The greatest champions and advocates for Army Aviation don't even wear wings on their chests," Wiggins said. "They are the Soldiers on the ground. They're the ones who love to hear that thumping of the rotor blades, the twang of the engines and that calm voice that talks to them as they do a radio check in."