FORT SILL, Okla.-- The Lawton-Fort Sill Co-op program celebrated its 30th Anniversary and awarded 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery and their Co-op partner, Arvest Bank, with the Dinges Award at a banquet Nov. 30 at Patriot Club.

Fort Sill battalions and their Co-op partners from downtown organizations honored the 3rd-6th ADA as the first ADA battalion to win the award.

"3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery has only been here for two years, and it says a lot that they have integrated so well into the community and won the award hands down," said Staff Sgt. Michael Chavers, installation Co-op coordinator. "They have managed to step up to the plate and really do a lot of community service and events this year with their partners."

Chavers said some of the things the 3rd-6th ADA did was to host a fishing tournament with Arvest Bank at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area, a golf tournament and several community service projects for the United Day of Caring and with the Spirit of Survival Run. "No one asked them to do it, they did it on their own, because they wanted to go out and have fun with their Co-op partner downtown. They went out and made a day of it."

According to Chavers, the Dinges Award is based on self-nomination by the units and their Co-op partners. The nomination packet lists community service events and other programs the Co-op partners have participated in and each event receives a score. "The more participation the battalions have with their Co-op partners and the more community service they do together as partners, the more likely they are to win the award."

Chavers said the scoring starts after the banquet and everything battalions and their Co-op partners do through next years' banquet counts toward the next award. "So they can get involved with things like the Toys for Kids, a coat drive or a food drive. Several businesses downtown are doing toy drives and other events now and getting a good start for next year."

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Smith, the 3rd-6th ADA battalion commander, said the battalion has participated in many great events thanks to the work of several people in her battalion and Arvest Bank.

"Staff Sgt. John Walker, who is the Co-op noncommissioned officer in charge, has done a wonderful job considering he had never done this before. When he found out about his Co-op duties and responsibilities, which are a little different and non-traditional from anything he was used to, he realized what a difference we could make as part of the Co-op," she said. "He really started to engage Angela Spradlin, his counterpart at Arvest Bank."

Arvest is a big part of the community and they do a lot of community service as part of their contributions to their members, said Smith. "The two of them are really motivated individuals who wanted to make things better for the community and a lot of folks who wanted to help. We're fortunate that we have a Co-op partner who wants to be involved, and we're happy to support them anyway we can.

"I think the main reason we won is because Spradlin and Walker communicate well with each other and understand the limitations of what we can and can't do so they maximize our abilities to help our partner in the community. We have developed such good communication with Arvest, they're just not a business we work with we consider them to be a part of the 3rd-6th ADA.

Smith said the partners are so well-matched and communicate so well with each other it's seamless.

"It's never an effort to figure out how to do something together it's just how to fit it into each other's schedule," she said.

"Without the community of Lawton and Fort Sill being so open and welcoming to the Air Defense Artillery community, we wouldn't be where we are today," said Smith.

Some of the community projects the 3rd-6th ADA and Arvest Bank have done together include construction projects for Road Back, Inc. a halfway house in Lawton. "As a team we rebuilt walls, laid concrete sidewalks and cleaned up the area for them to have something a little bit better for their facility. That was for the United Day of Caring," said Smith.

"I think the crowning moment of that was when Staff Sergeant Walker brought a flag that he had carried during his time in Iraq and presented it to Road Back because he noticed the flag in front of the building was tattered. He presented the flag as a symbol of overcoming struggle. The residents of Road Back are going through struggles and that particular flag had gone through some struggles of its own in Iraq," she said.

Smith said a second group of Advanced Individual Training privates also helped out with the Road Back project donating time to paint and clean.

Arvest Bank asked the 3rd-6th ADA to support them on another community service project for the Super Hero 5K at the Spirit of Survival Run.

"Arvest provided all the food for the runners, and we provided the Soldiers to cook and hand out food for the runners during the event and some Soldiers to dress up as the Super Heroes to represent our Co-op at the race," said Smith. "We had several privates and cadre members dressed up in super hero costumes taking pictures with the kids, handing out the medals for the kids' marathon and drawing attention to the cause and the spirit of cooperation we have with Arvest Bank."

The partners have another project going on that was not part of the Dinges Award. It is a cooperative book drive to collect books for the USO at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The Co-op partners collected more than 200 books and will deliver them at the beginning of holiday block leave at two Dallas-Fort Worth USO facilities.

Smith said the Lawton-Fort Sill community has been more than welcoming to the air defense community.

"I think anybody you talk to who moved from Fort Bliss or any other ADA units would say the same thing. Everyone in the community has really looked forward to working with us as part of the community," she said.

"Arvest Bank is so involved in the community, and we're really lucky to have a partner who wants us to join them in their community work. There's so many ways we can help, and we look forward to continuing our work with Arvest and stepping up the game a little bit and doing more with them," said Smith. "We plan on getting more involved in the community and getting more of our Soldiers out to serve."

In addition to recognizing the Dinges Award winners, the Co-op program recognized retired Command Sgt. Maj. Hess Cara as Co-op volunteer of the year. Cara is the first recipient of the award and also the longest member of the Co-op program since its inception at Fort Sill.